April 16, 2002 4:00 AM PDT

Adobe ships new Photoshop

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Is Photoshop 7.0 worth the upgrade?
Kevin Connor, product manager, Adobe Systems
video Adobe Systems on Tuesday began shipping the new version of its Photoshop graphics software, a major release expected to pay dividends for Apple Computer as well as for Adobe.

As previously reported, version 7.0 of Photoshop will include a release tailored for Mac OS X, the Apple operating system.

Photoshop is the major application for much of Apple's core audience of graphics professionals, and the release of the new version is expected to sway many who have held off on upgrading to the new operating system. While it's possible for OS X users to run older applications in the operating system's "classic mode," it's clumsy and time-consuming to switch from one mode to another, said Scott Kelby, editor in chief of Photoshop User magazine.

"As someone using OS X, your dream is never to go back to classic mode again," Kelby said. "For people in this profession, having an OS X-native Photoshop is really key to doing that."

Besides supporting OS X and Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, the new Photoshop includes tools such as the Healing Brush and Patch Tool, which allow for smooth touch-ups of photos. The new File Browser tool provides thumbnail images and detailed information on all images in a given folder, making it easier for people to find the image they want.

Kelby said that while the new tools are impressive, the most convincing arguments for Photoshop users to upgrade are small ones. The new version includes a myriad of small improvements that will allow Photoshop users to finish tasks more quickly, he said, although many of the changes may not be evident at first.


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"They just fixed and addressed so many things--added checkboxes here, changed pop-up menus there," he said. "It's got a spell checker, which sounds silly, but that's huge. It should have been there before."

Kelby said it took him weeks of tinkering with a preview version of Photoshop 7 to discover many of the improvements.

"That's what Adobe's challenge is going to be," he said. "They've got a great upgrade, but is everybody going to be able to see those things? They've integrated the improvements so well that you don't see them."

The new Photoshop is expected to provide a significant boost to Adobe's earnings, which have suffered in recent quarters as a weak advertising market undermined spending plans for many of its biggest clients.

In the longer view, the company is counting on Photoshop to help drive customers to other Adobe applications that work with the graphic package. Integration with Photoshop is touted as a key selling point for Adobe's InDesign layout software, which competes with market leader QuarkXPress, and its GoLive Web authoring software, which has struggled to wrest market share from Macromedia's Dreamweaver.

"We're making sure the file formats go relatively easily from one application to another," Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said in a recent interview with CNET. "We do make it easier for our customers to use more than one Adobe product."

Steve Frankel, an analyst for investment bank Adams, Harkness & Hill, said it makes sense for Adobe to try to leverage Photoshop's strength.

"It all feeds into this network publishing they're executing on," he said. "I think the strategy makes a lot of sense, but it's still early in its evolution."

But getting customers to switch applications will be a tough sell, especially in today's economic climate, Frankel said.

"The downturn in advertising spending is the biggest hurdle they have," he said. "Photoshop 7 is certainly going to help earnings in the near term. The question is whether that momentum can carry over and help other products later in the year and beyond."

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