Photoshop CS2 QuickSteps, by Carole Matthews & Doug Sahlin ISBN 0072261595

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2005
Published by: McGraw Hill-Osborne
Requires: Photoshop CS2
MSRP: US$16.99, CDN$22.95, UK£9.99

Photoshop Creative Suite 2 is easily the most powerful program of its type available today. That Adobe has attained its preeminent status as the purveyor of this paragon of photo and imaging editing software is an achievement gained not so much by smart marketing and excessive sales tactics as by dint of superior software development. Lots of good developers, lots of serious attention paid to the needs of professional (and amateur) photo and image editors, and even more serious attention paid to changing technologies, advances in computer and graphics power, as well as deep integration with all forms of scanning, printing, portable file formats and the World Wide Web, vaulted Photoshop to the top of the heap years ago and continue to keep it there. The problem, for non-professional (read: untrained) photo and image editors, is simply that Photoshop's vast technical and creative power is not just something you can pick up over the course of a few weekends, poking around with the software. Not by a long shot. So an entire segment of the publishing industry has grown up around Photoshop help texts, instruction manuals, reference guides, creative design and guide books. Photoshop CS2 QuickSteps is the latest entry from McGraw Hill-Osborne.

The first things you'll notice about CS2 QuickSteps is the color. There's lots of it, and it's not just restricted to actual Photoshop screen shots. On the contrary, while screen shots of Photoshop are present in droves, the rest of the book is rife with large callouts containing Tips, Notes, QuickNotes and of course QuickSteps, all dressed up with colored backgrounds, colored subheadings and so on. Big deal, you say? Never mind your skepticism—the difference in readability between CS2 QuickSteps and most other competing texts is remarkable. It's a good thing too, because QuickSteps books are marketed and sold as recipe books for computer users, written to answer a long list of questions all of which begin with "How do I . . .?" The book asks and answers many dozens of such questions as it takes readers through Photoshop from beginning to end. The book is aimed at new Photoshop users who have some basic knowledge of photo and image editing, as well as many intermediate Photoshop users who need to get 'into' CS2 quickly.

No single book can provide a one-stop shop for beginner and intermediate Photoshop users, so authors Matthews and Sahlin have chosen approximately 150 different features and functions to teach, balanced equally across learning the interfaces, tools and where everything is located; creating, importing and saving images; making selections (layer, area, mask, style and color); using layers; using paths, shapes and painting tools; color correction, retouching and image repair; using type and type effects; printing and exporting images; preparing images for use on web pages; and last but not least, one of the most powerful parts of Photoshop, actions and automation. There are between ten and twenty tutorials in each of the book's ten chapters.

The QuickSteps callouts throughout the book act as companions to each tutorial, adding literal 'quick steps' to the formal instructions—shortcuts to help you get to various features and tools in Photoshop. The Tip callouts point out features in Photoshop which, for many users, turn out to have been hidden in plain sight. The Note and QuickFacts callouts are general reminders and technical explanations respectively.

Cons: It's too short at 246 pages. A lot is covered, but the format and content are so good I could have kept reading and doing the tutorials for days. This complaint barely rates as a "Con" but the book left me wanting more. That's okay when you finish listening to a music CD—you can almost always immediately load up some more music by the same band. When a book does it to you, a whole year (or more) can go by until the next edition.

Pros: Despite my "Con" about the length of the book, 246 landscape pages is nonetheless a practical size for the book's physical format. The landscape pages lay almost flat once the binding spine has been broken in with a little flexing, supremely important in a book which is ideally positioned on your desk between the monitor and the keyboard. The range of tutorial content is excellent and reflects all of the top level (primary functions) and a wide selection from among the hundreds of secondary functions and configuration features in Photoshop CS2. Don't mistake the initial impression of almost candy-sweet use of color as an introduction to a lightweight book. It's not. In fact, Matthews and Sahlin have clearly put every effort into providing concise, professional instructions, organized to move readers with understanding and clarity through Photoshop CS2. Highly recommended.

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