Image illustrating 25 years of Photoshop

Five Miles Barefoot in the Snow Uphill Both Ways

Or Photoshop’s 25th Anniversary

It’s Photoshop’s 25th year of being the best image editor out there, and everyone is having a good time this week reminiscing about the days when they first started using Photoshop. I came late to the party. I couldn’t afford Photoshop when I first heard about it somewhere around v3. I not only would have had to pay for the software, but also for a new computer capable of running it. I’m sure some of you can empathize with that situation.

In the late 90’s, I bought a new computer and started taking courses in Computer Science, which was the department that housed Graphic Design. Adobe had a fabulous deal for students. Not only did we get to buy software on an academic discount, but they offered an upgrade path to the retail version. Many companies, if not most, didn’t offer any upgrade path from the academic purchase. I was beyond thrilled Adobe made it possible for me to buy Photoshop 5 and, at the same time, ensured that I could afford Photoshop 5.5 (really, so soon? I just bought 5.0!).

I’m still a mixture of jealous of those who had the resources to buy into Photoshop back before there were layers, and relieved it was never so difficult for me. I think to myself how much more I’d know now if I’d started with the most basic tools back then. I trudged barefoot five miles in the snow uphill, but it wasn’t uphill both ways. That’s reserved for users of Photoshop 3 and 4. It also, thankfully, didn’t mean building the first road to anywhere, which Photoshop 1 and 2 users had to do. Photoshop 5 began the modern era of Photoshop—almost easy for beginners.

So as others are looking back, remembering when this feature or that took away some of the hardship—layers, Adjustment layers, Smart Objects—yeah, pretty big deals—I looked back and realized for me, the big new feature was when John Nack, then Product Manager for Photoshop, sponsored JDI’s. A JDI is a “just do it” feature that doesn’t cost a lot in Adobe man hours, doesn’t mean rewiring the entire application to contain it, and doesn’t produce any lovely, jaw-dropping results. What it does is let you double-click on a layer name to rename it without popping up a dialog, or right-click on the image with the Brush tool and pop up a dialog that lets you, right there, change the angle of the brush. Not having to open the enormous Brush panel over and over again is huge.

The fact that Adobe made a concerted effort to promise us, through JDI’s, that it would keep revisiting the way Photoshop’s tools and interface served us, that it would listen to our grievances even when there’s no way for Marketing to highlight the feature and capture our imagination, was an important re-commitment to quality from this giant company to us, the users.

I looked it up and JDI’s got going in 2009 in Photoshop CS4. Most of these rolled out to very little fanfare. You have to search to find them in the online Help. Adobe is now apparently lumping JDI’s in with other feature “enhancements,” but to me, they’ll always be JDI’s. For those of you who are curious about just how important JDI’s have been to us, here is a fraction of all of them, taken from posted lists more or less in chronological order. I added the comments in parentheses. May Adobe never forget the lesson that taking the thorns out of our paws can often make the biggest difference in our lives.

  1. Added the ability to save to unsupported bit depth for JPEGs (down-sampling 16-bit files to 8-bit) (no having to quit the Save dialog and manually change the bit depth because you forgot)
  2. Added a straighten image tool
  3. Added the ability to close all open images without saving
  4. Added a preference to always default to the folder you last saved an image to (no more endless navigating to the folder you really want to save to)
  5. Increase brush size to 5000px (great for us scrappers and art journalists who use image brushes a lot)
  6. Allow changing of blend modes for multiple layers at once (the list forgot to say “blend mode and opacity.”
  7. Allow changing color labels to multiple layers at once
  8. Show blend if/Blending Effects badge on layer (no more being puzzled by hidden effects)
  9. Add command to insert “lorem ipsum” for type
  10. You can now see recent colors in the Swatches panel
  11. A single click on the Lock icon now unlocks a background layer
  12. 10 color samplers instead of 4. You can now change all color samplers in the Info palette at the same time (Yay! my most asked-for JDI)
  13. Narrow Options Bar for small displays (big deal if you’re on a laptop)

Here’s to another 25 years with Adobe Photoshop, helping us create the worlds we imagine.

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