Low End Mac Reviews

Review: Photoshop 7.0

- 2002.06.13

There are a few computer programs that have their market niches locked down and define an entire industry. Perhaps the best example is Adobe Photoshop: Whole industries have sprung into existence just to cater to the needs of Photoshop jockeys.

So a new version of Photoshop is news to anyone who works with graphics, Web design, or print publishing.

Like most other Adobe products, the new Photoshop 7.0 (about $600, upgrade about $150) has equivalent versions for Windows and Mac users, but the big news is a vote of confidence in Apple's year-old operating system: Mac OS X. By rewriting the Mac version to run natively under OS X, Adobe is telling graphics and publishing professionals that it's okay to migrate to the new operating system.

Adobe has done a good job with its OS X version; unlike some ports to the new operating system, the new OS X Photoshop holds its own in any speed contests. While not delivering any OS X-only features, Photoshop takes advantage of the operating system's improved stability, memory management, and multitasking.

However it's not yet all smooth sailing for OS X-wannabes; Photoshop 6-compatible plug-ins will have to run in OS X's Classic mode, and plug-ins that control SCSI scanners, printers, or other hardware may not work at all under OS X. Plug-in creators, such as Alien Skin (maker of the popular Eye Candy series), are rushing updated versions to market. Of course, that means having to buy more upgrades!

(Photoshop 7 continues to support older Mac running OS 9.1 or later, along with Windows systems running Windows 98 or later. Of course, all users will benefit from a powerful processor and lots of RAM).

But while the new OS X support will be welcomed by Apple's management team, the product's new features, while worthwhile, are not as dramatic. Among the new features:

  • The ability to customize and tidy up Photoshop's multitude of palettes into savable Workspaces.
  • Similarly, Tool Presets can now be saved.
  • A File Browser, carried across from Adobe's low price (but highly useful) Photoshop Elements, lets users search for graphics by name or date or keyword.
  • A greatly revised Brushes palette includes features to approximate real-world painting, reminiscent of (though still a pale imitation of) Corel/Procreate Painter.
  • Two new tools, Healing Brush and Patch Tool, that work magic in erasing wrinkles and other minor flaws from photos.
  • Auto Color adjustment, which simplifies correcting color casts in scans or digital photos.
  • A spelling checker. You won't use Photoshop to replace your word processor, but now you'll have no excuse for making spelling mistakes when you add text to images.

Photoshop's Web graphics companion program, ImageReady also benefits from minor makeovers such as improvements in its Rollovers palette and more options when creating transparent GIF files for Web use. I'm disappointed that Adobe still hasn't managed to integrate all of ImageReady's features into the Photoshop core; this is the third version of Photoshop that instead packages both programs together, forcing users to bounce back and forth between the two while working on a single image.

Photoshop 7.0 is a must-have for Mac-users who have moved to OS X or are considering migrating. Other Photoshop users can probably take their time deciding whether the new features justify the time and expense of upgrading.

Corel/Procreate Painter is a better choice if you're creating digital art from scratch; while Macromedia Fireworks deserves consideration if you're making graphics for the Web. Adobe's own Photoshop Elements is a powerful and much more affordable ($149) alternative for the nonprofessional.

But despite all this, Photoshop 7.0 offers enough new and powerful features to keep the Photoshop jockeys happy.

You can order Photoshop 7.0 from Amazon.com for US$609. The upgrade sells for US$149.

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