Introducing Photoshop Elements 9

Today’s the day! Photoshop Elements 9 is here, and there are a lot of major new features, so let’s take a look:

Organizer for Mac. People have been begging for this for a long time, and if you’re a Windows switcher, or if you have a household where people are using both Windows computers and Macs, this is going to be really, really helpful.

Mac Organizer
The Organizer for Mac

However, it was evidently a big project to get the Organizer ported over to OS X, so this time around the Mac version is lacking a lot of the favorite features in the Windows version, like the Slide Show Editor, Watched Folders, and Yahoo Maps, for instance. Still, if you’re moving from Windows to Mac, it’s a big help.

To convert your Windows catalog, install Elements 9 on your Windows computer and upgrade your catalog, then back up to a removable hard drive (even a thumb drive, if it will hold your catalog and photos) and then install Elements on your Mac and restore the catalog there. (If you won’t need Elements 9 on the Windows computer anymore, deactivate it and uninstall it once you’ve got everything transferred over, so you won’t be using one of your two activations needlessly.)

Cross Platform. When you buy Elements 9, you get both platform versions (Windows and Mac) on the same disk, so you can install it on two Macs, two Windows computers or one of each. No need to buy the program again to install it on the other platform.

EDIT: Adobe says that you only get a serial number that works with both versions with the boxed version, not the download. They suggest that if you need PSE right away, order the boxed version, then install both trials and enter the serial number from the disc version into the trials once you get it. Also, the boxed version includes two discs, one for each platform.

Layer Masks. If you’ve used Elements before, you know that this is probably THE most requested feature that Elements has been missing since version 1.

layers panel with mask
The blown out sky is masked out, ready for a replacement

Adobe finally listened, and brought them to Elements 9. If you haven’t used Elements before, you won’t understand yet all that this means, but for now suffice it to say that it’s going to make following tutorials written for full Photoshop a whole lot easier, as well as giving you a lot more options for changing your mind about your edits later on. If you’ve used one of the add-on tools to add masks to an earlier version of Elements, you’ll love how much easier it is when they’re built right into the program.

Tip: Elements doesn’t have the Quick Mask, but you can get pretty much the same effect by painting a mask with the Selection brush in Mask mode.

Fun Edits. This is one of my favorite things in the new mobile mifi 2200 Now Guided Edit walks you through creating an Apple style reflection like you see everywhere in ads these days, a Lomo effect, Out of Bounds (where the subject appears to be leaping or moving out of the photo), and a 60s Warhol-style pop art portrait. These are really fun, even for advanced Elements folks.

Content Aware Fill. This was the biggy in Photoshop CS5, and it comes to Elements too, sort of. In Elements it’s only in the Spot Healing Brush and as an option for filling in the edges of a panorama, but at least it’s here.

Style Matching. Did you ever spend hours creating a special look for one of your photos and then wish you could just copy it over to another image? Elements 9 includes a new style merge, which lets you crib the overall look from one image and copy it to another. The results can be pretty unpredictable, but that’s part of the fun.

Getting Social. Finally–finally!–you can upload photos direct to Facebook from Elements. (That sure took long enough!)

New Creations. The whole Create process (for photobooks, cards, collages, etc.) got a major makeover this time. It’s a tad confusing the first time, but now you can do almost anything you can do in Elements as you create a new project, and there’s a heap of new graphics, backgrounds and so on to help you do it, too.

Move that Photo. If you’ve been driven batty by the Elements 8 Print Window, you’ll be happy to know that Elements 9 lets you put your photo where you want it on the page.

So that’s what’s hot in Elements 9. What’s not? Well, if you hate the dark color scheme, you won’t be much happier with Elements 9. Dark again, and no option to change it, although they did work on improving the contrast over Elements 7 and 8. Some old bugs got fixed (you can finally set the frame rate for an animated gif in the Mac version this time, but you can’t edit an existing animated gif), but there are some new ones to make up for it. Each version of Elements seems to make more demands on your operating system, and Elements 9 is no exception. (EDIT Alas, it appears the frame rate problem is back in the version of PSE 9 for Mac that got shipped out. It was fixed at one point.)

So if you have Elements, should you upgrade? For a lot of people Layer Masks alone will be worth it, aside from the other new features, but I’d always suggest downloading the trial version first and giving that a good hard test drive to see if it’s worth it for you and if it runs well on your computer.

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