Wednesday, March 5, 2008

REVIEW: Teach Yourself Visually Adobe Photoshop CS3


Years ago during the Windows 3.0 days I was a computer whiz and would digest a computer programming book a day, so learning a software program was something I could do without even picking up a book. When art programs like ULead Photostyler, Corel Draw, Paintshop Pro, etc.. came out, I quickly took to them and mastered them with little effort or attention to the manuals (and they actually came with very good printed manuals back then).

When I went off to work for a big high-tech company in 1994 I didn't have time to keep on everything that came out, so I stopped paying attention to art programs. By the time I started caring again, I decided to get what I was told was the best program out there at time time - Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1. About a month after getting this product I finally started to play with it and discovered there was a 6.0.2 version, but Adobe wanted some serious money (at least I thought so at the time) to upgrade (for a point release!!!) so I immediately had a bitter taste in my mouth for Adobe products.

As someone who had been using DOS for years in my earlier career, and who had owned a Apple Macintosh IIci, I enjoyed the ease of use a graphical interface application in Windows offered so my expectation is that a graphical user-interface should be developed so that everything is discoverable without any special keystroke combinations or need to go to the manuals. Discoverability is key above everything, so when I first played with Adobe Photoshop my first thought was "what a piece of crap". This thing was the most unintuitive, hard to use, piece of garbage I had ever seen! And that is saying a lot because at one point in 1991 I actually owned every piece of mainstream commercial software that was available for Windows 3.0, so I had used quite a bit of software (some of which was pretty bad).

I thought, this is what every one is raving about? What the hell? However, I was determined to understand what the hype was about, so I read the manual (they actually had one those days, but it sucked worse than the UI). That was a waste of time, and ultimately I never learned a hell of a lot. I also had learned that my beloved Ulead Photostyler had been purchased by Aldus who was in turn purchased by Adobe and that wonderful program was taken out to the pasture and shot. And they say that Microsoft is a monopoly? Ha, ha, ha!!!! What about Adobe?

Anyway, fast forward to 2007 and I find myself again with the need to use Photoshop as everyone swears it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. As a result, I purchase the top of the line CS2 suite I could buy and once again they come out with CS3 about a month later. This time they are kind enough to offer me an upgrade, but not to the super duper top of the line version, but an inferior version that causes me to lose some of the products I had in my version. Wow, this is the same crappy Adobe I remember from years ago!

Anyway, I get my new copy of CS3 that magazines are raving about and I'm expecting something really great. I install it (which turned out to be a 6 week process due to problems with the upgrade) and guess what - it looks like the same POS that I was using back in the 6.0.1 days! This ugly beast hasn't changed, and sadly it hasn't improved! Well, that's not entirely true, but in terms of usability it is still crap. A relic of poor design from the early 90's and they seem to be proud of it. There are ton of features that are completely undiscoverable without inside knowledge, that it is no wonder there is an entire industry dedicated to teaching you how to use this piece of crap. Anyway, this time there's no manual and the choices for resources are daunting so I just decided to go to the local library and take a look for myself.

The Review

After going through a stack of books, I found one that really caught my eye. It was called Teach Yourself VISUALLY Adobe Photoshop CS3 and it seemed like it was something that I could read easily and not feel like I needed to know the secret handshake to be successful.

This book is a very colorful book that starts from square one (and I mean square one - new computer users would be comfortable with this book so most of us will skip the first chapter or two). It teaches you all of the basics of Adobe Photoshop CS3 in a very easy to understand way and it doesn't make you feel like an idiot (or is it dummy these days :-)). I followed along with each of the topics which are broken into two page sections where you can lay your book flat and learn a given topic. It is well organized and easy to read. After about 5 days of reading after work I found myself comfortable with Photoshop and ready to take on different challenges.

A really nice feature of this book is that it also gives you a bunch of tips along the way of little obscure things that you'd never know if someone didn't tell you (like double-clicking on the hand zooms the image to "fit to window" size - who knew????).

If you are a Photoshop novice who has been intimated by this poorly designed and painfully slow product called Adoble Photoshop, then I would encourage you to pick up this book right away and read it. It is the stepping stone you need before you take on the billions of other Photoshop resources out there and it will be one you go back to frequently when you forget how to do something.

Skill Level: Beginner
Value: Excellent (much cheaper than a course, and a stack of useless books)
Recommendation: Highly recommended for anyone new to Photoshop

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron, great review. Speaking of double-clicking the hand to zoom the image, pressing CTRL+0 (that's a zero) does the same thing. I discovered this by accident when I missed CTRL+o to open an image. I use it all the time.