Sunday, March 1, 2009

Adobe’s CS4 Master Collection is the Full Monty

Photoshop CS4 has improved a lot of features, including auto-blending of images, better depth of field tools, beter layer alignment tools, better color correction, and better RAW image processing.

Where Photoshop CS4 shines, however, is in some of it's completely new features. The very coolest is what they call Content-Aware Scaling. You can stretch and resize an image and somehow, Photoshop know just how to scale the image to keep track of all the image elements. It's almost hard to describe, but once you use it, you'll see it seems like there are little munchkins that live inside Photoshop actually looking at your image and painting in just what it needs to have. You'll have to see it to believe it.

Not quite as sexy, but certainly helpful are the new Masks panel and Adjustments panel. The Masks panel helps you create masks straight from a simple and easily available panel. The adjustments panel allows you to do non-destructive editing and tweak your image to your heart's content.

There is one thing that I, personally, don't like about the new CS4: the interface. The user interface has changed considerably from CS3 and there are elements that just bug me. For example, when you open up a file, it'll open in a tabbed sub-window with the other files that are already open. I like having each file open in its own window, and while it's just a matter of dragging the graphic away from the window, I haven't yet found how to make that automatic.

But that's just my impression. I've talked to other image professionals and they tell me they love the interface changes.

Our recommendation

We found the full, retail CS4 Master Collection online for as low as $2,199. Upgrades from previous collections were $899. The simple bottom line is this: if you make your living doing graphics, video, or Web design and if you can possibly afford it, the CS4 Master Collection is a must buy. If graphics is how you make your living, CS4 Master Collection is not just an essential tool, it's the essential tool.

We give Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection a collective 5 out of 5.