Adobe Releases Photoshop CS6 In Public Beta

The splash screen for the Photoshop CS6 pre-release, codenamed “Superstition.”

Adobe announced today the immediate availability of Photoshop CS6 as a public beta. Photoshop is expected to be one of the primary products in Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and in the past Adobe has released other Creative Suite products in public beta. The only version of Photoshop released as a public beta until now was Photoshop CS3.

Photoshop CS6 (and presumably other CS6 applications) will be paired with an Adobe ID rather than computer hardware, thus ending the old activation/deactivation method for license management. Fouled-up activations have always been difficult for users to deal with and often keep software from running at all without a call to Adobe customer service, so to do away with activation altogether is a nice improvement.

The change that I’ve seen leaked most is Photoshop CS6′s new dark user interface. Photoshop CS6 now has more in common visually with After Effects, Premiere and other video apps than the design apps including Illustrator and InDesign. You can actually change the user interface’s color in the Preferences menu to one of four shades of gray. I have usually preferred the old light gray, but I come from a background in design and that’s what I’ve been used to. I’ve used my Adobe video applications more in the past couple years though and now I’m keeping Photoshop CS6 with the default dark backgrounds. It looks more professional and the grays don’t compete with images, though technically none of the options will give your images a color cast.

The Photoshop team has made performance improvements in recent versions (the OpenGL support in CS4 comes to mind) but Photoshop CS6′s main performance improvement is the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. Photoshop CS6 uses the MGE to accelerate filters and effects including Liquify, Lighting Effects and warping effects. I’ve worked with these tools in prerelease builds of Photoshop CS6 and they work smoothly most of the time. I hope public beta users have the same experience.

Note that some of Adobe’s video applications employ a “Mercury Playback Engine” for much-improved video performance with NVIDIA CUDA video cards. This is not the same thing as the Mercury Graphics Engine, and the MGE works with a variety of video cards.

Content-Aware technology has been behind many of Photoshop’s recent jaw-dropping features, and Adobe has expanded it into two new tools in Photoshop CS6:

  • Content-Aware Patch marries Content-Aware technology with the existing Patch tool. There’s now a Patch menu in the tool’s options, and selecting “Content-Aware” will help you patch regions more accurately.
  • Content-Aware Move is similar to the Content-Aware Patch feature but it behaves like the Patch tool’s opposite. Rather than select a region and fill it with another region, the Content-Aware Move tool lets you select a region and move it to another place on the image. It works beautifully when moving objects and backgrounds to other places on the image: backgrounds become seamless, usually without any extra work required.

There are a bunch of little improvements in Photoshop CS6 as well. According to Zorana Gee, Senior Photoshop Product Manager, the newest version of Photoshop has 62% more new features than CS5 and 65 enhancements requested by users. These include:

  • Multiple layers can be selected and then locked, labeled or have their blend modes changed at the same time.
  • Layer opacity can now be set to zero by typing “00.”
  • Layer > Rasterize > Layer Style has been added to rasterize layer styles in one step. Previously, users had to create a new layer and merge the two layers together.
  • Brushes can now be as large as 5,000 pixels.
  • The Eyedropper tool can now select layers current and below, and can also ignore adjustment layers.
  • Layer effects are now rearranged in the Layer Effects menus so they match the order they are blended together.
  • Windows users can now right-click on a document tab and open a new or existing file.
  • The hexadecimal field in the Color Picker dialog box will now accept a hash mark, which is useful when copying and pasting hex color values.
  • A new menu command, Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum, will generate placeholder text.
  • The Blur Gallery, which provides a new UI for tweaking blurs and also two new panels, Blur Tools and Blur Effects, for adding bokeh and other details. Note that this only applies to the three new blur filters—Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift.
  • Photoshop CS6 now auto-saves files and has an auto-recovery system.

The press release is on the next page. To download Photoshop CS6, visit Adobe Labs. Macintosh users will need OS X Snow Leopard or Lion; Windows users will need Windows XP or Windows 7.

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