By the time you read this, Adobe already will be shipping Photoshop CS4. If you have not downloaded a demo version yet, I strongly suggest doing so; the enhancements to workflow, along with improved stability, definitely make it worth investigating. The Bridge CS4 component has become a much more robust application with a redesigned user interface that I find makes navigation and use easier. Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) have also had some significant user-interface updates. I will go over features and changes that directly affect the way a commercial shooter may choose to work with it.
One significant change is Adobe’s move to make CS4 a 64-bit application. Currently, this only applies to the Windows Vista 64-bit version. Before complaints begin from Mac users, this is not an oversight on Adobe’s part. A 64-bit version of CS4 for Mac was in progress, but Apple changed its 64-bit protocols, forcing Adobe to rewrite the 64-bit Mac version.
The relevance of 64-bit OS compatibility will become obvious in the near future; with Microsoft pushing very hard to get 64-bit Windows acceptance, the tipping point may come before another version of Photoshop is released. Adobe realized the 3GB memory limitation imposed by a 32-bit system was a major obstacle as resolution, and consequently, size of image files constantly keeps increasing. Deciding to utilize virtually unlimited RAM access with 64-bit applications and operating systems was a necessary move. If you are not ready to embrace 64-bit computing just yet, relax—CS4 will ship with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions in the box.
The other important new feature is support of Open GL. This allows a video card’s GPU to accelerate screen redraws, zooming, rotation, and other background tasks previously handled by your computer’s processor. Not all video cards support Open GL yet, but many recent ones do. While Photoshop CS4 will work using a card without hardware graphics acceleration—trust me—you will want a card that supports Open GL.