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Analysis: Photoshop through the years

MacWorld Online

(IDG) -- Few products have been as important to the Mac platform as Photoshop -- the image-editing application from Adobe that's been a Mac stalwart since February 1990. It helped drive the desktop publishing revolution, and it's been a valuable tool in the emergence of Web design.

As Photoshop 6.0 is announced -- the $609 software package should be available in the next few months -- it's high time to look at how Photoshop has evolved in the decade since its debut and just what the program has meant to Mac users.

Photoshop: It's not just a program anymore

There is no greater glory than becoming a verb. Font maven Kathleen Tinkel bestowed that honor on me after I gave her the world's best garlic press: she later told me that she no longer "pressed garlic," she "Blatnerized it."

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It happens with products, too. People Xerox important papers, even on Canon copiers, and later FedEx them, even if they use Airborne or another overnight delivery service.

Only one piece of software in the world of publishing has enough distinction to earn its own verb, and it's worth every accolade: Adobe Photoshop.

As far as I'm concerned, every picture that you scan needs to be Photoshopped. Images headed toward the Web need Photoshopping. People Photoshop files in design firms, video production houses, animation studios, and ad agencies all over the world. Physicians and scientists Photoshop their X-rays, MRIs, astronomical data, and stuff I've never even heard of. Uncle Vernon didn't make the Christmas party last year? You know what to do: just Photoshop him into the snapshot later.

Adobe Photoshop is easily the most life-changing program in publishing history. It sits at the cornerstone of both print and Web publishing -- its power matched only by its elegance -- while plug-ins and page-layout programs dance around it.

Today, fine artists add finishing touches by Photoshopping their artwork, and pornographers would have nothing to offer except reality if they didn't Photoshop every one of their graphics. Photoshop means that a schmo like me can create brilliant images for an astonishing variety of media. And if I don't like what I see, I'll go Photoshop them some more.

But what's truly amazing to me is that while I write what sounds like an oversweetened eulogy for a poor, dead product, Adobe is releasing a new version -- Photoshop 6.0 -- that'll let me Photoshop my pictures even better and faster than ever before.

God bless the United States of Photoshop.

Cropped out

Photoshop isn't the only image editing software for the Mac -- "Darn right," says Fireworks maker Macromedia -- but it certainly ranks as the most enduring. Rival products have come and gone over the past 10 years -- and Photoshop's still standing tall. Here's a list of some of the competing image editing applications that Photoshop has left in its wake.

      • Color Studio
      • Digital Darkroom
      • PixelPaint
      • PhotoPaint
      • ColorMacCheese
      • Color-It Pro
      • xRes
      • Live Picture
      • Quark XPosure

A developing story: Photoshop through the years

Think back to February 1990. A fellow named George Bush was in the White House. An all-boy band named New Kids on the Block was tearing up the pop charts. Nobody could find Kuwait on a map. And Photoshop 1.0 had just arrived.

Now flash ahead 10 years to fall 2000. Another fellow named George Bush is trying to get into the White House. An all-boy band named 'N Sync is tearing up the pop charts. Nobody can find Kuwait on a map. Still.

At least some things change -- like Photoshop. The newly released version 6.0 adds new vector tools, expands Web design capabilities, and incorporates a number of changes aimed at making Photoshop easier to use.

To show you how Photoshop has evolved over the years, we've listed the major additions to each upgrade as well as what Macworld had to say about the software at the time (Back in the days of Photoshop 1.0 and 2.0, Macworld didn't even give ratings -- another thing that's changed).

Version Unveiling Date Features What We Said Then
1.0 February 1990 Full palette of tools for editing and enhancing images from scratch as well as altering existing artwork. "Photoshop is easy to use. Considering the vast number of features and tools involved... Adobe has done a good job of keeping things organized and simple."--(no rating)
2.0 June 1991 New and enhanced features for black-and-white image editing, prepress color separation work, and importing rasterized Illustrator-compatible files. "With version 2.0, Photoshop has grown up to become a graphics standard, with a whole host of third-party developers offering dedicated support."--(no rating)
2.5 November 1992 Dodge and Burn tools, easy masking feature, and support for Kodak Photo CD, JPEG, PCX, and BMP files. "Version 2.5 builds on its predecessor's wide range of capabilities; it also ignores some minor weaknesses that have begun to peak through the chinks in the great program's armor."--4 stars
3.0 June 1994 Layers feature introduced, new color correction tools, new Commands palette, new drag-and-drop feature. "Photoshop 3.0 both broadens its range of capabilities and simplifies the work environment in ways that will actually change how you work."--4 stars
4.0 November 1996 Introduction of Actions and Adjustments layers, Digimarc technology for watermarking images with copyright information. "Version 4 is ultimately more logical and more streamlined than its predecessor, which is saying quite a bit. But it comes at a cost."--4 stars
5.0 April 1998 Introduced Undo capabilities, History palette, Vertical Text, and Magnetic Lasso tools. "Photoshop has long been the best image editor for the Macintosh, and version 5.0 is the best upgrade to Photoshop by a mile."--5 mice
5.5 June 1999 Many Web tools including Web-safe color palette, integration of Image Ready 2.0 "Photoshop 5.5's extraction tools and minor enhancements add up to a worthwhile package, but they fall short of justifying the price of admission. What gives the update an edge is its Web capabilities."--4 mice
6.0 September 2000 Integrated vector drawing tools, new toolbar, expanded Web toolkit, tighter integration with other Adobe programs, enhanced layer management. You'll have to wait.




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