Archive for March, 2012

Desktop Apps We Love: Photoshop CS6 Beta

Written by mcarberry. Posted in Tech Musings

cs6thumb

Adobe released the beta for Photoshop CS6 Wednesday March 21. I took an in-depth look at some of the great new features, and the improvements to the old. Honestly, I was quite hesitant with what to expect from the new CS6 update. I had seen a few of the new features through online previews, but I wasn’t sure they would all work the way they said they would. Not only that, but the last updates to Photoshop have been somewhat underwhelming, and I had no reason to think this would be any different. I don’t like to admit I’m wrong, but with the new Photoshop update, I was. Facelift

The darker colors put focus on your work, not all the other stuff

Let’s start at the very beginning. As soon as you open Photoshop you should notice a huge difference. The interface has been cleaned up A LOT and the darker grey allows you to really get immersed in your work. I have to say I really love this layout because now I don’t have to worry about layers and layers of interface clogging up my picture’s workspace. Everything has been nicely organized into toolbars that stay in one place, away from my photos, and can be resized however I choose. Overall, workflow is more efficient, and navigation is easier. Crop I know a simple cropping tool may not seem like much at first, but when you see the new crop tool in action, you’ll understand. Rather than moving the crop box all over the place, and guessing when the picture is straight, the user now controls the picture, and Photoshop gives you a real-time preview of how your picture will ACTUALLY look once it’s cropped. Not only that, but you get a straighten tool that lets you establish a horizon. This is hands down one of my favorite upgrades in CS6 because I use it all the time, and I’m happy to work with a more powerful, smarter crop tool. Blur The blur effects have also been given a nice upgrade. The filters are all more intuitive, and they’ve even added a couple of new ones as well. My personal favorite is the new Iris blur. With Iris, you can create a shallow depth of field from nearly any photograph you want. It’s as simple as clicking a few focal points in the photograph, and choosing how intense you want the blur to be. It’s really hard for me to explain how awesome a job this new filter does without any of the work that was previously required, so I’ll just show you with this video.

There is a field blur and a tilt-shift blur filter now, but neither of these are quite as useful or as good as the Iris blur. Content-aware Content-aware isn’t a brand new feature in CS6, but it is much better than its CS5 version. Content-aware is now available in the patch tool so that you can choose what gets replaced and where. In addition, you now have the ability to move people and objects to different areas in a photograph without the time or masks that were previously required to do so. CS6 allows you to make a rough selection of the object you want to move, and simply drag and drop that object wherever you want. Photoshop fills in the abandoned area, and it does it quite well. Now keep in mind you can’t take people from a grassy field to a beach without some extra work, but for moving objects a couple inches off, this tool is magical. There’s even an option to extend certain objects. The content-aware feature is a huge breakthrough, but for major changes, be prepared to do things the old-fashioned way.

Adaptive Wide-Angle Correction This was one of my least favorite tools only because I don’t use it in CS5 for anything. It’s being displayed a lot more prominently than it was before, but I’ve really never used lens correction for any of my photos. That being said, the update to this feature is leaps and bounds ahead of its older version. It works something like this: Adobe created a lens geometry database so that when you open a photo, Photoshop can discern the type of lens used from the metadata, and it is able to correct the photo based on how it “knows” the lens distorts your photo. It used to really screw up the photo because the software is essentially distorting the photo in an equal but opposite manner to compensate for the lens. Now, however, you have the ability to control where and how the software corrects the image by drawing lines for the software to straighten out. This point-by-point approach to lens correction allows you to take an image from a fisheye lens and create a “natural” perspective. It’s an impressive feature that I want to take advantage of more, but I’m not sure the opportunities will surface much. Layer selection If Photoshop is a car, the interface is the chassis, and the engine is layers. Layers revolutionized photo editing, and CS6 makes them even better. CS6 allows you to filter out different layers in the palette by name, kind, effect, mode, attribute, or even color. It gets even more specific, but I won’t go into that. All you need to know is for the editor like me who has about 50 different groups with 100 different layers in each, this is a game-changer. Background Auto-saving This was one of those “FINALLY!” moments for me. Your work can be saved every 5, 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes automatically. I don’t know what took them so long, but a big pat on the back to Adobe for finally implementing this. There are hundreds of updates to CS6, and if I felt any of you wanted to read 30 pages of blog about it, I would most certainly type it all up. However, I’ll have to let you download it and decide for yourself. Photoshop is the king of photo editing, and all other editing suites are held to its gold standard. CS6 has proven it’s the best Photoshop yet, and while it’s still in beta testing, it’s completely free! Go get it right now. Seriously, stop reading this and GET IT NOW!

Your Digital Spring Cleaning

Written by mcarberry. Posted in Tech Musings

Time to get in there, and clean up your computer

Time to get in there, and clean up your computer

Spring is here! It’s time for flowers and love, and all that disgusting stuff. It’s also time for the literal and metaphorical clean sweep. While getting rid of all the junk in your home is highly encouraged, many people neglect the digital part of their lives when it comes to spring cleaning. Yes, your tech needs to be cleaned too, and I’m not just talking about cleaning your screen. There are lots of things you can do to unclutter your digital desktop, and start off the season organized. If you’re going to do this, you need to go all the way. Don’t be afraid to delete stuff you don’t need, you hoarder.

You wouldn't allow your home to look like this, so why your computer?

If you spend a large amount of your time on the web, chances are you’ve accumulated a lot of bookmarks, unneeded apps, and even a lot of friends. Take a little bit of time to go through your bookmarks. If you’re anything like me about 95% of them will just be random bookmarks in the unsorted folder. Organize by subject type so you can access everything faster. Don’t forget to trash bookmarks that aren’t timely or relevant anymore. Do the same thing for RSS feeds and web apps. E-mail is notorious for piling up. If you don’t need it, trash it, and if you do need it, take it out of your inbox. Folders are a great way to keep your inbox clean. The next part may be a little harder. It’s a great time for you to do a social media sweep. Not only should you be cleaning out your friend/follower list, but you should be optimizing your profiles and posts. If you work in a professional environment, it might be a good idea to start untagging yourself from all those party pictures, and removing some of your more explicit posts. If you want to keep them around for the memories, but don’t want the whole world to see them, Facebook has an export profile feature that allows you to download your site content including pictures and videos.

Clean up your social media

An obvious way to clean up your tech is to organize your folders and files. We’ve talked about this before as a great way to speed up your PC. Not only will it help give you a boost in performance, but it will also allow you to manage files and find things much faster. If your mess is more about paper than about your PC, digitize those documents. It’s a huge space saver, and unlike paper and ink, a digital file can last a really long time. Business cards, receipts, and other important documents can all be easily digitized these days with the right scanner.
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