Adobe retools Photoshop application

Version 6.0 of the company's flagship image-editing package will support more colors, more layers and more PDF options, sources said

Adobe Systems is reportedly whipping up a brand-spanking-new version of Photoshop, the company's flagship image-editing package. According to sources, the San Jose, California, graphics heavyweight last week seeded testers with the first beta version of Photoshop 6.0, code-named Venus in Furs. The final software will ship in Mac and Windows versions alongside Version 3.0 of ImageReady, the Web-focused graphics-editing package bundled with Photoshop.

Among its enhancements, sources said, Photoshop 6.0 will handle 16-bit colour, support an unlimited number of graphics layers, introduce shape-drawing tools and extend the program's controls over publishing workflows based on Adobe's Portable Document Format.

"This is the most significant upgrade to the program in a long time," one source told ZDNet News.

Among the many interface improvements is the ability to enter text directly within a document rather than via a dialog box. The feature includes full typographic controls as well as support for colouring individual characters. As in the current version, Photoshop 5.5, text is stored in special layers that remain editable.

Sources said a new Tool Options bar replaces previous versions' assortment of Options palettes. Docked at the top of the screen, the bar's contents change depending on which tool is in use. "The new toolbar makes for a lot less clicking when you're changing your tool options," a source said.

Besides breaking the current software's 99-layer limit, the upgrade will feature Layer sets that let users group layers into folders. "I can apply a layer mask or a transform to an entire folder full of layers, instead of having to apply the effect to each layer individually," a source said.

In addition to the Layer Mask feature available in the current version, Photoshop 6.0 will support vector-based clipping paths on a layer. The combination of layer masks and clipping paths will enable designers to create soft- or hard-edged masks.

A new Layer Styles facility provides "style-sheet" feature for defining special effects. Via a single dialogue, users will be able to define transfer modes, opacity and other layer characteristics. Users will easily be able to modify these styles or drag and drop them onto other layers, sources said.

A Shapes facility will offer users a new way of creating editable shapes in Photoshop.

Designers will be able to create simple primitives that users can employ to join, subtract from, or divide other shapes. One source described the new tools as "feeling somewhat like the drawing tools in Macromedia's Flash."

Meanwhile, Web users will gain new Slice and Export for Web features, sources said.

"I just built an entire Web interface in Photoshop," one source said. "I created my navigation tools as a single graphic, sliced them, assigned URLs, Alt tags and Message text to each slice -- all in Photoshop! 'Save for Web' exported the slices and HTML code to make it all work. This feature kicks butt!"

Other enhancements include an improved Image Extraction feature for automatically creating high-quality selections and masks; a new Liquify command, which provides for real-time distortion and warping; direct PDF output of any document or layer; and a new Crop tool that provides a real-time cropping preview, as well as the ability to crop any selection.

Adobe was not immediately available for comment on the reports.

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