Adobe's all-conquering image-manipulation software, Photoshop, gets another facelift today to version 7.0, but this latest upgrade seems to fix many problems that afflicted previous incarnations.
Some advances are specifically designed for the consumer-level user, an area where Photoshop has perhaps in the past lost out to Jasc's Paint Shop Pro. There's also essential support for Windows XP and Mac OS X.
Pricing in the UK is set at around £450 (estimated street price) plus VAT, with upgrading pegged at around £99 plus VAT.
We asked two people who spend time using Photoshop to give their views on the beta version of 7.0. PC Advisor's deputy reviews editor, Will Head, and art director Aileen O'Donnell, use Photoshop for different things — Head does lots of web artwork on a PC, while O'Donnell uses the software on a Mac for editing and creating images for print.
"Photoshop has long been the choice of professional image editors and at first it's hard to see what additions you could make to such an already fully featured package," said Head.
"Many of the new features, however, look to be aimed at the less Photoshop-savvy user. New offerings like the Healing Brush and Patch tool make it easier for the less experienced to touch up their images. The new file browser has a consumer feel to it, although it does offer advanced features like metadata and image ranking.
"Adobe may have conquered the professional, but with version 7.0 it looks like it could sway the inexperienced user who has little time to learn but still wants professional looking results," he added.
Photoshop's new Healing Brush also got O'Donnell's seal of approval.
"My favourite new feature in 7.0 has to be the Healing Brush," she said. "Basically it's a time-saving tool you can use to lose all that junk you don't want on your images.
"Dust, scratches and the other annoyances are removed while preserving shading, lighting, textures and any other attributes. It uses a cloning style from one layer to another or even one image to another but seems to work, unlike its 'Dust and Scratches' forerunner," she explained.
"Its cousin, the Batch Tool, lets you define your selection using channel operations and the normal selection tools, then it'll match all the characteristics of the sampled pixel to the source pixels. Very clever stuff indeed."