Today I received my copy of Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended in the mail. After installing it one of the first things I noticed was its speed. Not only does it start up faster, but it also operates much faster as well. It now uses the computer’s GPU to handle a lot of on screen rendering so it can get away with a lot more visual effects. As a result the image now looks nice no matter what zoom level you’re at (instead of only looking good at like 25%, 50%, 100%, etc). Scrolling around a image is also much smoother (and has iPod Touch/iPhone like easing), and even zooming response has been improved.
One of the most exciting features for me is the fluid canvas rotation. It doesn’t sound like much but for those who use a tablet its awesome. When you draw on paper most people turn the paper so they can use the natural motion of their wrist to help draw curves. Up until now doing that hasn’t really been possible with a tablet. Turning the tablet generally results in your mind shitting its pants with the wild disconnect between what it is doing and whats happening on the screen. This feature lets you just spin the canvas by holding the R key and dragging to whatever angle you want with the help of an on screen compass rose to help you remember what way is up. When R is released it snaps back to whatever tool you were using before. Its really fantastic. It should be noted that the fluid canvas rotation tool does not actually alter the image at all. It just uses the GPU to spin it around. This should not be confused with the normal canvas rotate tool which does edit the actual image itself.
Another amazing thing is the content aware scaling feature. It really needs to be seen to be believed. It allows you to resize an image while leaving subjects like people unaffected by the scaling while figuring out what to do with the less important parts of the image on its own, usually with astonishing results.
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended is one of the best upgrades in terms of real world features since the CS line began. If you are looking for a landmark release of Photoshop to invest in this is it.