Photoshop CS3: Does It Stand Up to the Hype?

by Louellen Coker on September 16, 2008

Reprinted from the September 2007 Lone Star Community of the Society for Technical Communication newsletter, Technically Write.

Earlier this summer, something really exciting happened to the graphics design industry. Adobe® launched the new Photoshop® CS3 and CS3 Extended after months of beta testing. Many, if not all, of the Photoshop users in my network were all “atwitter” about the upgrade because there were so many new features as well as tweaks to previous features.

Karen Nejtek, Production Manager of Texas Co-op Power Magazine, stated shortly before the program’s release, “We don’t usually update with every upgrade, but there are many features in this one that make us excited to introduce it to our workflow.”

When Jackie Damrau, our Technically Write editor, asked me to write about the new software, I had a hard time deciding where to start because it is so very exciting. Honestly, there are so many exciting areas to explore that it would be impossible to contain it in one article! So, let’s stick to the bare basics. Let’s explore the software itself.

Photoshop CS3 Editions

Adobe did something exciting for its users with this release—they released two editions that will really meet the needs of their different users. These editions are CS3 and CS3 Extended. To follow is a summary of the different products I found on the Adobe Web site.

Visit for a side-by-side comparison.

Photoshop CS3

Photoshop CS3 meets the diverse needs of professional photographers, serious amateur photographers, graphic designers, and web designers. Key feature upgrades include:

  • Dozens of improvements to Photoshop CS2 features
  • Increased productivity that comes form a streamlined interface, Camera Raw enhancements, next-generation Adobe Bridge CS3 and Zoomify export
  • Unrivaled editing power with live filters, more precise color correction, easier black-and-white conversion, and more powerful cloning and healing tools
  • Breakthrough compositing with automatic layer alignment and blending capabilities, easier selections, and improved Photomerge® technology.

Here’s how Matt Kloskowski, contributing author to Photoshop User magazine, summed up the standard version:

The standard version of Photoshop CS3 is a productivity-enhanced upgrade and, in my opinion, photographers will have the most to gain from it. That said, designers and illustrators will still have plenty to gain from CS3 standard, as selections, blending, compositing, and output options have never been better.

Pique your interest? You can purchase this edition for $649 or upgrade from $199 through Adobe. Not sure you want to purchase it? You can download a free trail at

Photoshop CS3 Extended

Photoshop CS3 Extended, though a little pricier, is the version that is sure to be a favorite among technical communicators. Adobe promotes this version as being ideal for a wide range of professionals, including:

  • Film, video, and multimedia professionals
  • Graphic and Web designers using 3D and motion
  • Manufacturing professionals
  • Medical professionals
  • Architects and engineers
  • Scientific researchers

Besides all the features included in the CS3 edition, users will enjoy:

  • 3D and motion support with the ability to edit 3D content and incorporate it into 2D compositions, paint and cone over multiple video frames, and more
  • Comprehensive image analysis with new image measurement and counting tools, MATLAB integration, and DICOM file support.

Kloskowski also reflected on this edition: “…I think the big news for non-photographers is CS3 Extended. This version is a whole new animal and a huge leap for Photoshop into some much-needed areas. Never before have video, 3D, and scientific professionals had the amount of power in Photoshop as they do now.”

Think this is the direction you or your company needs to go? You can purchase this edition for $999 or upgrade from $349 through Adobe. You can download a free trail version from

The Bottom Line

To upgrade or not to upgrade: that indeed is the question that many Photoshop users are posing. After playing around in the beta version earlier this year, I must say that I am exercising an EXTREME amount of restraint by not upgrading immediately. (My company’s strategic plan has me slated for upgrading software and computers during the fourth quarter of this year, so I have only a couple of months left to wait!)

The selfish side of me wants to tell you to wait to upgrade. That way I won’t have to be jealous of all of you out there who get to play with it.

The practical side of me agrees wholeheartedly with Kloskowski’s opinion, “I don’t think I’m alone when I say that CS3 will quickly replace previous versions of Photoshop in everyone’s workflow.”

Speaking of workflow…along with Photoshop CS3 and CS3 Extended, Adobe launched Creative® Suite CS3, which takes the excitement to an entirely new level.

© “Adobe product box shot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.”

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