Macworld Software Tech Reviews

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 review: Photo editor gets into the AI spirit with a solid grip on emerging tech

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The Photoshop CC 2018 update has plenty to look forward to beyond the typical annual upgrade of Adobe’s subscription desktop photo/graphic design app. It integrates support for emerging technologies like 360-degree spherical panoramas and the HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) image file format adopted by Apple for macOS 10.13 and iOS 11.

Combined with new features like variable fonts, paint stroke smoothing, a symmetry tool, a Curvature Pen tool, direct social media sharing, instant access to synced Lightroom photos, enhanced search, brush management, layer copy and paste, and more, Photoshop CC 2018 welcomes newcomers by incorporating training directly into the app.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: In-app learning

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You can view step-by-step instructions, but only on Photoshop’s sample images.

While Adobe pioneered step-by-step post-process recipes in its consumer Elements line, it always relied on photo pros to use documentation or tutorials to figure out the right moves for themselves. That changes with Photoshop CC 2018 wherein interactive software how-tos are now incorporated into the interface via the new Learn panel. It’s not exactly the same as Elements, where you can choose which photos to put through the process.

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Workflow recipes arrive with Photoshop CC 2018.

Instead, Photoshop CC 2018 provides annotated steps using its own sample images covering categories like Photography, Retouching, Combining Images, and Graphic Design, each containing three to five instructional modules. You can follow the steps in the example or bring up the additional text instructions, available from the Help icon. It would be even better if you could start with your own photos in the interactive examples, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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Tool Tips are enhanced with tiny animations.

Also new are Rich Tooltips—enhanced labels complete with tiny graphics and animations—that demonstrate how each tool works, though not every tool has annotated instructions. Perhaps Adobe will build out that feature so the majority of tools have visual tips, but this is a good start. Photoshop jockeys who know every tool by heart, can disable the feature in the preferences.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: Easy access to Lightroom

Photoshop users can now hook into their Lightroom photos via the cloud, with all synced images accessible from the app’s Start screen. All you need to do is click on the photo you want, and it will be imported directly into the app. No fuss, no muss, and a genuine time saver. Most of the time I was able to access photos from the cloud fairly instantaneously. However, occasionally, downloading was slow or failed entirely.

Alas, Adobe giveth and Adobe taketh away. How? For several years, Photoshop has been available only by subscription, either via the standard Creative Cloud for $49 per month or the Creative Cloud Photography Plan for $9.99 per month, but Lightroom was still available as a perpetual license. That has changed. With Photoshop CC 2018 and a rebranded Lightroom Classic CC for desktop, Lightroom is now subscription-only. The standalone Lightroom 6 will continue to be sold, but it’s the last perpetual Lightroom version, with Adobe’s support for camera updates coming to a halt at the end of 2017. Photography Plan subscribers get both Lightroom Classic CC and a simplified, mobile-oriented, cloud-friendly Lightroom CC (formerly Lightroom for mobile) with their subscription, along with 20GB of cloud storage and the Spark suite of cloud apps.

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Your Lightroom library is now accessible from Photoshop’s Start screen.

Adobe’s Sensei artificial intelligence engine also springs to life in the Photoshop Start screen, letting you search directly for untagged photos or visual content from your synced images. It also automatically integrates relevant Adobe Stock content and instructional videos.

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