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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

General Preferences

The first page you come to in Photoshop Preferences relates to the broadest changes you can make. Photoshop's General Preferences settings determine how Photoshop displays, hides, or reveals things in the interface. The General Preferences page is shown in Figure 3.1. Let's take the tour.

Put your thumb or a paper clip on this page so you can refer to it as we proceed and illustrate some of the General Preferences choices.

Color Picker

The Color Picker appears when you click on the foreground/background color swatches on the toolbox. The Preferences dialog box enables you to choose from two options. We recommend selecting Adobe's Color Picker, shown as item a in Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 On the General Preferences page, you select settings that determine how elements are displayed in the Photoshop interface.

Why do we recommend Adobe's Color Picker? Because you can configure it in many different ways, and at least one is sure to fit your work style. In Figure 3.2, you can see the default Windows Color Picker and the Macintosh Color Picker. The Macintosh has a more robust selection of color modes for color choosing, but there is a flaw in its design: It specifies color components between 0 and 100% in RGB color mode, whereas Photoshop, most other programs, and Windows use the 0-to-255 increment. So you need to translate the values (and that means—ugh—math) to communicate color specifications to Photoshop users who use Adobe's Color Picker.

In contrast, Photoshop's Color Picker, as shown in Figure 3.3, supports the mapping of its color field by each component of four color models (RGB, LAB, CMYK, and HSB). For example, you can click on the S in the HSB area, and the color field changes its configuration. The Adobe Color Picker also supports more than a dozen color-matching specifications, including the legendary PANTONE. So when a client says, "Hobkins, I want the label on the can to be PANTONE 1485c," you can access the PANTONE collection of swatches by clicking on Custom in the Adobe Color Picker, typing the PANTONE number until it appears, and clicking on OK to use this color in an image window...and, while you're at it, tell the guy your name is not Hobkins.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Windows and Macintosh color picking choices are limited and are best used by applications whose programmers didn't feel like making a program Color Picker.

Okay, let's leaf back to Figure 3.1 and the General Preferences menu. Or better yet, why not sit in front of your computer, open Photoshop, press Ctrl()+K, and read along?

Image Interpolation

An easy way to remember what the Image Interpolation setting is all about is to remember the word interpretation. When you command Photoshop to stretch or shrink an image, it has to calculate (take a guess at—interpret) additional pixels to fit into the image, or it must decide which pixels to remove to make a smaller image.

Whether you are shrinking or stretching an image, it will have some detail loss because Photoshop has to make an estimate of the number of pixels to add or remove.

Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 Many of your would-be clients will insist on exact color matching. And no program does it better than Photoshop.

Fortunately, Photoshop (and very few other applications) uses bicubic "guesstimating" when removing or adding pixels. This is the most accurate math method for evaluating which pixels go where. bicubic sampling searches across, up, down, and diagonally to the target pixel that's being added or deleted. The process then uses a weighted average of pixel colors to color in the new region if you're shrinking a file, or it creates new pixels using a weighted average if pixels need to be added to the new image. This means that if, say, the region of an image is primarily green, you can expect bicubic sampling to make the region mostly green, with a very minor color influence from only one or two pixels that are not green.

Bicubic Smoother is typically used when you want to scale an image up, and bicubic Sharper can be used when scaling an image down (making it smaller).

Your other choices are bilinear (Photoshop looks in only two directions for neighboring pixel colors) and Nearest Neighbor, which is not an interpolation method at all. Nearest Neighbor simply puts the neighboring color next to a pixel when an image is enlarged. Nearest Neighbor is a phenomenally inaccurate choice for interpolation. However, if you need to increase the size of, for example, a screen capture of a palette (as we do in this book), Nearest Neighbor is terrific. The process simply makes the horizontal and vertical dimensions twice as large, resulting in an image area that's four times larger than the original—with no smoothing or averaging or fuzzy text.

To make this fairly lofty concept more "creative-person friendly," check out Figure 3.4. This dot has been resized using the three different choices.

Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 Stick with bicubic interpolation. Your new 6000MHz muscle machine with 1GB RAM can handle the calculations in a flash.

History States

The History States setting determines how many steps back in a file (how many undo times) you can tap into. Each History State requires a hunk of RAM to store the undo data, so the number of states you enable is a balancing act between how big a safety net you want and the amount of RAM you have installed on your computer. The default number of History States is 20. This means that you can undo the previous 20 commands or tool strokes you made. After you make your 21st command or stroke, the undo state for the first command or stroke is deleted to allow room to undo the most current command or tool stroke.

So, even though you would probably like to set this option to a thousand—don't. If you have 192MB of RAM installed on your computer (the minimum amount of RAM that Photoshop requires to run), 10 is probably a reasonable setting for History States. If you have 256MB of RAM (the amount you really need to run Photoshop so you don't feel as though you're working underwater), 20 History States is a good figure. If you have lots and lots of RAM, you can probably bump up the number some. But whatever number you set for this option, if your system acts sluggish or if Photoshop pops up a warning that available memory is low, you probably have too many History States set. Besides, if you plan on making more than 20 mistakes at a time, you don't belong in Photoshop—you belong in government work.


Ah, now we come to the Options settings in the General Preferences dialog box. Some of these options are useful features; others matter not a whit. Some commands are vestigial organs from a time when a Macintosh Classic or an i386sx was considered a fast machine.

Please take a look now at the preferences on your monitor; we are going to have you change some of the defaults:

  • Export Clipboard. Yes, by all means. Now this means that you must also "flush" the Clipboard after you've pasted a Photoshop piece into a different application, because holding anything on the Clipboard takes up system resources. To perform Clipboard flushing, choose Edit, Purge, Clipboard from the main menu.

  • Show Tool Tips. Um, these balloons that pop up when your cursor lingers over a toolbox icon aren't exactly tips. In other words, the pop-ups won't tell you nearly as much about a chosen tool as the status bar will (we recommend that you always have Window, Status Bar checked). What Tool Tips will do is name the tools on the toolbox for you, provide the shortcut key, and occasionally tell you what a button is supposed to do on the Options bar. We recommend leaving Tool Tips on for your first few months working with PS CS. As you memorize and familiarize, you may find the tips to be a distraction, so you can turn them off by unchecking the box.

  • Zoom Resizes Windows. This sounds like a bizarre tabloid headline, doesn't it? Actually, you can zoom in and out of an image window in many ways. One of the first ways that experienced, ancient Photoshoppists like myself used to shortcut the zooming process (without using the toolbox tool) was to press Ctrl() and then press the plus and minus keys on the numerical keypad. We recommend that you keep this check box checked because it doesn't make much sense to zoom into an image and then have to resize the window. This option is your one-stop shop for image navigation.

  • Auto-update open documents. If you are in a studio, or even working remotely over the Internet on a collaborative piece, you want to check this option. Why? Because PS CS's Workgroup feature enables several people to work with the same image. This capability is a boon to desktop publishing professionals because Larry in Seattle can be composing the page while Phil in Delphia can be color correcting the image. If you don't auto-update the file, you will not keep current with the revisions going on within your workgroup. Leave this one checked unless you run a standalone computer.

  • Show Asian Text Options. There's really no reason for showing Asian text options unless you or someone you are collaborating with is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. When this option is enabled, Asian text options appear on the Paragraph and Character palettes. Asian characters use a double-byte character system, whereas English and West European characters are single-byte in complexity.

  • Beep When Done. This option causes you to run around the office making beeping sounds after you've finished an assignment. Onnnnnnly kidding! Actually, this is another vestigial organ in Photoshop. There was a time when you would apply a Gaussian blur to a 3MB image, and you had time to go out for lunch, get a haircut, and have your taxes done. And Photoshop's beep after a tediously long operation was welcome because it woke you up so that you could proceed with your editing. I personally have not heard Photoshop beep ever since processor speed increased to around 500MHz or so. Uncheck this option, and if you're a fan of beeping, drop your money on the ground at a drive-through that has a lot of folks behind you who are in a hurry. In addition to beeping, you'll learn some new words, too.

  • Dynamic Color Sliders. Check this option. There's no way to get an accurate idea of the result of mixing colors on the Color palette without seeing how one component of a color affects the color range of a different component. This option doesn't slow you down at all, and watching the sliders change color is kinda fun.

  • Save Palette Locations. Check this option unless several other people use your computer at work. With this option selected, the location of your palettes stays put after closing and rebooting Photoshop. (If other people use your computer, everyone can use the Window, Workspace, Save Workspace menu item so that each setup can be quickly accessed.)

  • Show Font Names in English. Again, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean fonts are unlike your garden variety Georgia TrueType or Type 1 Garamond. If you want to use double-byte fonts such as these, and you were brought up with the alphanumeric system of Europe and the U.S., check this option. It'll make finding the font you need on your machine a lot easier.

  • Use Shift Key for Tool Switch. This is a safety feature. If you do not check it, you can make mistakes in choosing tools if you're a keyboard kinda guy or gal. Unchecked, for example, pressing G will toggle the Bucket tool with the Gradient tool. Do you want this to happen? If not, check this option. Then tools assigned to that button will alternate only when you hold Shift and press G.

  • TIP

    Toolbox shortcut keys My advice is that, when editing in Photoshop CS, you invest a moment to choose the tool you want to use from the toolbox. I'm not sold on memorizing toolbox keyboard shortcuts (there are plenty of other, more productive shortcuts in this program to memorize, believe me!), and the Use Shift Key for Tool Switch option will not activate a tool with no shortcut letter next to it in a group. For example, the only way to get to the Convert Point tool is to hold on the Pen tool until the flyout does its thing, and then you choose the Convert Point tool.

  • Use Smart Quotes. This means that you can use smart quotes from people like Ben Franklin, Samuel Clemens, and John Cleese. Dumb quotes abound in our times...okay, I'm pulling your leg here. "Smart quotes" is a PlainTalk phrase for "typographer's quotes" or "Curly Quotes." If you check this option, the text you create in Photoshop will look more professional, and you will not have to look up the scan code (for example, a left typographer's quote in Windows requires that you remember, and type, 0147 while holding the Alt key). Wotta trial! Thank you, Adobe, and leave this option checked. (The only exception to this is the case in which you want to express something in inches. If that's the case, you need to turn off smart quotes and type the symbol ".)

History Log

History Log is a new and valuable feature if you need to record your edits. You have the option to save the list of edits in the image file as metadata, as an external text document, or both. This feature is especially useful in a training environment (because taking notes is no longer necessary) and in a collaborative setup when someone else needs to know any edits you have applied.

Photoshop offers three choices of what exactly to record. Sessions Only records when Photoshop is opened, when each file is opened and closed, and then when Photoshop is closed. If you need to track time, you'll love this option. Concise records the Sessions Only information and the edits listed in the History palette. Detailed records both the Sessions Only and Concise information, plus text that appears in the Actions palette.

Reset All Warning Dialogs

The Reset All Warning Dialogs option, the last in the General Preferences pane, is pretty self-explanatory. Photoshop has some warning dialog boxes, most of which have to do with color management profiles that you can prevent from displaying ever again by checking an option on the face of the dialog box. But if the dialog box never again shows its face, how are you ever going to get a chance to uncheck the option if you change your mind and want to be warned?

Simple: Press Ctrl()+K and click on the Reset All Warning Dialogs button at the bottom of the General Preferences dialog box.

And that's the end of the General Preferences settings. Congratulations! You just finished exploring the longest of the Preferences pages.

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