Within the Creative Suite, Photoshop is first among equals – the one app almost every creative professional needs.
It's now 64-bit, meaning it can crunch through twice as much data per second under Leopard or Snow Leopard. We found it also required more than twice as much virtual memory, reserving at least 3.5GB of hard disk space while running.
It took about the same time as CS4 to launch and to perform everyday tasks, but complex filters completed up to 50% faster. Adobe reckons operations on very large files could speed up by a factor of 10, although we'd also have liked a reduction in brief delays such as building the Liquify preview.
Same smart interface
Other than Mini Bridge, there are no major user interface changes, but lots of enhancements nestle in the menus.
The Refine Edge dialog, which complements existing selection tools such as Magic Wand and Quick Selection, now offers Edge Detection: you paint over the border you want to improve – for example, a selection that closely follows clothing but gets iffy around hair – and Photoshop figures out where the edge should be. It's not foolproof, but often impressively successful.
Another time-saver is Content-Aware Fill, which covers an area with material from the surrounding image. The effect is much the same as you could get using the Clone Stamp, but without the effort – an amazingly easy way to remove unwanted objects or complete missing areas.
Puppet Warp lets you push pins into photos and pull them around like a photorealistic Captain Pugwash. There are also new brushes to play with, including more natural bristles and a Mixer Brush that's great for 'paintifying' photos.
We like Adobe's small but thoughtful additions, too: for example, you can now hold Ctrl+Option+Command and click to instantly pop up a handy colour picker.
Photographers get substantial new raw processing options, including smarter noise reduction and sharpening, along with automatic lens correction that caters for many pro lenses and which can be adapted to custom-fit yours through a free Lens Profile Creator download.
For high dynamic range fans, HDR Pro fixes ghosting (where an object has changed position between the shots you're combining) and HDR Toning enables you to simulate HDR from a single image.
Photoshop Extended brings even more goodies if you're prepared to shell out for it. The ability to import and render 3D models as layers is much expanded, with a new ray tracer and a library of editable materials. Or to start from scratch, you can extrude, inflate and bevel 3D objects from paths, then intersect, light and render them and map images onto their surfaces.
This will surely persuade more users to stump up for the Extended edition – though they may resent having to.
In fact, about the only thing we don't like about Photoshop CS5 is the price. On its own, even discounted by dealers, it costs over £580, and Extended is £200 more. If you prefer to download the software from Adobe rather than buy it boxed, it comes in at £20 extra, which is crazy. The reasoning behind such a price hike is stultifying to say the least.
If you already have Photoshop CS2, 3 or 4, however, you can upgrade for £186, which isn't so bad given the wealth of new features. The same price applies to the Student and Teacher edition.
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