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An Inside Look at Photoshop 5.5 & Image Ready 2.0

Sometime in July, Adobe will begin shipping a major upgrade to their Photoshop image editing software. Photoshop 5.5 will integrate Adobe's Image Ready 2.0 for optimizing graphics for the World Wide Web, and will sport a number of additional features that have been frequently requested by previous Photoshop customers.

Interface and Integration

Although Adobe claims that it has actually "integrated" Image Ready into Photoshop, sources claim that the two graphics editors still remain as separate applications that operate independently but can swap files via a "jump to" function built into the bottom of each application's toolbar.

The two applications now share strikingly similar interfaces and editing tools. In addition to the toolbars, they will share almost identical History, Actions, and Layers palettes. The Color, Swatches, Brushes, and other palettes also provide consistent functionality. Layers, layer effects, type, and other file attributes are all flawlessly preserved when files are shared between the two applications. Changes made in one program are even preserved as history states in the other program, so users can undo those steps easily.

Improved Web Graphics

Photoshop 5.5 will sport a unique Lossy GIF feature, which achieves 10% to 50% smaller GIF files with minimal loss of image quality. New multiple LiveView panels let users apply different forms of image compression on 2 or 4 image views, allowing them to quickly find the best compression options. Image Ready's optimization palette has been altered to implement the Lossy GIF feature, but also includes a number of preset optimization options for GIF, JPEG, and PNG formats.

The new version of Photoshop contains a "Save for Web" export dialog that integrates multiple live views and all of Image Ready's compression options. The dialog also contains options for selecting a preview browser and ensuring that graphics display well in different browsers. Options also include checking the effects of browser dither on 8-bit displays, and the effects of screen brightness differences between Macintosh and Windows displays.

Powerful Web Tasks

Image Ready 2.0 will feature powerful new slice tools that allow users to create image-slices by simply dragging a rectangle over the image. Image Ready automatically defines auto-slices for the image, as necessary, to create the final HTML table. Additionally, image slicing options enable the user to select individual images-slices and apply different optimization settings to them. Options on the image-slicing tool palette will let creators assign a file name to each slice, as well as a number of parameters such as a link to a URL, an Alt tag, or a JavaScript message.

Applying complex effects such as image rollovers without mastering JavaScript is another powerful Image Ready feature that will debut in the new version. In addition to the traditional rollover, Image Ready supports creation of secondary rollovers just as easily. For example, users can set up a rollover in which clicking buttons in one area causes different graphics to appear in another area of the graphic. Users can also define their own custom mouse actions in addition to Over, Click, and Down as triggers for rollover effects.

Type Options

Both Image Ready and Photoshop will see enhancements to their text capabilities in the new release. Both will include multiple anti-aliasing controls to fine-tune the appearance of type, and will let the user create and apply synthetic text styles such as bold, italics, or underlining, for fonts that don't support these styles. Image Ready 2.0 will also allow the user to type directly onto the image, with a type palette for altering font attributes.

Powerful Masking Tools

Photoshop 5.5 will deliver new masking tools that perform two different tasks: the magic eraser and background eraser tools both simplify masking, making it more intuitive and easier for new or intermediate Photoshop users to create simple transparencies in images. A new Extract Image command provides more advanced support, offering a centralized set of tools inside a workspace dialog for masking foreground images with hard-to-define edges, such as hair glowing in sunlight.

PDF 1.3 Support & Contact Sheets

The new version of Photoshop now opens PDF files saved in the new PDF 1.3 standard introduced by Acrobat 4.0, and boasts a couple of new indexing features: it can create contact sheets of images from a selected folder, or automatically export Web page indexes of a folder's images either as a page of thumbnails, or as individual image pages with navigable links between them.

Pricing and Availability

The estimated street price for Photoshop 5.5 is $610 (U.S.) for all platforms. Registered users of Photoshop 5.0 and later, and ImageReady 1.0 can upgrade to version 5.5 for only $129 (U.S.). Registered users of earlier versions of Photoshop can upgrade to version 5.5 for $199 (U.S.). Image Ready will no longer be sold as a standalone application, as 90% of Image Ready users also own Photoshop.

The graphics bundle should hit the streets sometime in July.