Adobe CS4 is full of new features designed to save you time – you just have to know how to use them.
With this in mind, Paul Burnett, Adobe's Senior Worldwide Evangelist, recently ran us though some key techniques for improving your workflow.
We've distilled these into some useful tips, so here are 12 time-saving CS4 shortcuts...
1. Crop images intelligently in Photoshop CS4
Several new time-saving tools have been introduced to Photoshop CS4. First up, the new Content Aware Scaling tool (Edit>Content Aware Scale) lets you resize an image without squashing or stretching important elements.
The tech identifies areas of importance and preserves them, applying most of the compression or stretching to slices of featureless detail instead. By masking areas you don't want to lose in a new channel, you can ensure their proportions are protected when scaling an image.
The tool also allows you to preserve skin tones (click the human icon in the top menu bar) and will automatically mask people in an image. It's a welcome addition for anyone needing to quickly crop an image to a certain dimension, while keeping the important parts inside the image.
2. Navigate Photoshop more efficiently
The addition of the Masks and Adjustment panel is a crucial time saver. It offers a centralised panel from where to perform non-destructive corrections (to things such as Curves and Levels) without navigating through separate dialog boxes.
3. Master the improved Camera Raw
A key benefit of Camera Raw 5 is that all adjustments and refinements made are non-destructive. Images can be altered and processed as many times as you wish.
Thanks to the new Post Crop Vignetting sliders, you can create any custom crop dimensions, crop an image and still enhance the newly defined edges of the image. If the crop is redefined, the vignette will automatically adjust to the new size.
You can also apply an effect to multiple images by clicking the Synchronise button, saving it as a preset for future use.
Neutral density filters can be added during processing, courtesy of the new Graduated filter, while the Adjustments brush lets you Dodge and Burn selected areas and alter the settings using the sliders.
4. Manipulate 3D within Photoshop
Photoshop's 3D engine has also been completely rewritten. You can now import 3D objects to Photoshop to work on the layers, as well as export them – perhaps into After Effects to play with the camera angles.
5. Create and edit animations faster in Flash CS4
It's now far easier to edit an animated object in Flash, with the addition of the new object-orientated Timeline, and the drag-and-drop presets in the Motions panel.
Now you can directly apply the same animation to a series of new objects, or move it to a different place on the stage, without having to reposition an object on every keyframe.
Either choose a default preset from the Motions Presets panel (select the objects in the Timeline and click Apply to animate them all in one go) or save your own animations as presets for future use.
The new Motions Editor panel will then let you finely modify the animation.
6. Animate 2D objects in a 3D space using Flash
The new 3D transformation tools in Flash CS4 cut out any need to use ActionScript. Instead, the 3D Translation tool allows for extremely smooth object manipulation, while the 3D Rotate tool will locally or globally rotate an object.
As a result, After Effects projects with layers of 3D transformations can be imported and edited in Flash using the XFL file format.
7. Create more realistic animations in Flash
The new Bones and Bind tools introduce inverse kinematics. These additions let you sew unlinked objects together into one object with separate forms of movement, to create realistic-looking, chain-like animations.
8. Update your webpage in Dreamweaver
You can now work on a dynamic web page in Dreamweaver and continue updating it without leaving the authoring environment, with the addition of the Live View and Live Code tools.
Live View lets you see what your layout will look like under real-world browser conditions, and how it will behave, while Live Code works with Live View to show how the code is executed. For developers, this means no more wasting time bouncing between Dreamweaver and a browser when building a webpage.
9. Find and amend code faster using Dreamweaver
The new Code Navigator (Ctrl/Cmd>Alt>click) is a smart pop-up window that displays the links to all the CSS code sources affecting your current selection. It shows you how the rules are cascaded and are affecting the HTML elements.
Clicking on a CSS style will take you to that rule in your style sheet, where you can amend the instruction – this means no more searching style sheets to find the rule you want.
10. View all the external files in Dreamweaver
11. Create standards-compliant code in Fireworks
Improvements to Fireworks CS4 mean you don't have to be a web developer to create a web page. You can design all the CSS in Fireworks, and then export standards-compliant HTML and CSS, with Fireworks converting any rich symbols to their HTML equivalent.
There's also a new Export to PDF feature, allowing you to export a document and maintain hotspot linked pages.
12. Save large files faster
Finally, file saving is now asynchronous, so you can perform other tasks while saving a large file, while speed increases have aided bitmap and vector operations.
For more tips and tutorials on using the new features in Adobe CS4, pick up the new issue of Computer Arts Projects, or visit the Computer Arts forum.
Like this article? Then check out 10 seriously useful Photoshop tutorials
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