After last month's public beta of Adobe Photoshop CS6, the latest version of Adobe's flagship photo-editing behemoth announced today doesn't really hold any big surprises. As with the rest of the applications included in the new Adobe Creative Suite 6, Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended can be purchased as standalone applications ($699 and $999 respectively), as part of the various CS6 bundles, or as part of Adobe's new Creative Cloud subscription service. With such a big beta program, the application has been previewed and new features have already been much discussed, so without further ado, here's a quick rundown of the highlights:
The most noticeable changes up front are the completely overhauled (and much improved) user interface, that defaults to a dark gray (like Adobe Lightroom) but can be customized and sports all new redesigned icons. Overall performance has been drastically improved through hardware acceleration (changes and effects are immediately applied and appear without delay in real time), there's better raw image processing, and there is a slew of new and improved features, including:
New Crop Tool: The completely overhauled and much more intuitive crop tool is my personal favorite improvement. Firstly, when you select the crop tool, your whole image is selected (duh!). Various presets and overlays let you crop images more easily and precisely and best of all, the tool is non-destructive, so you don't have to start all over if you change your mind.
Content-aware Move and Patch: These new features are based on the magical content-aware technology Adobe debuted in CS4. Content-aware Patch, adds the technology to the patch tool and allows you use content-aware algorithms while patching (using content-aware fill as you patch your image). Content-aware Move allows you to select an object in your image and move it within your image easily and seamlessly by using content-aware fill to fill in the area that you've moved the object from as well as fix up the pixels around the object in its new location.
Blur Gallery: This new group of blur filters allows you to add various blurring effects, including Iris Blur (which gives you a shallow depth of field effect, even if your camera lens can't produce one—think iPhone shots), Tilt-Shift (which gives you a Lensbaby-like tilt-shift effect), and Field Blur (which gives you a graduated blur).
Improved auto-correction tools: Auto Curves, Levels, and Brightness/Contrast controls have been improved significantly. Rather than simply picking a handful of points and make auto adjustments based on those as in previous versions, this version dynamically creates auto adjustments based on your image, by comparing your image to histograms in a library of hundreds of thousands of images.
Adaptive Wide-Angle: This feature lets you quickly and easily straighten curved objects and areas in images, such as those shot with a fish-eye or wide-angle lens, or panoramic shots.
Skin-tone-aware selections and masking: These features make it easier for you to make precise selections and masks of people in images by detecting skin-tones.
Improved video editing tools: The other big change is that video editing features are now included in the standard edition, rather than only the Extended version of Photoshop (which now mainly includes the addition of 3D tools). You can now use the full range of Photoshop image-editing tools (including the new Blur Gallery effects, for instance) to enhance video clips.