The latest version of Adobe's flagship graphics program has just hit the shelves and many people may be wondering what's new in the program. As with any new release, there are some improvements, but one of the most significant features is the browse tool.
It has taken a long time to be added, but this new feature has finally made it easier to locate and manage graphics files within Photoshop. It should have been introduced a decade ago, but its late arrival means that you may no longer need a third-party file management tool like ACDSee. For anyone unsure of why a browser and thumbnails are important, here is a quick recap.
In search of lost files
Having large collections of photos can make it hard to find a particular image, and this is more aggravating when you forget the file name or its location. Thumbnails are miniature versions of the original image. You can typically squeeze 50 or more thumbnails onto a screen, which makes it easy to find an elusive image or lost photo. There is no need to open and close each individual file to check if it is the one that you want; you simply look over all the thumbnails, and when you find the desired file, double-click to open it.
If you already have a copy of Photoshop 7, you can see this in action by selecting File-Browse... Then all you need to do is navigate to the folder containing your graphics, and the thumbnails will start to appear. Like most Photoshop processes, this can take considerable time and resources. A directory containing around 100 mid-sized JPEGs took one minute to index; in comparison, Paint Shop Pro took about 12 seconds. Admittedly, Photoshop includes many more details when indexing - such as colour profiles, resolution and more (these extra details are known as image metadata). Expect long delays when indexing larger photo collections of 1000 images or more, particularly when they are high resolution.
Cache and carry
As Photoshop generates the thumbnails, it also creates a database, or 'cache'. This will save you waiting for the index to regenerate from scratch each time you want to view the contents of a particular folder. However, the cache is not without its own unique problems. As new cache files are created for each indexed folder, they tend to accumulate in an obscure location on your system. Even if you install Photoshop on another drive, the caches will appear in the folder located at C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\FileBrowser\Photoshop7. This is not exactly an easy place to find or check on a regular basis.
If you index many CDs or photo image collections, you will find that these cache files start eating into disk space and generally accumulate as junk. The problem is that Adobe has chosen a counter-intuitive naming convention, with the added bonus of a second database file for each cache. In effect, there is no certain way of knowing which caches you should keep and which to purge. You have the option of purging all the caches at once (in the file browser, click the tiny arrow in the top right corner and select Purge cache). However, this means you lose all the caches in one go - even the ones you want to retain. It doesn't sound like much but, given the sluggishness of the thumbnail process, a CD with 3000 images will take around 30 minutes to re-index.
Windows 98 users are in for an extra treat. In testing, the thumbnail index will only generate when Photoshop's browser is the active window. So, while Photoshop is creating thumbnails, you won't be able to use the computer for other tasks - if you do, the indexing will stop until the browser is the active Window again. Thankfully, Adobe states that this is not the case for Windows XP or 2000, which will continue to index in the background.
Helpful but hidden
The browser has many advanced features, but they are hidden within the icons scattered around the edge of the browser window. At the top right is a small arrow that will bring up a menu with options such as select, rotate, delete and others. At the bottom left of the thumbnails is a small word that shows the current sorting preference (it is 'filename' by default). Clicking on the word will give you a number of sorting preferences including Copyright information, Color Profile, Resolution and other quite useful choices. Finally, in the far bottom left is the choice to display all the metadata of the image (resolution, size, etc.) or use Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information from digital cameras.