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Overcoming fear of Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Elements developers have both experts and novices in mind. Software review hed: Overcoming fear of Photoshop dek: Adobe Photoshop Elements developers have both experts and novices in mind.

The bad news is that the Adobe Photoshop LE is gone as a commercial product; the good news is the company introduced Photoshop Elements as its replacement.

Unlike the LE version, which was based on Photoshop 5.5, Elements is built around the newer Photoshop 6, with a few twists aimed at newer digital imagers who may have a fear of Photoshop. When you launch Photoshop Elements, you see an interface similar to that in Photoshop 6, including the practical, and usable palette well. But before you get to that interface, a helpful dialog box appears, containing links to guided activities. You can use this dialog to open an image file, run a tutorial, or you can turn it off after you’ve achieved a higher comfort level.

Some users may find the toolbar disorienting. But the Hints palette provides context-sensitive illustrations and tips explaining how to use Photoshop Elements’ tools. Clicking the “More Help” button takes you to Photoshop Elements’ own Web page for assistance with a particular function. The Recipes palette interactively teaches you how to perform various tasks, yet provides full control throughout each step.

You can open images through the initial dialog box, the classic Open dialog, or Adobe’s clever File Browser, which enables you to find image files on your system simply by viewing thumbnails. Like the other tools, it’s a clickable tab in the palette well. There are other interface advantages, such as a Filter Browser that lets users scan through more than 95 special-effects filters and then drag and drop them onto an image. Adobe was skimpy with the plug-ins provided with LE, but you’ll find all of them here, and the Filter Browser is one of the easiest ways yet to apply effects.

One of the biggest differences between Photoshop 6 and Elements is PhotoMerge, which automatically arranges and blends several photographs by resizing and skewing portions of the image to fit them together, forming a single seamless panoramic image. Inexpensive image-editing programs have offered image-stitching capabilities for years, so I’m glad Adobe finally took the hint. Since PhotoMerge is a plug-in, I would be surprised if they don’t offer it as a free download for Photoshop 6 users, but Adobe may wait for the rollout of the Carbonized version. The official word on an OS X-compatible Photoshop is that it will occur in the next revision.

Photoshop LE was basically a stripped-down version of the real thing. Photoshop Elements, on the other hand, is a new version of the program that’s specifically tailored for amateur photographers and new digital imagers. It’s designed for the computer user who wants most of Photoshop’s 6.0’s capabilities, but can’t afford a professional-level image editor. What I like most about Elements is that you never once feel you’re using a disabled version of another program. You’re never made to feel too stupid or cheap to use Photoshop. It’s honest software that’s powerful, easy to use-and that won’t bust your bank account.

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