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Elements 3 Q & A  |   Elements 4 Q & A  |  Elements 5 Q & A  | Elements 5 Upgrade Guide

Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0: Upgrade Guide

What's new? What's changed? Should I upgrade? Read this to help you make that decision.

Please note that the new features that were introduced in Photoshop Elements 3 are also in version 4. If you are thinking about upgrading from Elements 2 to version 4, you should also read the Elements 3 page.

This guide is not complete but it will at least give you an idea of the new features so you can find them in the new version, and let you know what has changed so you can figure out why something isn't working as you expect it to. While the screenshots are from the PC version as this was written before the Mac version was released, the information contained also applies to the Mac version. If it is different, that is noted.

 

Layers and Layers Palette Changes

Selecting Layer Contents: The big one: to select the contents of a layer you can no longer ctrl-click on the layer NAME. You now have to click on the layer THUMBNAIL. This one is bound to catch (and frustrate) many previous users.

Also note that if multiple layers are selected some of the tools don't work, so if you find tools grayed out when you have multiple layers selected, select a single layer and try again.

Selecting Multiple Layers: In previous versions of Elements, you had to link layers if you wanted more than one selected at a time. Now, shift-clicking on contiguous layers or ctrl-clicking on multiple non-contiguous layers selects them all.  You can move or transform all of them at once. This is temporary, and as soon as you click on another layer it becomes selected. To link layers and keep them together after changing the active layer, select the layers you want to link and click the Link Layers icon on the top of the layers palette, or choose Link Layers from the palette options menu.

link layers

Linked Layers have a Link icon that is visible as soon as one of the linked layers is selected.

linked layers

 

Selecting Similar Layers: In the Select menu is a new command: Select Similar Layers. If you have a number of shape or text layers and you want to quickly select them all, just select one, then go to Select > Similar Layers. Now you can move or transform them all at once, or quickly change the font or color on all of them using the options bar.

Layer palette options: Choose whether the thumbnail shows layer bounds (preview layer content only) or the entire document (preview layer content relative to the document). Entire document is the default.

Use Default Masks on Adjustments: When adding an adjustment layer, include a layer mask. This is checked by default, and should be kept checked.

layers

 

Artifact Reduction

Quickly remove noise caused by shooting in low light or with ISO camera settings by using the new Remove JPEG Artifacts option in the Noise filter.

 

Skin Tone Adjustment

Click an area of skin and watch the tonal balance of all colors in the photo improve. If you want, you can also manually adjust the color by using color sliders. The Skin Tone Adjustment is at Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color for Skintone.

 

Image > Magic Extractor

This tool is one like the Extract tool is Photoshop, and is a welcome addition to Elements. Make dots on what you want to select with the foreground tool, then make some dots on what you want removed with the background tool. Press Preview and then you can use the add to selection tool, subtract from selection tool, and the smooth tool to clean up and smooth the selection. Use the TOuch Up section to fill the holes and defringe.

 

Magic Selection Brush Tool

The Magic Selection Brush Tool (F) lets you scribble or place dots over part of the image you want to select and it makes the selection for you. It seems to work best on high-contrast areas, but even then it seems to be a hit and miss proposition and I am not sure at this point I am real impressed with this one.  Case in point: this banana is on a transparent background. It seems like a simple thing to draw a scribble on the banana and it would be selected, but, alas, it is not. It only selects parts of the banana no matter how I lay the scribbles.

draw\

And the selection that produced:

the selection

There are few options with this tool: you can make a new selection with each scribble, add to the current selection, which is called Indicate Foreground, or remove from the selection (called Indicate Background). While these terms may be intending to make things simpler, I find them confusing. You can change the default red color of the scribble if you happen to be working on something that is too close to the red of the scribble to let it be seen easily, and you can change the brush size of the scribble.

options

But there is no tolerance level to change as there is in tools like the paint bucket or magic wand, and it seems to desperately need that setting. According to the help file (which I ran to running and screaming after repeated attempts to make this tool behave as it did in a new features video I saw somewhere) you are supposed to use the selection brush tool to fine tune the selection. And from what I have seen so far, you will indeed be doing that.

 

Automatic Redeye Tool

Automatic red eye correction, either as the photos are being downloaded from the camera or with a keyboard shortcut in the Organizer or Editor (control + R).

 

Image > Convert Color Profile

Convert an image color profile with one click. Remove the color profile or convert to any color profile installed on your system.

 

The Ruler Tool

Rulers are shift+Ctrl +R now (ctrl + R is now the Automatic Redeye Fix Tool).

 

Quick Fix Changes

In Quick Fix, rotate is at the bottom of the Quick Fix workspace rather than in the General palette.

 

New Straighten Tool

straightenA Straighten Tool straightens crooked photos automatically. Drag the tool across something level in the photo and Elements automatically rotates it to straighten the photo. You can find this new tool in the toolbox.

 

A Change in the Image > Resize Dialog

The Resample check box in Image Resize is turned OFF by default rather than ON so users don't accidentally resample and destroy image data.

 

Default JPG Quality Raised

The default JPG quality for JPG export has been raised from 6 to 10.

 

Brush Cursors Get New Choices

There are two new choices for viewing brush cursors: Full Size preview that show the true size of a brush, even soft-edged brushes so you don't get too close when using brushes in your editing; and Show Crosshair in Brush Tip that puts a small crosshair at the center of the brush preview so you always know where the center is.

 

Defringe Command

One of my personal favorites is the Defringe command that comes from Photoshop automatically removing the white or black edges we so often see on selected objects that have been pasted into another image, resulting in smoother, cleaner edges on your selections. Find Defringe at Enhance > Adjust Color > Defringe Layer.

 

Crop Tool

The cancel and accept buttons appear at the bottom of the crop area when using the crop tool. They are more easily accessible here than on the options bar.

crop tool

 

Text Changes

Type preferences have their own page: Edit > Preferences > Type rather than being on the General Preferences page.

REAL text boxes! Click and drag to set a text box area for paragraph text.

textbox

As you type the text flows into the text box without pressing Enter or Return. This is a real boon to anyone who uses Elements for posters or scrapbooking. Drag the bounding box handles with the text tool (NOT the move tool, that resizes or distorts text and text box both) to resize the text box and the text reflows. For instance, if you change your mind from a short, wide text block to a tall, thin one, you can change the page layout in a few seconds.

text flows

Real text boxes are not the only change in the type area. You can now preview your fonts with the new Font Menu before adding them to the type letting you make faster choices rather than trial and error.

type preview

 

Maximized Mode is no longer the default

In PSE 3, Maximized mode was the default viewing choice and many users found themselves staring at one image in a big gray area with no apparent way to see the title bar of that image or open another in the work area and view it at the same time. While this could be fixed with Window > Images > and removing the checkmark from Maximized Mode, it was not a very apparent solution, and Adobe thankfully put it back the way it was in Elements 2, and maximized mode is no longer the default.

 

File Browser has been Removed

PC: The File Browser is gone. We have the Organizer and just the Organizer to make things simpler. (Simpler it may be, but a lot of people miss the File Browser for its speed, something the Organizer just doesn't have if you have a few thousand photos, which many of us do).

For those who like to view photos by folder, Adobe added a folder view to the Organizer. Find it at the Folder Location dropdown menu at the bottom left side of the Organizer window.

Mac: FIle Browser has been replaced by the full version of Adobe Bridge.

 

Organizer Improvements

PC ONLY: You will now be able to export your tags to share with others. If you have created tags for all your family members, you can share the tags with all your family members. Import them and drop them on the photos you want to tag.

Face Tagging: The Organizer will search your photos and present you with the faces. If a photo has five people in it, there will be 5 photos. Drag and drop your people tags on the photos to quickly organize them. If you have a lot of photos, I suggest you do this when you can leave the computer and just let it run...it takes a while.

A Set as Desktop Wallpaper command was added to instantly set the selected photo in the Organizer as your wallpaper.

Full screen preview! At last you can view your photos without the clutter of toolboxes and menu bars in the Organizer. F11 or View > View Photos in Full Screen.

Search by metadata: Search for a variety of metadata criteria, such as file name, file type, shutter speed, camera model, date, and tags. You can search on multiple criteria at once.

PDF support: Manage and tag PDF files in the Organizer. Multipage PDF files remain intact as one file that you can tag. Open the PDF in the Editor to extract individual pages from multipage files.

 

Creative Differences

Photomerge has improved. You can now keep the photos on separate layers, even after merging into a seamless panorama.

Slideshows now allow you to add pan and zoom effects, graphics, music and voice narration.

One-click photo ordering: There's a new Order Prints palette that lets you easily order prints of your photos.

PC ONLY: Slide shows on TV: If you have Windows® XP Media Center 2005 installed, you can view your Photoshop Elements slide shows on your TV and navigate using your TV remote control. I don't have that version of windows so I am not sure what this means. I took this info straight out of the help file. So if anyone does, and tries this, let us know how it works.

There are lots of new templates for the Create features.

 

Some of the new features:

There's a new tool called the Magic Selection Brush. Brush it across what you want to select, and it selects it for you.

Automatic red eye correction, either as the photos are being downloaded from the camera or with a keyboard shortcut in the Organizer (control + R).

Full screen preview! At last!

A Straighten Tool straightens crooked photos automatically.

PC: A Set as Desktop Wallpaper command in Organizer to instantly set your photo as your wallpaper.

The Resample check box in Image Resize is turned OFF by default rather than ON so users don't accidentally resample and destroy image data.

PC: There are lots of new templates for the Create features.

The default JPG quality for JPG export has been raised from 6 to 10.

You can now preview your fonts with the new Font Menu before adding them to the type letting you make faster choices rather than trial and error.

There are two new choices for viewing brush cursors: Full Size preview that show the true size of a brush, even softedged brushes so you don't get too close when using brushes in your editing; and Show Crosshair in Brush Tip that puts a small crosshair at the center of the brush preview so you always know where the center is.

One of my personal favorites is the Defringe command that comes from Photoshop automatcally removing the white or black edges we so often see on selected objects, resulting in smoother, cleaner edges on your selections.

The Magic Extractor makes it easier to get those selections in the first place.

The cancel and accept buttons appear at the bottom of the crop area when using the crop tool.

REAL text boxes! Click and drag to set a text box area and the text flows into the text box without pressing Enter or Return.

The File Browser is gone. We have the Organizer and just the Organizer to make things simpler. Mac users get the full version of the Adobe Bride in place of the FIle Browser.

PC: You will now be able to export your tags to share with others. If you have created tags for all your family members, you can share the tags with all your family members. Import them and drop them on the photos you want to tag.

PC: Face Tagging: the Organizer will search your photos and present you with the faces. If a photo has five people in it, there will be 5 photos. Drag and drop your people tags to quickly organize your photos.

Photomerge has improved. You can now keep the photos on separate layers, even after merging into a seamless panorama.

 

Classes for Elements 4

I have several classes for PSE 4 for Mac and Windows at Eclectic Academy, and all are now enrolling at http://www.eclecticacademy.com/newclasses.htm.

For more information about the class along with a the syllabus of each course, check this page.

 

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Page updated on July 26, 2012