Adobe Photoshop was originally released for the Mac in 1989, and promised the first decent photo-retouching and image-manipulation tools for a desktop computer.
Before long, Photoshop had become an industry standard, and it still holds that position today. Dominating the Mac and professional graphics market, it made its debut for Windows with version 2.5. Adobe also made the wise decision to develop and release subsequent Windows and Mac versions simultaneously.
Photoshop 4 allows you to take a bitmapped image and play around with it. Along with basic brightness and colour variations, the package has a wide variety of tools which are similar to those used by artists and photographers.
Simple pens are now joined by sophisticated airbrushes, along with the facility to smudge sections with a digital finger. Most importantly, these tools work and feel as they would in real life, only without the mess of chemicals or paint brushes.
Before you can use Photoshop with your real-life images you need to convert them into bitmaps using a scanner. Photoshop is so closely tied to scanning that most mid to high-end scanners actually bundle cut-down or even full versions of the package.
Photoshop 4 needs at least 16Mb of RAM, but prefers much more. Adobe claims it will run on a 386 processor, but we recommend at least a fast 486 or a Pentium. Interestingly, Photoshop 4 is one of the first applications we have tested with built-in support for Intel?s new MMX Pentium chips. In tests, a variety of colour mode changes and complex filters were up to 45 per cent faster with MMX than an equivalent non-MMX chip.
Photoshop 4 is a full 32-bit application, running under Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT. Symmetric multi-processing is supported under Mac and Windows NT systems with multiple processors.
Photoshop 2.5 seems to have been capable of just about everything, so what?s new in this latest version? Version 3 introduced us to layers, where elements could be placed on digital sheets of acetate and moved around or even deleted without affecting the detail. Version 4 allows basic image adjustments to be made with layers, effectively offering indefinite levels of undo.
You can now record regular actions and replay them on subsequent images, which saves time. The new Navigator palette always shows the entire image, which is useful for finding your way around. Fans of filters will be pleased to find that there are an excellent 48 of them, previously sold as Adobe Gallery Effects, thrown in.
The package includes guides and grids, the staples of illustration and DTP applications. There is also, of course, support for the ubiquitous range of Internet Web image file formats.
This is a worthy buy for any non-Photoshop user who wants an excellent image manipulation tool. However, it is not worth upgrading. Although there are some useful new features, you?re probably better off sticking with the version you?ve got and buying more RAM instead.
Contact: Adobe on 0181 606 4000
Price: about #500; upgrade from any previous version is #125
Verdict: any version of Photoshop is impressive, and this latest release is no exception. Version 4 certainly offers some great new features, although not necessarily the ones we were after. It?s ideal for the unlikely few who have outgrown version 3, or for those who find it bundled with a scanner.
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