Adobe Photoshop 5.0

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it. Use your browser's "BACK" button to return to this review when done.

Accolades Abound!

Type of Product

Photoshop has been called "the camera for your mind," by Adobe, meaning that if you can conceive an idea, Photoshop has the tools to execute it. It expresses the power of the program. Photoshop is a software package used by graphic artists, designers, Webmasters, and photographers to create original artwork, retouch and correct images, manipulate scanned images, and prepare professional-quality products for both print and electronic media. Photoshop originally was a tool developed for correcting photographs and scanned images. But today, Photoshop is a tool for creating print images, photographic manipulation, and designing for CD- ROM and the World Wide Web. Photoshop 5 is an innovative upgrade that includes the following four most requested features: multiple levels of undo and redo, editable text with character-level formatting, flexible and precise color management controls, and built-in support for spot-color channels.

User Level

Serious beginners, intermediate, and advanced PC users. Because of its power, beginners might be a bit intimidated, though, by Photoshop. Don't be. Although it is used by professional graphic designers and Web developers, you really don't need an art background or 20 years computer experience to enjoy this product. The interface is not totally intuitive, but considering the complexity of functions it allows the user to perform, it is user friendly. Beginners can and have been using and enjoying the program. There are on-line classes, learning videos, and tutorial books. Along with cyber geeks, artists, grandmothers, and other assorted enthusiasts, you can enroll in classes at colleges in your area, as I did, and enjoy the thrill of learning and using Photoshop. Most of the students in the classes were beginning and intermediate users. Not for users who occasionally need a basic, quick program, with wizards and templates, to produce simple graphics. It is not difficult to learn, but it is not a graphics on-the-fly program either.

New and Enhanced Features

When a company releases an upgrade of a software program, reviewers debate on how different the new version is to the old, and they usually don't always agree. What I can say about using Photoshop 5 is that it "feels" different. The new tools, options, and features make it more practical. Following is an overview:

1. History Palette. The History Palette gives you powerful control by
recording every change made to an image, thus providing a virtually infinite "undo" facility, and allowing you to return to the precise point where a change was made and amend it. Previously it was often necessary to begin all over again. Each operation performed in the program goes onto the Palette; when you reach a place that you will want to return to, you can create a snapshot, which then also appears on the Palette. This eliminates the need to constantly save different versions of a file as you experiment with effects. If you want to delete a set of transformations, you can choose Clear History, click the last snapshot you took, and the image immediately reverts to that state. If you want to keep this transformation, you can create a new snapshot so you can quickly compare it with the previous version by toggling between snapshots. Photoshop 5 has a new History brush that allows different versions of the same image to be seamlessly combined. Also you have the ability to selectively clone between images. This History Palette feature is faster than other programs because Photoshop keeps a cache, making Palette actions virtually immediate.

2. Type layers with re-editable text. An enhanced feature I particularly like is the manner in which Photoshop now lets you work with type. Type is kept on a different type layer until you render it. The text remains editable, and you can mix and match fonts and sizes. To edit, you simply double-click on the type layer. There is a new Vertical Type tool and a Vertical Type Mask tool. You can adjust kerning or use auto kerning; set tracking, leading, and baseline shift; use multiple fonts, styles, and sizes for each type layer; type layers support single- and double-byte characters; the dialog box is resizable and zoomable; and type layers can be transformed and can include layer effects such as beveling, embossing, and drop shadows.

3. Layer effects. Photoshop 5 includes a number of automated effects that you can apply to layers, including shadows, glows, bevels, and embossing. A double-click on the effects icon in the Layer Palette opens a dialog box where you can alter parameters such as the color of a glow or the distance between an object and its shadows. When you add an item to that layer, the effects are automatically applied to the new image. And if you move an item, its shadow or effects will move with it, and still remain editable.

4. Color Management. Below is a more technical description of improved color management features, but what it means is that you can more easily maintain consistent color in your images, regardless of the monitor or printer you use. Along with a proprietary color-management system, Adobe has added support for device profiles based on the ICC standard, thus supporting sRGB, a proposed standard that would eliminate the need to profile each monitor separately. Photoshop 5 also has enhanced color-handling features with broader support for 48- and 64-bit color files, dot-gain curve editing, and spot-color channels.

5. Color Samplers. You can now place up to 4 non printing color samplers into your image which makes it easier to monitor color changes. Before-and-after color data from color adjustments is displayed as samplers in the Info Palette. Also, with the Eyedropper tool you can create a color from up to four user-defined samples.

6. Magnetic Tools. Photoshop's selection and masking tools have been expanded to include essentials such as Magnetic Lasso, Magnetic Pen, and Freeform Pen, and you now get a marquee when transforming selections. It is much easier to trace an outline with the Lasso as the point "sticks" to a predetermined contrast gradient. Also there are a few new gradient types, including angular, diamond, and reflected.

7. Measure Tool. The Measure Tool is new. It acts like a ruler, enabling you to measure distances and angles between points in an image.

8. Enhanced Actions Palette. The Actions Palette has been enhanced so you can record more tools and palettes in actions and can create sets of actions. Almost all operations performed on an image through the Paths, Layers and History Palette, the gradient, marquee, crop, lasso, line, move, magic wand, paint bucket and type tools, can be recorded in a very small file. If, then, people on the other side of the planet have the same image as the original, all the manipulation may be sent to them as an e-mail attachment. They may then load it into their computer, run it, and produce an identically manipulated image.

9. 3D Transformation. Portions of images can now be selected
and manipulated as if they were 3D objects. The 3D Transform filter enables you to create clever images from a 2D image source and represent it in three-dimensional form.

10. Automated Plugins. A new Actions plug-in type controls the functionality of Photoshop and provides a method to automate complicated tasks and workflow. These Wizards simplify multi-step operations such as exporting transparent images, resizing images, and creating contact sheets (see sample at left). You can convert multiple files to a single-color mode, and import multiple page .PDF files to multiple Photoshop files.

11. Expanded Scratch Space Support. Photoshop now supports up to 4 scratch volumes, giving you up to 200GBs of scratch space.

12. Interface Improvement. Adobe has cleaned up Photoshop's Interface by combining similar tools and relocating some menu items to more logical positions. Now you can select linear or radial gradients directly from the Toolbox, along with new diamond, reflected, and clock-sweep angle gradient tools, and not have to go to the Gradient Tool Options Palette. The Line and Pencil tools occupy a simple position, and Transform commands such as Rotate and Scale have been moved to the Edit menu from their previous location in the Layers menu.

Wish List

While we are impressed by the new features and enhancements in Photoshop 5, I would like to see some of the following suggestions implemented in the next version:

  • More paint brushes such as chalk, water color, pen, pencil, and crayon painting tools.
  • Save history in the History Palette when a file is closed, and turn the History into an Action.
  • Ability to manually kern characters.
  • Using 3D transform filter, create image data that doesn't exist such as the back side of an object.
  • More Web-related imaging tools such as animation creation.
  • Ability to create hot spots or image maps; the ability to generate average palettes.
  • GIF or JPEG optimization.
  • Faster batch processing of large numbers of images.

System Requirements

Processor: Intel Pentium or faster
Operating System: Windows 95/NT 4.0
Memory: 32MB (64MB recommended)
Hard Disc Space: 80MB
Hardware: 256-color (24-bit true color recommended);
CD-ROM drive

Other Goodies

Reading Material and Additional Programs in Photoshop 5 package. The User Guide is sufficient for a basic reference manual. But it is not a step-by-step tutorial. If you are a beginner, I would suggest Adobe's Classroom in a Book for Photoshop. The Training and Tutorial CD has portions of the book in PDF format that you can print out and use with the lessons on the CD. The lessons and the movies would also be relevant for beginners. Chapter 1 in the User Guide is featured on the Tour and Training CD and is from the Classroom in a Book series. Watching the movie before following the tour of Photoshop in Chapter 1 would be advised. You need to install QuickTime software to view the movies. It is on the Tour and Training CD. Adobe Acrobat Reader software is also included, which is a digital document display program.

Technical Support

Web Site: You can also go to Adobe's Home Page from Photoshop. It has links to other sites that are relevant to Photoshop and other related software. Great place for beginner users to peruse for general information, a Gallery featuring works of designers and artists using Photoshop (a humbling experience to view what others can do), step-by-step instructions on many features, upgrades, free downloadable demo (You can't print or save with these demos, but you can try out the product. Presently, Photoshop 4 is available.), free Adobe Magazine subscription, and other downloadable files. There is also an extensive selection of cool tips and tricks, available from the site as well.


Most people should be able to qualify for the upgrade, competitive upgrade or the student edition. This price is less than $200. If you don't qualify for an upgrade or the student edition plan on spending considerably more. Is it worth it? Yes.