The UX of Photoshop CS4

I just upgraded my work computer to Photoshop CS4 Standard. I am not a power user of Photoshop.  Actually, I am just a hack, but I get alot done with it.  Sort of like my jQuery skills.

Before going in to the upgrade, I want to declare my pre-conceived notions.  I had already assumed that Adobe would change the UI on me and confuse me.  I assumed that some things I would like and some things not.

Well, my expectations were pretty accurate.  Overall, it’s a good upgrade, but something things were annoying and others just interesting.

The first is the visual styling of the application itself.  It’s almost a throwback design.  It looks alot like Safari or iTunes.  The gray is dark with only the slightest fade.  The design eliminates ALL windows Vista aspects completely.  It might as well be a Windows 3.1 application design.  It’s quite shocking to me. 

Additionally, they started using this one pixel dark on white drop shadow.

Notice, that there are no rounded corners on the whole design!  Holy fish paste!  Where are the rounded corners???  Are they trying to change the world or something!?  Crazy people.

Anyway, so I give a mild thumbs down on the visual theme.  Look at Trillian Astra and you will see future-forward design.  Adobe’s retro move won’t last. (I hope).

Ok, now for some of the usability.  They introduced a new “tab” metaphor.  It used to be that eash PSD was a separate window.  Now they are separate tabs.  You CAN turn them into windows, but that feature is hard to find. (Window -> Arrange -> Float all in Windows.  Definetely not easy.  Plus after you make them float, if you move them in the wrong way, they will revert back to tabs.  It’s been really annoying.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind the tabs if they allowed for one simple feature.  Drag layer to another tab.  This is such a common function for me.  I want to drag a layer from one PSD to another.  In tab mode, I can’t see how to do that.  Here is how I would enable it:  When someone drags a layer and puts their mouse over a tab, ACTIVATE THE TAB!  How simple is that?  Microsoft has nailed that in their start bar for over a decade now.  Come on Adobe, this is Tabs 101.

There are a few bells and whistles for me.  Zoom is smooth.  Zooming in shows the outline of the pixels, whcih I LOVE.  I always had trouble seeing that in CS2 and CS3.

This makes it much easier to do micro-edits.  Good work Adobe.

The hand tool is a little wierd.  They made it work like the iPhone.  When you grab and move, the screen keeps going as if the move was on a sheet of slippery ice.  I found that very annoying.  I am trying to get to a particular spot and the sliding just makes it hard to control.  It’s eye-candy that actually gets in the way of normal work.

One thing they did NOT upgrade was the levels of grouping.  I was really hoping for this.  You get 5 levels of groups and that’s it.  I really need more.  Why didn’t they bump it up a little?  Oh well.

Another thing they didn’t upgrade (at least I can’t tell if they did) is the ability to make variable transparency PNG-8 files.  Fireworks does this.

I have alot more using to do before I get a great feel for it, but these are my first day’s reactions.


2 responses to “The UX of Photoshop CS4”

  1. RonnieSan Avatar

    I feel you about the no dragging a layer to another tab thing. This was the main reason I was excited about tabs.

    Some other things they need to improve is the accuracy of the marquee. The marquee was a definite downgrade. Guides are not precise at 100% either. I design websites, so I need pixel precision.

    One feature I wish they would create is an object palette. A perpetual layers palette that I can open in any document that I can drag stuff from. It would save some time when adding common elements like form elements to designs.

  2. pixelbath Avatar

    RonnieSan – Easy, just put all those common elements into another .psd and just drag elements into your open doc…oh, wait. Nevermind. 😛

Whatya think?

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