Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

Adobe releases free beta of Photoshop CS6

Our potential favourite feature in Photoshop CS6: the new Content-Aware Move Tool. But how well will it work on real-world images? Download the free time-limited beta and let us know.

Adobe has released a free time-limited beta of the upcoming Photoshop CS6, showing off an interesting range of new features: from small-but-useful tweaks to controversial major additions such as video editing.

Looking at the full feature list, it’s tempting to say that the one artists in the visual effects industry will use most is the option to choose how transparency is treated on opening OpenEXR files (no word on better support for Adjustment Layers and the full range of standard filters when editing 32-bit images, sadly).

However, that would just be snide. There’s also a new darker After Effects-like UI.

Okay. If you check out the feature overview recorded by Adobe’s Senior Creative Manager Russell Brown, there is a lot of cool stuff in there.

Of Brown’s six favourite features, the new blur types, the improved crop tool and the genuinely impressive Adobe Camera RAW 7.0 support seem likely more to appeal to photographers and designers.

The Adaptive Wide Angle filter, seen in action to straighten diverging lines in a fisheye shot, seems like a rather arse-about-tit way of doing things (just don’t take the photo with a fisheye lens in the first place), but you can see that there are times when you would need to do it.

But perhaps the potentially coolest new feature is the Content-Aware Move Tool, which dispenses with the need for proper masking or cloning when editing still images: just create a rough selection of the part of the photo you want to relocate, drag and drop it to a new position, and Photoshop does the rest.

We say ‘potentially’ coolest, because comments from early testers suggests that it struggles with anything but the simplest backgrounds – but we’ll reserve judgement on that until we see a detailed review.

(And interestingly, the demo shows it at work moving an iStockphoto watermark, when ‘moving’ watermarks doesn’t seem exactly the sort of thing you’d want to be encouraging users to do. But we digress…)

Do you need to edit video in Photoshop?
More controversially, Photoshop CS6 also includes video editing tools, of a basic timeline/in and out points/simple transitions variety. Early reaction on industry forums seems to be similar to that to the 3D tools introduced in Photoshop CS4 and CS5: specialist apps do this better, so why bloat the existing feature set?

(According to this CNET article, it’s because Adobe is targeting users who just quickly want to trim up cameraphone-type footage – although do many of those kinds of users actually own Photoshop?)

Whatever your take, there are some interesting new features there – plus under-the-hood stuff like the Mercury Graphics Engine, previously seen providing CUDA-based GPU acceleration for common operations in Premiere – and it will be interesting to read the first proper reviews to see how they perform in practice.

The Photoshop CS6 beta is available now, for Windows XP SP3 or 7; or Mac OS X 10.6.8+. The commercial release is expected some time in the first half of this year.

If you’ve tried the beta for yourself, post back and let us know how you got on.

Read the official Photoshop CS6 beta press release (The main changes)

Read a list of ‘Just Do It’ features on the Adobe forums (Small but useful changes)

Download the Photoshop CS6 beta