Adobe Photoshop 6 beta

In contrast, a bitmap graphic contains information that describes each individual pixel; when you enlarge a bitmap, it can look fuzzy. Adobe Photoshop has been the professional graphics tool for editing bitmap images, while the same company's Illustrator held favour as the tool for drawing vector graphics.

With its new capability, the beta version of Photoshop 6 we tested produced what you'd expect with vector graphics: printed text and objects that look super sharp at any size. The final release will be available by the time you read this.

Version 6 offers on-canvas text editing - just place your cursor on the canvas and start typing. The text remains editable so long as it is in vector format. A new font-warping feature does a great job of moulding text around part of an object, but you can't write text on a path (you'll still need Illustrator for that). In Photoshop 6, you can add bevels, drop shadows and various other cool effects to both text and vector objects, but, for most of them, you must use a huge dialogue box that obscures almost half the screen. Also, some tried-and-true Photoshop tools don't work on vectors - for example, you can't use a paintbrush or filter.

In version 6, you can group and lock layers and copy layer styles to apply to other layers, saving time and increasing consistency. The new Layer Styles box lets you see which effects are applied to each layer, and also allows you to apply pre-set effects to new layers. You can create more layers than before, too; the maximum number isn't final yet, but it will be approximately 8000 (limited by the amount of memory in your PC, of course).

A new image warping capability allows you to distort an image interactively by dragging your mouse or pen. You can rotate, shrink, enlarge or otherwise distort a selected area, while the Liquefy dialogue box displays a grid which lets you make precise warping adjustments. You can also freeze parts of the image that you don't want to distort, or reconstruct the original image if necessary.

Photoshop 6 ($1399; the upgrade is $417) still exports files to Adobe Acrobat's PDF (Portable Document Format), but now it retains layers and all other Photoshop file characteristics, allowing you to transfer files for high-quality printing in this format; saving work as a TIFF file does the same thing.

Adobe's Web application, Image-Ready, remains separate and continues to be bundled with the new Photoshop. With ImageReady, you can create animations, JavaScript rollovers, and image maps. Running Photoshop 6 and ImageReady at the same time, however, doubles the amount of memory you'll need, bumping it from 64MB to 128MB.

Other enhanced Web capabilities include image slicing and weighted optimisation tools. Slicing lets you cut up a large Web graphic into smaller pieces which can be downloaded more quickly, and also allows you to save different parts of the image in different formats - for example, using a high-quality JPG for complex sections, and a smaller, low-quality JPG for simple bits of the image - to save bandwidth. If you don't want to use slices, weighted optimisation gives you the ability to vary compression levels in different parts of the same image, so the complex areas are well presented, while reducing file size by selectively applying higher compression levels to less important areas. Unlike slices, weighted optimisation can be smoothly varied across an image, and applied to areas which are not rectangular in shape.

Drawbacks? Adding vector tools greatly expands Photoshop's reach but makes its interface more complex. And Photoshop users still must employ ImageReady as a separate program for Web work rather than having one killer application to take care of both their print and Web needs.

Adobe Photoshop 6 beta

Price: $1399, upgrade $417

Phone: 1300 550 205

URL: www.adobe.com.au

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