Photoshop is a famously taxing piece of software, but beginning with the upcoming CS4 version, it'll be able to employ the muscle of your computer's graphics chip for the first time.
The new version of Adobe's flagship software product takes its first steps in using the graphics processing unit, or GPU, said John Nack, principal product manager for Adobe Photoshop. For example, the graphics chip helps Photoshop CS4 fluidly zoom in and out, rotate the canvas so artists can reorient an image for the best sketching angle, display and manipulate 3D objects, and handle color correction.
"It's not lost on us that when you look at the rate of GPU power advancement, there's an enormous wealth of cycles we can take advantage of now," Nack said. "The rate of price drop and performance gain has been off the charts."
Using graphics chips opens up new horizons, but it poses its challenges. For one thing, graphics chips are designed to blast pixels to the screen, not back to the main processor for further work, so not all tasks can be accelerated, he said. For another, it means Adobe has to work more carefully on hardware compatibility and means some people with older machines might have to upgrade at least the video card; he recommends a card with 128MB of memory.
"Typically, when folks were building a big Photoshop rig...we never had to really concern ourselves with things like which video driver they were using. We had a very light integration. Anything was fine," Nack said. "Now that we're doing actual processing on the GPU, we have to be a good deal more stringent."
Another new GPU-enabled feature is called Pixel Bender, which lets people apply special effects quickly and, Adobe promises, create their own effects more easily than with today's filter technology. However, that missed the cut for the final version of CS4 and likely will be a free update at the Adobe Labs site, Nack said.
The upgrade price for Photoshop is $199 for the Photoshop CS4 and $349 for CS4 Extended; prices for the new versions are $699 and $999. The Extended version adds a variety of special-purpose abilities for dealing with scientific applications, dealing with medical imagery, and creating 3D subject matter. The company also offers its consumer-level Photoshop Elements for about $100 and its online Photoshop Express for free.
The software will be available in October, the company said.