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Update adds text search, Scene Cleaner and other features
When an application matures, programmers tend to focus on features that are new and different, while maintaining the core strength of what the application does. Usually it comes in the form of a revamped interface combined with new features that prove useful. While Adobe Photoshop Elements experienced a freshened interface with version 6, version 7 adds some features that helps make the image editing process more efficient, yet still fun.
The application is more powerful and has stood virtually unchallenged in the consumer image editing space for a few years now. When an application matures, it gets loaded with features that many people often don't know are even available. I still discover "new" things or ways of doing things with version 6. This version is currently a Windows-only product, which is peculiar considering that most Adobe products are released simultaneously on both platforms. The Mac version of PSE has always lagged behind the Windows version by many months, and its about time that the release dates are the same. Within the scope of this review, I'll be taking a look at some of the new features in PSE 7 for Windows.
One of the big features of Photoshop Elements is the new Text Search box. Thanks to search engines such as Google, people are becoming familiar with Searching for information. Photoshop Elements 7's new Search box will help you to search for images that have keywords, tags, dates, file information and such attached to those images. As such, the least you have to do to retrieve those images more easily is to tag them or give them a keyword.
|Text Search box|
The text search box is an extremely powerful; addition to PSE and will make things a lot easier to find your image files. As you type in a keyword, the search engine in PSE will display images that have those letters. When you finish typing in the keyword, only those images that have all the letters in the search box will appear. For example, typing the letter J found 109 items in the search, adding an A reduced it to nine items, adding a K made it eight items and adding the e finalized the search to eight items. It is actually pretty neat to watch the images in the Organizer appear and then disappear based on the letters that you type in the Text Search Box. You can also search the old fashion way, via EXIF data, captions, file name, shot date, or digital camera model.
A new feature to PSE 7 is Automated Actions, a tool that enables you to create shortcuts to be applied to your images. This is done via the Action Player, which enables you to apply an action (add captions, special effects, resize, etc.) and set the action, be it adding a sepia tone to your image, or perhaps a faded ink look, or resizing an image to crop it (all dependent on your set action).
For those of you who grew up in the early 1980s there was a video by the band A-ha which featured a lot of still and animated line drawing. It was ahead of its time and still plays well when I see it. With PSE 7, you can easily recreate your own line drawings from your photos by using the new Line Drawing tool. Photoshop Elements 7 walks you through this process via the Guided Edit tab.
Old Fashioned Effects
The Old Fashion effect takes any photography and gives it an old fashioned look to it. PSE7, again under guided Edit (though you can do this on your own in the editor), walks you through the steps necessary to make a photograph look old fashioned. Guided Edit walks you through the process of choosing the old fashioned look (newspaper, urban/snapshot, Vivid Landscape), then there is one click adjustments to adjust tonality and add texture. The final adjustment is the Adjust Hue/Saturation button, which enables you to manually adjust the image's hue and saturation, giving you a bit of control under Guided Edit.
|Old fashioned effects|
Whiter teeth have been all the rage with the various toothpaste manufacturers offering all sorts solutions to make your teeth whiter. PSE 7 now offers a similar teeth whitening solution to help you erase years of dental neglect from your photographs. It is even called the toothbrush tool, which enables you to brush the yellow stains away that appear on your photographs. It is easy to use as well. Simply load your photograph in View, Before and after mode, zoom in on the stained teeth and select the Toothbrush tool under the Touch up Palette.
|Blue Skies tool. Image on the left is the original image. Image on right has been enhanced by the Blueb Skies tool. Notice the clouds above the building have been tinged blue.|
The Touch Up palette also has a tool, called the Blue Skies tool that helps to make dull skies blue. It is a fairly easy tool and it works great. In the image below, you can see that the Blue Skies tool selected out most of the blue in the sky, and left most of the cloud cover is unmolested, though you can see a blue tinge where there is no blue in the original photograph. Though not perfect, the Blue Skies tool works fairly well and the end result is blue skies!
Removing unwanted elements from a scene
In previous versions of PSE, removing unwanted elements in an image was a tedious process. With PSE7, a swipe of a pencil tool in the Photomerge Scene Cleaner removes those unwanted elements. So now if you have tourists in a scene that muck up your shot in front of the Duke in Waikiki, you can easily remove them with Scene Cleaner. It is really easy to do; simply load your images, and under Guided Edit, select the Photomerge Scene Cleaner, select the pencil tool and scribble out the elements in the image that you want removed. This tool will help to correct images that would be perfect except for that pesky tourist standing in the way or the tree branch growing out of your subject's head.
With the release of Photoshop Elements 7 and Premiere Elements 7, Adobe Systems has launched Photoshop.com, a destination for PSE7 users to not only store their photographs, but to garner tips and tricks on using the application. Pricing ranges from $19.99 a year for basic membership that includes 20GB of storage space, to $129.99 year for 100GB of storage plus album templates, tutorials, and free seasonal artwork to complement your image editing.
Photoshop Elements 7 has a few features that I feel are significant, the biggest being the Text Search box. This feature alone, provided you tag your images accordingly (though not entirely necessary) will help you to find and organize your images more efficiently as they end up all over your main hard drive as well as on external drives. Digital cameras have empowered people to take more pictures, and have made the picture taking process virtually painless, and relatively inexpensive. With all those pictures comes the task of organization. Scene Cleaner is also a much welcome tool. Virtually gone are the days of the analog photo album. Today, it's all about emailing your images, putting them up on the social networking sites, adding them to a digital photo frame, and of course, printing them out at the corner pharmacy or discount store. Photoshop Elements 7 ($139 MSRP) is a robust tool that has grown up a little from version 6, giving users more to experiment with. For more information, visit www.adobe.com
John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org