When a product manager touts her company's newest upgrade as "a direct response to user feedback," you know not to get your hopes up. Either the previous version was in such awful shape that users were jamming the technical support lines screaming for changes. Or the developers were running so behind their deadlines that they were forced to bag the exciting features and devote what little time remained to tweaking the existing stuff. For as every software developer knows, if you're looking for bold new initiatives, don't look to the users. We who use these programs day in and day out have an amazing knack for suggesting the obvious and the banal.
Don't believe me? For the past few years, the most commonly voiced request from Photoshop users has had nothing to do with layers, color matching, masking, dynamic effects, history, text warping, memory management, or any of the other hundred or so major capabilities that set Photoshop apart from its competitors. Instead, the number one request is — hold onto those hats — CMYK support for the old Gallery Effects filters. Covered in the "Effects filters" section of Chapter 10, the commands in the Filter ^ Artistic, Brush Strokes, Sketch, and Texture submenus function only when editing RGB images. Users, it seems, want that to change.
The problem is, it's an inane request. First, most of the Gallery Effects filters would do terrible things to the black channel and make a complete mess of a CMYK image. Second, these are special-effects filters, which means that they're more likely to draw out defects in the relatively small CMYK color space. Third, these filters work entirely in RAM, which means that they're more likely to choke when asked to process an additional color channel. Fourth, already notoriously slow, the filters would grow even slower in CMYK. And fifth, the Gallery
In This Chapter
Drawing object-oriented shapes
Setting polygon, line, and custom shape options
Combining shapes into compound paths
Defining custom shapes
Filling shapes with gradients, patterns, and imagery
Creating and modifying automatic layer effects
Working inside the Layer Style dialog box
Saving effects and blending options as styles
Effects filters are with few exceptions poorly designed, so if they don't work at times, I say count it as a blessing.
Naturally, it pleases me to report that rather than waste a lot of time and resources rewriting a bunch of filters that aren't all that good in the first place, Adobe has wisely decided to ignore its users and leave the Gallery Effects filters the same as they've ever been. Some hold this up as a sign of the Photoshop team's arrogance. But I see it as an indication of a well-informed group of programmers maintaining priorities, adhering to well-defined guidelines, and selectively empowering their users. After all, good software design is rarely a democratic process. It's not that users are too dumb to come up with good ideas. In fact, you and I as individuals often make brilliant suggestions, many of which have found their way into Photoshop's most beloved features. But when we raise our voices together, our most trite and tedious suggestions have a habit of finding almost unanimous agreement. The revolutionary stuff is born from a more thoughtful, deliberate process than conducting a simple popularity poll.
This is all by way of introducing a chapter full of features that I've never heard requested but turn out to be truly outstanding. (Mind you, I'm sure someone requested them, but I'll be danged if I know who.) All new or dramatically expanded in Photoshop 6, these are the kinds of options that might seem obscure, unnecessarily complicated, or just plain excessive at first glance. And yet, like layers, history, masking, and the other greats, they'll very likely have a huge impact on the way we work in the future.
First up are Photoshop's new shape tools. These permit you to draw object-oriented paths filled with anything from solid colors to gradients to photographic images. It's like using clipping paths directly inside Photoshop. Other image editors have done it before, but as is so often the case, none has done it better.
Next, we turn our attention to the expanded layer styles. In addition to permitting you greater control over drop shadows, glows, and bevels, you can coat layers with gradients, patterns, and contoured wave patterns, as well as trace outlines around layers. When combined with the advanced blending options introduced in Chapter 13, layer styles blossom into a powerful special-effects laboratory, one of the most far-reaching and flexible Adobe has ever delivered. Furthermore, you can save the effects and reapply them to future layers.
What we have, then, is a collection of features that takes time and patience to fully understand but will reward us with greater proficiency and versatility in the long run. It's the price we pay for an application that steadfastly refuses to listen to its users and instead anticipates their needs. Now if only the arrogant weenieheads would stop exporting the Clipboard by default, they'd really be on to something.
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