The following comments went out in Dan's newsletter this morning ON UPGRADING SOFTWARE I first began using Adobe Illustrator in 1988. At that time, the entire program fit on a floppy disk, unstuffed. You just dragged it to the hard disk and started work. We are now, with the announcement of Adobe's Creative Suite 2 on Monday, April 4, at Illustrator 12. The application is now almost 200 megs, and can't be run without massive computing power. The temptation is to say that after three or four upgrades most everything that is obviously wrong has been repaired and that eventually you run out of new features to add. That's not quite true: new technologies come along and need to be addressed. Photoshop's Camera Raw was added in Photoshop CS not because the programming team was too stupid to think of putting it in prior versions, but because the need for it had not yet arisen. Similarly, certain features only become possible with today's computers. Several Photoshop and Illustrator filters would have been out of the question ten or even five years ago, not because they weren't useful but because they simply couldn't have run fast enough for anybody to want to deploy them. That being said, however, upgrades are becoming more difficult to justify, as the list of meritorious features to add grows shorter, and the complexity of the software (and hence the difficulty of developing it without crippling bugs) grows ever greater. Yet the software companies depend on revenue from frequent upgrades. This is one area in which the vendor and the buyer's interest diverge: the buyer wants to buy an upgrade when there's a good one to be bought; the vendor wants to sell one at a specific time, ready or not, valuable or not, leading often to some of the following: *The pressure to ship is so great that sometimes the vendor ships such shoddy, bug-filled product that the user is better off with the previous version. Examples: Quark 4.0, Illustrator 9.0. *In a vain effort to justify an "upgrade" that has no other good reason for existing, interfaces are designed wholesale so that the vendor can hype workflow efficiency. Meanwhile, users pull out their hair with frustration. Example: Illustrator 7. *Because of deadline pressures, important features can get dropped if they become buggy--even if they existed in the preceding version. Example: GoLive CS. *Granted that any new feature probably appeals only to a minority (or else it would long since have been addressed) it's often hard to sneak it in without overburdening the program and making it worse for the majority. Example of doing it right: Camera Raw in Photoshop CS. Example of doing it wrong: color management in Photoshop 5. Valuable upgrades are still offered from time to time: Photoshop 6, and Photoshop CS/Mac spring to mind. But an irritatingly high number are not upgrades at all--they're sidegrades, or even downgrades. Users realize this, and are more reluctant to commit to buying them. The last times I've spoken at Photoshop World and Seybold, I've polled the audience as to what version of Photoshop they use. Granted that by their very attendance at the show they indicate that they're not afraid to spend money, I was surprised by the results: around 10% are at Photoshop 5 or earlier, with the remaining 90% divided about equally between Photoshops 6, 7, and CS. Also, increasingly people have learned to pull the trigger until an upgrade has been out for a while. Getting bitten by being the first kid on the block to try out inadequately tested upgrades is an experience most do not wish to repeat (example: those who loaded the first version of Mac OX 10.3, and thereby fried their FireWire external drives). Even after waiting, a certain amount of doggedness is needed to find out the truth. The vendors, of course, hype their products; it's been a while since any revision has been released without a claim that it's the greatest advance in graphic arts since the birth of Michelangelo. "Reviews" in the trade press might as well be (and sometimes in fact are) written by the public relations staffs of the vendors. Any product emanating from a major advertiser that only gets four-and-a-half stars is seriously flawed; a rating of four stars probably means that there the product can't even be booted up or that it inflicts some kind of collateral damage on the system. Things like the extremely unpopular activation scheme of Photoshop CS/Windows, now extended to all CS2 products, don't even get mentioned. Worse, comments of "independent" experts are highly suspect, particularly about Photoshop: some of them have exceedingly incestuous relations with Adobe. No ethical line exists as to how close the relationship needs to be before it should be divulged, but there are some cases of outright shilling, where the relationship has become in effect one of servant and master. I and others have criticized Adobe's management decision to upgrade all of its applications simultaneously, every 18 months, rather than just giving Creative Suite users an option to purchase the next upgrades in advance, whenever they happen to be released. The objection is not so much that 18 months is too short in this day and age, which it is, as that requiring five independent teams to have a product ready to ship on the same day is a recipe for disaster. Acrobat 7 has been available for months now, but you can't buy it as a Creative Suite upgrade until the remaining four apps are ready. Once, say, two other apps are ready, the pressure is going to be overwhelming on the other two. Especially today, it's only to be expected that one or more of the programming teams is going to run into some problems that can't be solved by the desired shipment date. In that case, everybody would want the affected team to just say, look, we don't have enough confidence in this software to ship it just yet, we're very sorry, but we need six more weeks. Unfortunately, they're not going to get permission to take those six more weeks if they're holding up the release of four other applications in the process. Several of the problems associated with this policy manifest themselves in Photoshop CS2. ON PHOTOSHOP CS2 The Convert to Profile, Assign Profile, and Color Settings commands, which many people use several times a day, have been in the same place since Photoshop 6. It was convenient for Adobe to move them in CS2, so that they would reside in approximately the same places in all Adobe applications. But it was not convenient for Photoshop users, who often have to move back and forth between versions and do not appreciate the moment of hesitation that it causes when looking for such commands. While one can certainly live with this particular issue, it is symptomatic of Photoshop CS2--long on changes for the convenience of Adobe, short on changes that affect image processing, which used to be the purpose of the program, and medium on changes that make our workflow more efficient without necessarily making for better-quality images. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights. 1. EXIT THE FILE BROWSER. The File Browser was the most useful feature introduced in Photoshop 7. It was substantially improved in Photoshop CS. For the convenience of Adobe in marketing the Creative Suite, but to the considerable inconvenience of the user, it has now been dropped altogether. A new standalone application known as Bridge, not part of Photoshop itself, is roughly intended to be a File Browser for all CS applications simultaneously. It has a few new features that are of interest to small minorities, such as the ability to batch-open Camera Raw files, or to infinitesimal minorities, such as being able to embed more metadata. Assuming that you don't specifically need the new features, the move is a step backward. Bridge is slow. Being a separate app, you have to keep booting it up, as opposed to using the File Browser, which comes up instantaneously, and Bridge is significantly slower in gathering data. Worse, I am unable to tell you that I think Bridge is currently stable enough for a responsible software vendor to ship it. I refer to bombs, strange behavior, and loss of stored data. Now, a BIG WARNING. That last comment is based on beta software. I've run several versions of CS2, but I haven't had much experience with the most current beta version. I have spoken to other beta users with different hardware configurations, though, and they echo what I'm seeing currently. Be that as it may, work on Bridge is continuing. It is entirely possible that everything may be copasetic when the product actually ships. Monitor on-line groups to find out. If Bridge's performance is all that bad, it won't take long for the world to know. If people like it, you'll know that rapidly as well. Even if stable, I doubt that Bridge can be made to be as speedy as File Browser for this release. For that reason, File Browser should have been retained in Photoshop CS2, with Bridge running alongside if if the user wanted. Bridge certainly has potential and it would not be surprising if in CS3 Bridge is incontestably better than the File Browser in CS. However, we're concerned with the here and now. The best we can hope for CS2 seems to be something that emulates File Browser well, adds a few capabilities, but is slightly slower. The worst possible case is something that is *much* slower and is buggy. Everyone hopes that the Bridge is going to be robust and problem-free when it finally ships. But, suppose it still has problems? Whoever is brave enough to suggest that it should be held is really putting his job on the line, because if Bridge can't ship, neither can Photoshop, or any other CS2 application. Forget that. The thing is going to ship, buggy or not. We can only watch, wait, and hope for the best. If Adobe should unleash unfinished software as a matter of convenience, that IMHO would be a bigger outrage than the following item--the one that has irate users burning up the on-line groups with negative commentary. 2. PRODUCT ACTIVATION. Aggressive copy protection ("activation") was introduced in Photoshop CS for Windows only. A significant group of users was and is quite upset about it. A constant complaint was that PC users were being discriminated against. Therefore, for the convenience of Adobe in deflecting this criticism, but to the great inconvenience of the user, activation is now required not just for Photoshop/Windows, but for the entire CS2 suite, on Macintosh as well. The activation software is written not by Adobe but a third party. When you first install, you are prompted to activate, which is quick and easy if you have a Web connection. If you don't do it, the software will die in 30 days. The activation locks the software to your machine; every time you boot Photoshop up the activation is checked to verify that you haven't drag-copied it to some other machine. You are allowed to activate twice, so you can have a copy on your laptop and on your business machine. However, you cannot install a third copy elsewhere without going to Adobe to ask permission. Users of Photoshop CS/Windows who wanted to buy a new computer, for example, couldn't throw the old one away and move Photoshop to the new one unless they could talk some Adobe CSR into blessing it. The CS2 activation scheme avoids this scenario. You can now de-activate your own software on the Web. That disables Photoshop on that machine, but allows another installation on another. But even with CS2, you still have to beg someone at Adobe to allow you to use your own software if something happens that prevents you from de- and re-activating (like, you forget to deactivate before installing new hardware, or somebody steals your laptop, or your hard disk dies, or Photoshop ceases to function for other reasons.) In principle, once you activate, you should never have to worry about it again. In practice, a significant number of users indicate that they have had to. The activation software is paranoid: many things, such as system crashes, power spikes, defragmentations of hard disks, and installation of unrelated software, are known to cause it to fail. When it does, it deactivates Photoshop--no grace period, no questions, no warning, no more Photoshop. Reactivating can in principle either be done quickly on the Web, or, if you have a time and patience, by calling Adobe. If you happen to be shooting in Death Valley or in Anza-Borrego like I have been, not just hours away from Internet access but also beyond the reach of cellular telephones, you are SOL. For more than ten years, I've been suggesting that users avoid applications, where possible, that use this type of time-bomb protection, because it is proven unreliable over the long term. I say this based on considerable personal experience with such protected software. In each case, the vendor involved was just as earnest as and used almost exactly the same language that Adobe does today: it isn't inconvenient, it won't hassle the innocent user, it's foolproof, it won't be broken by future developments. And, so far, what has happened with the activation that was put on Photoshop CS/Windows follows exactly the pattern one might expect. 1) In at least 50% of cases the activation works flawlessly. That's been my experience with the CS2 beta. I activated once and never heard about the subject again. 2) In maybe 40% of cases the activation does not work flawlessly, in that it occasionally deactivates the software for no valid reason. However, *provided that there is constant access to the Internet* the user is not seriously inconvenienced, because reactivating on the web takes ten seconds, provided that whatever error caused the deactivation doesn't also prevent reactivation. 3) In something like 10% of cases there has been a more serious inconvenience. Part of this was due to the necessity of contacting Adobe for permission to do things like install additional peripherals; a problem theoretically taken care of in Photoshop CS2 by the ability to deactivate before installing something new. Part was user error, doing something like obliterating a crucial file that would mandate reinstalling Photoshop, and thus would require Adobe's permission. Part was due to events that neither the user nor Adobe can control (laptop is stolen; hardware failure prevents installed copy from working), and would again require Adobe's permission for you to reinstall your own software. And part was due to defects in the protection software that apparently only occur in certain rare circumstances (Photoshop must be reactivated a wildly excessive number of times; activation drops in mid-use; activation cannot be accomplished at all.) As you can guess by reading my travel itinerary, I am one of the people who do not have constant access to the Internet. During 2004, I'd guess that there were a good eight weeks during which I only had sporadic, expensive, and unreliable connections. Plus, even if the protection software itself does not malfunction, I have had three incidents in the last two years that would have required contacting Adobe for permission to reinstall my own software. Two of these occurred while I was outside of the United States, both hardware failures that required replacement of components that would cause the activation software to assume that I had changed computers and therefore refuse me permission to use Photoshop. The third occurred when a beta version of unrelated software disabled one of my Creative Suite apps, forcing me to reinstall it from scratch, which I could not have done were activation in effect. In none of these cases would the new activation scheme of CS2 been helpful. One of my students did these stories one better. He also travels to remote sites, and found his Photoshop CS was disabled by a glitch in the activation software during a shoot on an island in which there is not only no internet but also no telephone service. He had to reach Adobe by radiotelephone at God knows what cost. This user, not wishing to repeat the experience, did what many people in similar situations do. He, er, how shall I put this, found a permanent solution to the problem of Photoshop CS deactivating itself. I am not going to go into further details, except to say that the professional software pirates are ecstatic that Adobe is getting them so many new customers--people who under no other circumstances would be considering their warez. If you *do* have constant access to the Web, the chances of you not being inconvenienced by activation-at least for another year or so-are, I would guess, 90 to 95 percent. These are excellent odds if you are playing poker, not such great odds if you are undergoing surgery, nor when they affect the operation of software on which your living depends. Also, they get worse as time goes on. Somewhere around the time that Photoshop CS3 is introduced, Microsoft will launch a new operating system called Longhorn. If you own Photoshop CS/Windows, you'll have to call up and get Adobe's permission to install Longhorn, as otherwise it will constitute a change of computer and deactivate your software. However, it is far from obvious that Photoshop CS will work at all under Longhorn. The underlying program itself can almost certainly still run, just as older Mac software works in Classic mode under OSX. Unfortunately, CS requires an OK from the protection software before it launches, and such software has a poor record of surviving major changes in OS. One of the reasons that OSX/Macintosh was so slow to catch on in the graphic arts community was that many high-end users *couldn't* switch. Their protection software, which their vendors had, just like Adobe does today, assured them was foolproof and would work forever, could not be reconciled with OS X's Classic mode. Obviously, Adobe has no clue whether Photoshop CS/Windows will function under Longhorn--the CS protection scheme was hatched in early 2002, more than three years before Longhorn will actually ship. Nevertheless, Adobe is assuring us that software that it did not write is going to work flawlessly under an operating system that its authors had never seen. CS2 applications will work under the forthcoming Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger), of which Adobe has prerelease copies. When Mac OS 11 ships, it's an entirely different story. Adobe has no more idea whether its activation scheme will work at that point than you or I would. If Adobe were serious about how its protection scheme will continue to operate well into the future, it would post a bond to guarantee that users who could not update their OS due to activation issues could get their money back. Even saying that you are never going to upgrade your OS, there are no guarantees that the software will continue to function for as long as you want it to. As noted in the start of this newsletter, many people do not upgrade for more than five years at a time. I myself am one of them--in my office, I use two legal copies of Photoshop. One is nominally CS, the other is Photoshop 6, which I acquired in 2000. The reason I use Photoshop 6 is not that I am too cheap to buy a second copy of CS, but rather that I think it is more reliable than later software in certain key areas. I use Photoshop CS for most preliminary work because of several advantages it has over Photoshop 6, but I save final files out of Photoshop 6. I never use my legal copy of Photoshop 7 because for the purposes of my work, Photoshop 7 was a downgrade from Photoshop 6. Therefore, during the CS2 beta period, I have shoved aside not Photoshop 6, but rather my copy of Photoshop CS. I anticipate that I will continue to use Photoshop 6 daily until at least Photoshop CS3, which is presumably late 2006/early 2007, seven years after its purchase. Will someone be able to use Photoshop CS2 for seven years if need be? It depends on at least three things. First, will Adobe even be in business in 2012; second, will they be willing to continue to activate very old software; third, will they be *able* to do so even if they wish to? As for the first, I expect Adobe will still be here in 2012, but you never know. The more pressing issue is whether the company that Adobe contracted with to write this protection software will still be around. If not, it won't matter whether Adobe wants to support the product--they won't be able to. As for the second, if the current Adobe management team is still in charge in 2012, I very much doubt that it would think about charging for or refusing to reactivate older software or about using the reactivation process for some nefarious purpose. Unfortunately, nobody knows who will be running Adobe in 2012. And, as we have seen all too frequently recently, many corporate executives lose a lot of their ethical sensibilities when increasing revenue is a possibility. In the 1980s, I had a personal experience with an industry-leading company whose ethical reputation was as least as good as Adobe's is today. They introduced a new type of protection software with the usual pious assurances that honest users would not be inconvenienced. A few months after it was implemented, the company secretly modified it so that its accounting department could deactivate the software remotely. When pressed, they again used much the same soothing language we hear today. "We're only enforcing our contractual rights. We won't turn your software off unless we decide that your company owes us money, and you should trust us to not to do it unfairly. The honest user has nothing to worry about." The hidden feature came to light only when the company inadvertently deactivated the entire network of one of its larger customers, causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage which it eventually had to make good. The third is the killer. The chances are very poor that this activation software will function at all in the 2012 environment. If it doesn't, neither will Photoshop CS2. The negatives of copy protection are so well known, and so many users are howling about it, that Adobe has gone into a full defensive mode. Its shills have been bombarding newsgroups with the same line, over and over. It could have been worse! Adobe did not have to put in this new feature whereby you can deactivate one installation and then install another. It could have been *much* worse! The software could have been even less reliable than the CS version was, and the Adobe customer service folk could be like those of Quark, who assume that the user is a pirate until proven otherwise. It could have been much, much worse! Even more annoying than the notion that we should buy product because it could be much, much worse is the implication that we support piracy if we don't do so. These protection packages are most necessary when the software itself is either so expensive or the number of users so small that having a few unlicensed users does serious damage to the vendor. In such cases they do deter piracy, because the casual user can't defeat the protection, and the professional pirate isn't interested in doing it because the market isn't big enough. A mass-market app like Quark or Flash or, most of all, Photoshop, is a wholly different story. A pirate version of Photoshop CS/Windows, sans activation, appeared the same day that the legitimate product shipped. Nothing can stop the appearance of such pirate versions this time; Adobe depends no less on the good faith of its user base than it ever has. The difference is, dishonest users are now being driven into the arms of the pirates. Plus, certain people, of whom I am not one, feel that if you have purchased Photoshop legitimately, you are also entitled to purchase the pirate version just in case the activation on the legitimate version fails. For example, while nobody can predict exactly what will happen when Longhorn comes out, a fairly likely scenario is that the pirated deactivated versions of Photoshop CS will continue to work and the legitimate ones will not. Thus, in the real world, this activation software is inconvenient for the unsophisticated dishonest user, but it is really, really convenient for those offshore firms who make a nice living by cracking it and selling illicit copies of Photoshop for a fraction of what Adobe does. Adding the protection is self-defeating; it empowers the pirates rather than hurting them; if anybody is promoting piracy here, it certainly isn't the user. Forgetting that part, and with great respect to the "independent" experts, the choice we have to make is not between purchasing Photoshop CS2 or QuarkXPress 7. It is between purchasing Photoshop CS2 or sticking with a previous version of Photoshop. Nobody doubts that Adobe could make its software protection experience much, much worse if they wished to. OTOH, it could also make it much, much better, by the simple expedient of not including it at all. There is no ethical issue with a vendor implementing protection software, any more than it would be unethical for them to quintuple the price of their software. Similarly, there is no ethical problem for prospective customers to treat as a heavy negative in their purchasing decision a feature that 1) serves no purpose at all except to deny them under certain circumstances the ability to access their software; 2) is produced not by Adobe but by a company of unknown reliability and ethics; 3) is unlikely to be viable at all for more than a couple of years; 4) is proven by the Photoshop CS/Windows experience to make periodic incorrect deactivations. 3. TWO BIG IMPROVEMENTS, TWO DISAPPOINTMENTS. Two of the new CS2 capabilities that have received the most hoopla are in fact nothing to be excited about; however, two new features help image processing significantly, in addition to some less important improvements that I will turn to in a moment. *We now can apply three-dimensional or perspective effects to selected items. As part of the Free Transform dialog, we can warp a selection for such purposes as wrapping it around a cylindrical shape. A new filter called Vanishing Point creates a related effect, causing the selection to seem to disappear at a fixed point in the background. I haven't played with these enough to form a conclusion as to how powerful they are. But they fill a significant void. Even if they turn out to be relatively crude and inflexible, they're still much better than nothing, which is what users of previous versions have. *A new filter called Surface Blur is very nice. It is an advance over Gaussian Blur (and to some degree replaces Dust & Scratches) because it detects edge areas and doesn't blur them, leaving the impact on large areas of similar tonality, which is just what we want in most cases. In addition to a Radius, it has a Threshold command that further finetunes the possibilities in a way missing in other blur filters. The filter is particularly effective in reducing noise in faces. Also, for those who often blur the A and B channels of LAB, Surface Blur usually gives much better results, because we don't get the sloppy color transitions that can occur when we Gaussian Blur at a high radius. As you might expect, the filter runs much slower than Gaussian Blur, but it's worth it for the added quality. The two overrated items are: *Unsharp Mask is, if not the most important Photoshop filter, one of the top five. The current incarnation is 15 years old. Much more is known about sharpening today than was known back then. Given how much *could* have been improved, the new Smart Sharpen filter is a big disappointment. It is a hybrid between the old USM filter and Photoshop CS's Shadow/Highlight command. It uses the same sharpening algorithm as always, but it can be modified within whatever we define as being highlights or shadows. If you choose the default settings, it works exactly as the old USM filter does, except that the critical Threshold field has inexplicably been omitted. I have heard second-hand that somebody thought that the new highlight options somehow replaced the need for the Threshold. They don't. The Threshold is most important in midtones, not highlights or shadows. Smart Sharpen's options are not user-friendly. An expert can sometimes use it as a shortcut for certain advanced routines, but that's about it. I can't say I would never use it, but it would be a case of finding a default setting that would work well with a certain category of image. Drum scanners have had the capability of separating white-line from dark-line sharpening for 20 years. Amazingly, Photoshop still does not. The capability of separating the lightening from the darkening functioning really belongs in all Photoshop filters. But even if it had been built into this filter only, Smart Sharpen would be five times the tool it is today. Furthermore, it would not be that difficult, in today's age of fast computing, to create a filter that would use unrelated calculations for light and dark sharpening, or even allow multiple haloing. Such a filter would leave both Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen in the dust. *A much-ballyhooed new Noise Reduction filter, even at its top strength, it doesn't seem to do much. Graininess is reduced, but not enough to actually affect output quality, at least not in my tests. In any event, I compared several images with Noise Reduction as opposed to Surface Blur on a separate layer at a low opacity. The Surface Blur method won every time. 4. A HALF-DOZEN OTHER IMPROVEMENTS. In addition to the Bridge capabilities mentioned earlier, the following enhancements should be noted. *Several new features, including a limited curves-based interface, are added to Camera Raw. *Layer grouping functions are made more sensible. We can now select multiple layers at a time. *We can customize our menus, so that we don't waste space by listing useless items, such as Brightness/Contrast or the Histogram Palette. *We can redefine keyboard shortcuts, in case we don't like Photoshop's built-in ones or wish to devise our own. *The Shadow/Highlight command, previously restricted to RGB and LAB, now also works in CMYK. If you are trying to do the things people normally do with the S/H, however, CMYK is a bad place to do it--with one exception. If you want to open up shadow detail in neutral areas, the command works best in the L channel of LAB, somewhat worse in RGB, worst of all in CMYK. To open highlight detail, RGB is slightly better than LAB and CMYK is much worse. However, if the point is to open detail in rich, saturated colors, CMYK will get better results provided that you know how to configure the settings properly, which is not currently documented anywhere. 5. THE WILD CARD: SMART OBJECTS. The most technically interesting new feature is one that allows embedding remotely changeable objects in the files not just of Photoshop, but of other CS apps. IOW, suppose your client has a logo that appears in many different contexts. After you've prepared fifty variants of it, he announces that it's supposed to be purple rather than green. With this feature you can correct a single file and all the other forty-nine will update automatically. I don't know how well this works in practice. I doubt that many people need this feature enough to warrant its learning curve, but some certainly do, and for these people the CS2 suite becomes very interesting indeed. 6. IN SUMMARY. As I did not participate in the testing program for the entire Creative Suite either in 2003 or this year, I purchased my own copy of Creative Suite Premium in 2003. I am given to understand that InDesign CS2 is much improved, so I would purchase an upgrade to the entire CS package under ordinary circumstances. Inasmuch as an improved InDesign does not come close to being sufficient compensation for accepting activation to five separate apps, however, I will not be purchasing Creative Suite 2. As a result of my participation in the beta program, however, I expect to receive a free copy of Photoshop CS2. If I do, and if the reduced speed of Bridge is the only issue, I will use CS2 in preference to CS, retaining a copy of CS on my system in case the activation of CS2 fails while I am in the field. If, however, Bridge turns out to be *way* slower, or if it causes frequent crashes and/or data loss, then that would be, for me, a bigger negative than all of the gains cited above. I would then put CS2 back in the box and continue life with CS. Deciding whether to upgrade depends very much on what parts of Photoshop are important to you. As mentioned earlier, I considered Photoshop 7 a downgrade from Photoshop 6, because the biggest improvements, other than File Browser, weren't relevant to my own workflow, whereas the bad new features affected me considerably. Other people would see it differently. For digital artists who make extensive use of Photoshop's drawing functions, Photoshop 7 was a significant advance. Photoshop CS/Mac was better in every way than Photoshop 7, adding, among other things, Camera Raw, Shadow/Highlight, and a better File Browser. I therefore recommended that Macintosh users of Photoshop 7 buy the upgrade. Windows users, however, faced the negative of activation. Personally, I would not have bought Photoshop CS/Windows. I own no camera that generates a Camera Raw-compatible file. I often find myself in places without an Internet connection. And I have long experience that makes me distrust protection software. If any of these factors don't apply to you, then I can certainly understand a decision to go for all the added power. But Photoshop CS2 doesn't advance the ball as far as CS did. If you already own Photoshop CS/Windows, then Photoshop CS2 is attractive, although if you use File Browser a lot you may wish to wait until you get a feel for how well the shipping version of Bridge is being received. You've already bought into the activation scheme, and CS2's is better than what you're running now. With an earlier Windows version of Photoshop you face the choice described above: there are a lot of good new things but you have to accept activation. For Macintosh users of versions 7 and earlier I see upgrading to Photoshop CS, while it's still available, as a better choice than CS2. For a user of Photoshop CS/Mac I would recommend standing pat. I've probably worked with thirty to fifty different copy-protected products, some of which I regretted using at all because of the protection. But in some cases there wasn't a choice, or in some cases the product was so good that the inconvenience was worth it. And that's what you should be asking yourself now. A protected product like Photoshop CS2/Mac is incontestably much, much worse than Photoshop CS/Mac in the critical area of software reliability and ease of continued use. If we are to make the switch, there had best be other areas in which the new program is much, much better. Photoshop CS arguably made the case for upgrading in spite of the activation. CS2 does not. I will be shopping for a car later this year. If the dealer tells me that the reason I should buy his model is that it could have been made much, much worse, I will think back on Creative Suite 2 with fondness. FURTHER READING ON THE ACTIVATION ISSUE Acrimonious threads can be found at many sites. A particularly good one with sensible commentary on both sides is running at http://www.robgalbraith.com Also, there are, for the time being, several threads running at http://www.adobeforums.com At both sites, just search for forum threads with the words "activation CS2". Note: during the introduction of Photoshop CS/Windows, adobeforums was swamped with negative commentary about activation, which it deleted from its search indices and moved into the adobeforums equivalent of limbo. So, if the threads are no longer there, they have doubtless received similar treatment. To see an example of how toadying the trade press can be, try http://www.macworld.com/news/2005/04/03/activation/index.php This is a major article-just as big as the announcement of CS itself-entirely about activation, indicating that the magazine considers activation to be a surpassingly important issue. Any such article should of course give a lot of room to Adobe to voice its views and to explain what it thinks we need to know. This one goes somewhat farther: it is *entirely* devoted to an Adobe spokesman, who explains that piracy is a problem and that we all should be thankful that Adobe has found such an elegant solution to it, because they could have done something much, much worse. There is not even a hint that many users are upset; no suggestion that the software ever fails; and certainly nothing to indicate that the likely result of requiring activation is to encourage, rather that suppress, piracy. A useful essay on the kinds of things that cause false deactivation of Photoshop is found at http://jazzdiver.com/photoshop/pscs_reactivation.htm An overview of the intricacies of OS upgrades is found in the business section of Sunday's (10 April) New York Times ("Will the Next Version of Windows Be Worth the Wait," by Randall Stross.) It discusses the hype surrounding new introductions, and also notes one point that should be of interest to users of CS/Windows: "Longhorn is unlikely to co-exist peaceably with existing software that sits atop the operating system. [One analyst] said that gaining enhanced security necessitates making a break with complementary software of the past, which means 'compatibility is going to suffer.'"