Adobe Gives Photoshop CC a Significant Upgrade

The latest version of Photoshop for Creative Cloud adds Adobe Generator functionality, as well as improvements to Isolation mode, camera shake reduction and filter support.

The first upgrade to Photoshop since its launch as a Creative Cloud-only application in June is well timed, since it follows in the footsteps of last week's Photoshop Photography Program. The Program is Adobe's response to photographers, many of whom felt left out of the move to Creative Cloud. The new subscription improves on the previous $19.99 per month offer for Photoshop by dropping the price to $9.99 and including Photoshop CC, Bridge CC, Lightroom 5, the standard 20GB of cloud storage and a Behance membership with ProSite.

The enhancements in Photoshop CC 14.1 are not, however, geared just to photographers. In fact, the most significant addition will be of interest primarily to those designing for the web or mobile apps. What Adobe calls its Generator technology was demoed during the May MAX Conference. It's positioned as a customizable platform and has now been released as an open source project, along with the first practical embodiment of its capabilities, image assets generation. It's no secret that Adobe would like those who have traditionally used Fireworks for creating web designs and comps to move on to Photoshop and this is exactly what this is designed to facilitate.

Using it is pretty straightforward: go to File > Generate > Image Assets and then rename layers and layer groups that you'll want to export as JPEG, GIF or PNG. You can employ tagging to control the nature of the resulting images, to do such things as simultaneously create images for regular and retina screens. Handy enough but what makes this more interesting is that these images are updated in real time as you edited them. And those using Edge Reflow CC can apparently import such assets with a single click. The clip below shows Generator in action with Edge Reflow, followed by an example of how it can be customized for more exotic uses. In this case The Engine Co. wrote a plugin for its Loom gaming engine that allowed game designers to change the UI of a game in Photoshop while the game was being played, which is quite a neat trick. It will be interesting to see how Adobe and third-party developers tap the capabilities of Generator in the coming months. In the meantime, detailed information on the process of generating image assets from Photoshop layers is available here.

Intriguing as it is, there is quite a bit more to Photoshop CC 14.1 than just Generator. Notable are the improvements to camera shake reduction, including user interface improvements, an option to disable artifact suppression, HiDPI preview support for retina displays and improved performance on large screens. Isolation mode, which was introduced with Photoshop CC, has received some attention. The idea here is that Isolation lets you quickly isolate layers that you want to work on to reduce screen clutter by only displaying those in the Layers panel but it seems this must have confused some users, given the nature of the changes.

What else? Okay, here are the main ones: increased stability while saving files to network locations; Photoshop-Behance integration is now available for several languages; native read-only PSDX file format support has been added; there are new controls to modify the range and fuzziness for Shadows, Highlights, and Midtones; performance and stability has been improved while using content-aware features; clicking a selected anchor point now selects that anchor point and deselects other anchor points; 32-bit support has been added for 24 more filters; there's a new option to select All Layers/Active Layers for the Path and Direct Selection tools; and a new option in the Properties panel flyout menu has been added to control the display of the panel during shape layer creation.

Granted, most of these aren't earth-shattering but on the other hand it's only been three months since Photoshop CC was released, which provided significant new functionality. So at this point it would seem as if Adobe is validating one of the prime benefits it claims for Creative Cloud membership, which is the rollout of regular updates.