The latest version of Photoshop Elements, Adobe's consumer photo editing application, is universal binary, which means it can run as a native application on both newer Intel Macs and older PowerPC Macs.
It's been a long wait for a universal binary version of Photoshop Elements, but it looks like Adobe used the time wisely, incorporating many features from Photoshop CS3 and creating a surprisingly powerful image editor, while maintaining its focus on home users.
Photoshop Elements 6 – Installation
Installing Photoshop Elements 6 is a pretty straightforward process. It comes with an installer application that does all of the work for you. You'll need an administrator account on your Mac in order to successfully install Elements, but don't worry about creating a new account. The account you created when you first got your Mac or installed OS X 10.x will do nicely. You will, however, need a fairly current version of OS X (10.4.8 or later), and a G4, G5, or Intel Mac.
The installer will create an Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 folder within your Applications folder. It will also, if needed, install a copy of Adobe Bridge, which Elements (and Photoshop) uses for browsing, organizing, and filtering images.
Before you launch Elements for the first time, take a few minutes to look through the Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 folder. You'll find two PDFs in the folder: a Photoshop Elements 6 Readme file that includes some general troubleshooting tips, and a Photoshop Elements 6 User Guide. The User Guide is especially helpful for first-time users, but it's also useful for individuals who haven't used a specific feature in a long time and need a little refresher course.
Photoshop Elements 6 – First Impressions
Photoshop Elements 6 loads fairly quickly, an indication that it is truly a native application. Once it launches, you'll be greeted with a Welcome screen that allows you to pick the activity you want to perform: Start from Scratch, Browse with Adobe Bridge, Import from Camera, or Import from Scanner. The Welcome screen is handy for casual and first-time users, but more experienced users will be happy that it can be turned off.
With the Welcome screen out of the way, the full Photoshop Elements 6 user interface will hit you, and I do mean hit you. It takes center stage, completely covering your desktop, with no simple way to resize it or move it out of the way. Working almost full screen is probably the way most individuals would use Photoshop Elements, but the inability to easily resize or hide a window is very un-Maclike.
The Photoshop Elements 6 layout contains a large central editing space, flanked by a toolbox that holds most image editing tools, and bins that hold palettes and project images. The layout is similar to Photoshop, but the bins replace Photoshop's floating palettes. Bins function the same way as floating palettes, but they're anchored to the interface and are not movable, other than to expand or collapse views.
Across the top of the workspace are the Photoshop Elements 6 menus, a toolbar, and a set of tabs that control the functions you can access (Edit, Create, Share). The tabs are handy, but best of all, they keep the overall user interface uncluttered, limiting the available tools to the ones you'll need to perform the current task.
Photoshop Elements 6 – Bridge
Photoshop Elements 6 includes Adobe Bridge, which lets you browse, sort, and organize images, as well as filter them based on criteria you set. The criteria may include keywords, file types, dates, EXIF data (film speed, aperture, aspect ratio), and even copyright information you may have embedded in the image.
You can also use Bridge to inspect an image before deciding whether to edit it in Elements. You can select multiple images and view them side-by-side, using a loupe tool to inspect fine details.
If you like, you can use Bridge as your main photo cataloging application. It's similar to iPhoto, but a lot more versatile. Photoshop Elements is at home working directly with iPhoto, so you can stick with iPhoto for cataloging your images if you're comfortable with it, or use no image management application at all. If you just want to shove all your photos into a folder on your Mac, Photoshop Elements is fine with that.
I found Adobe Bridge to be easy to use. I especially liked its filtering system, which let me quickly find a specific image in a large collection of photos. Of course, for the filtering system to work, you must add metadata to images as you add them to your library, a daunting task if you already have a large untagged collection.
Photoshop Elements 6 – Editing
Adobe targeted Photoshop Elements 6 both at new users, who so far have spent little or no time editing images, and amateur photographers, who need to do lots of image correction or manipulation, but who don't need or want the complexity (or cost) of Photoshop. To meet this set of diverse needs, Adobe designed Elements to only display the tools necessary for a specific task, thus eliminating clutter and making Elements easier for everyone to use.
Elements is designed to address three specific tasks: Edit, Create, and Share. A large, colorful tab bar at the top of the window provides easy access to each task. When you select the Edit tab, three sub tabs (Full, Quick, Guided) appear. As you might guess, the Full tab provides access to all editing tools. This is where experienced users will probably spend most of their time.
The Quick tab provides access to a set of sliders that lets you change or correct most common image parameters, including brightness, contrast, color temperature, hue, saturation, and tint, as well as adjust image sharpness and eliminate red eye.
The Guided tab presents step-by-step instructions that will guide you through basic image correction tasks. The Guided tab is meant for new users, but using some of these tools is just as quick as using Elements in full edit mode, so don't overlook the Guided tab just because you're a more experienced user.