On its own, Photoshop CS2 gives professional photographers a good reason to upgrade, largely because of the new version's support for Camera Raw 3.0 and Digital Negative images and tools to reduce noise and optical lens distortion. Web designers will also appreciate that more elements of Adobe ImageReady CS2 are integrated within Photoshop CS2. Those folks wanting only to catalog and clean up snapshots for family albums, however, should look to Apple's iPhoto (part of the iLife suite) or to Corel PaintShop Pro 9.0 instead. But if you're already running up against limitations within those basic photo apps or you want to create original digital art, we think Adobe Photoshop CS2 is worth the price.
Installing the entire Creative Suite 2.0 requires four CD-ROMs' worth of data, but you can select elements or individual applications to ease the burden on your hard drive. Previous versions of Photoshop can also coexist on the same computer if, say, a print publisher is using an older version and you need to make certain that your images are truly backward compatible.
As Photoshop's feature set has grown, so has the complexity of its interface. Fortunately, you can customise the interface to create your own personalised work space. Last year, with Photoshop CS, Adobe introduced the concept of multiuser interfaces, allowing one or more users to save and return to custom colours, tool and palette layouts. Photoshop CS2 provides task-based, preset work spaces for Web design, painting and image analysis. In addition, Photoshop CS2 also enables customisation of both its menus and keyboard shortcuts. Even with all this customisation, however, we recommend a large monitor -- at least 19 inches -- to view Photoshop CS2's entire interface and still have room to work on an image.
Adobe Photoshop CS2 is a serious image-editing package, with advanced features beyond what the casual user will want or need. For example, in this release, Adobe introduces features targeted toward professional photographers moving to an all-digital work flow, such as support for 32-bit High Dynamic Range (HDR) images, allowing you to merge multiple exposures of a single image into one composite image. Along with Camera Raw 3.0 support, which lets you edit and process multiple raw images simultaneously, there's new support for the Adobe-backed Digital Negative (DNG) standard, a new archival format for the raw files generated by digital cameras. Pro photographers will also appreciate new tools such as Reduce Noise, which Adobe claims will increase a camera's useful ISO range, and Optical Lens Correction, a nifty tool that compensates for some common lens distortions. There are a few features aimed at amateurs, including red-eye correction and a spot-healing brush, which can erase people or objects from a photo and which works across all layers.
The ability to manipulate multiple layers with ease is a welcome improvement in Photoshop CS2. New Smart Guides, allowing you to align items across different layers, should also save you from always clicking within the Layers palette. Smart Objects, yet another new feature, lets you nondestructively edit Illustrator artwork. And, finally, there's a long-desired WYSIWYG font menu in this release.
Other new features offer a high gee-whiz factor but limited real-world use. For example, Vanishing Point provides automatic perspective correction within layers, making it easy to add new objects in context to old photos, but this feature requires powerful hardware to run smoothly. The Image Warp feature, already familiar to Illustrator aficionados, may be useful for distorting text on signs, but not everyone will need this feature.
Replacing last year's file manager are two apps. Adobe Version Cue 2.0, available with the full Creative Suite package, keeps track of alternative versions of images, even those produced by non-Adobe apps. The other file-management app, Adobe Bridge, is a visual file browser that displays thumbnail images, makes a file's metadata accessible for editing, and provides the interface to the online Adobe Stock Photo service.
Adobe ImageReady CS2 remains bundled as a separate application within Photoshop CS2, although there's more integration of the two products in this release. For example, Photoshop CS2 includes an animation feature similar to that already available in ImageReady; however, neither app is up to par with a dedicated animation application.
Like other apps within the new Creative Suite environment, Adobe Photoshop CS2 uses the new Adobe Help Center, a separate window that allows you to look up topics or ask questions. However, like the similar help feature in Mac OS X, simple queries sometimes return many irrelevant answers, and the long list of available topics makes browsing tedious.
The Help Center provides a More Resources button, which takes you to the familiar options of online training, tips and tutorials and forums.