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Beta of Adobe Photoshop CS6 Now Available for Download

It's been two long years since Photoshop CS5 shipped. Adobe has high expectations for the speedy adoption rate of those moving to embrace the new version of Photoshop and the Creative Suite when this mammoth collection of applications ships within the next few months. As is always the case, purchases of the Suite and its applications have slowed in recent months, despite significant discounts — at this point users are hanging in there for a chance to kick the tires of the new apps. If they're wowed, Adobe is counting on them to upgrade via traditional desktop purchases or by adoption of the new Creative Cloud subscription alternative. In the case of Photoshop, the beta provides users with the chance to finally go beyond the tantalizing "sneak peaks" that Adobe has been providing over the last few months.

So what are the highlights? Recent releases have included at least one jaw-dropping new feature to spur upgrades and CS6 is no exception. It's difficult to not be impressed by Content Aware Move, which lets you select a small element from an image and reposition it quickly and convincingly. But its Extend option is the knockout, since you can use it to simply stretch something convincingly — ideal for making someone instantly taller and thinner, for example. Content aware goodness has also been added to the Patch tool, providing increased control when filling in large areas. Liquify has been given a speed boost, as well as new brush size keyboard shortcuts and an increase in maximum brush size. The ever-popular Puppet Warp has also been given a GPU-driven speed boost in conjunction with Photoshop's new Mercury Graphics Engine, and has been freed from the confines of a dialog box.

A new Blur Gallery includes a number of filter effects, including the classic Tilt-Shift, which blurs images while keeping just a narrow strip of focus, as well as Iris Blur and Field Blur. Also worth a mention is the choice of four user interfaces, including "dark"; a faster Crop tool; a Perspective Crop tool; type styles and improved font rendering; new vector layers; styles on groups; claimed pixel accuracy, with the ability to snap to pixels; the addition of video capabilities to the non-Extended version of Photoshop; enhancements to painting capabilities; 10-bit monitor support; the return of Print Selected Area (woot!); GPU-assisted Background Save, Auto-Save and Auto Recover; and yes, there's even more than that.

Yes, it's been two long years. But if the sneak peeks and feature list are any indication, Photoshop CS6 would seem to have made the wait worthwhile. You can decide for yourself by downloading the beta from the Adobe Labs site.

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