How you can help shape Photoshop's future

Martin EveningAs well as writing books about Photoshop and Lightroom, I have also been an Adobe alpha and beta tester for many years now and helped provide feedback and suggestions on how to improve both these programs.

Adobe have always relied heavily on their external testers for feedback and bug testing at crucial stages of the software development, although in the early days of Photoshop, Adobe were certainly more selective about who they talked to. Potential beta testers were heavily vetted, with only one Photoshop tester in the whole of the UK (Rod Wynne-Powell). However, these days Adobe are much more tuned into what their customers think about their programs regardless of how much detailed experience they have.

Even if you are a fairly novice Photoshop user, your experience with the program can often be used to highlight issues that those more closely involved with Photoshop hadn’t even thought about.

If you go to the home page there is a link there that will take you directly to the Feature Request/Bug Report form page where you can submit details of any ideas you would like to see in a future version of any Adobe product, or submit details of any bugs that you have discovered.

Some may question whether Adobe isn’t just asking its customers to do their job for them, but it has to be realised that because of the complexities of all the different combinations of computer hardware and operating systems that are in use, it is inevitable that some bugs will slip through the net and not get discovered until a customer reports a problem.

When providing feedback it is important to provide as much information as you can such as the exact operating system version and which computer model you are using. In addition to this it can be helpful to mention how much RAM memory is installed and which video card you are using – the more information the better. The Quality and Evaluation team who work on Photoshop have a large room full of all the latest computer equipment, where they can match the configuration of almost any computer when they are required to evaluate a specific bug report.

Following on from this, it’s important that any software company will react swiftly to repair these bugs with software updates. Once upon a time this meant shipping out floppy discs or CDs to every customer. Now it can happen quite effortlessly, as long as the customer’s computer is online.

Not all problems can be resolved in this way. Since Photoshop has to interact with the computer hardware it is running on plus different third party plug-ins and drivers, not every problem is fixable. However, if you check out the Knowledge base section of the Adobe site you may very well find answers that provide feedback on known issues concerning third-party product compatibility.

Be careful what you wish for

When it comes to making feature requests everyone has their own ideas about what would make Photoshop better. Every now and then one individual’s unique idea can be taken up and made into a full-blown feature. For example, my colleague Jeff Schewe used to do a demo on how to paint with Snapshots in Photoshop and it was as a result of watching this that senior Photoshop engineer Mark Hamburg came up with the History feature for Photoshop 5. Lots of people had been asking for Photoshop to have a multiple undo. What they ended up getting was actually a more creative solution than a simple multiple undo. Clearly a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’!

More typically, new features are added in response to a groundswell of opinion rather than unique ideas from individuals.

To give you an idea of how this can work, Photoshop product manager John Nack hosts a blog where from time to time John will post stories to solicit views on specific new feature ideas for Photoshop. For example, recent threads have seen discussion on subjects such as the future of Smart Objects and improvements that could be made to the new Configurator panel.

This along with the Adobe User to user forums are good places to find out more about Photoshop as well as take part in discussions which the Photoshop engineers do monitor and take notice of.

Adobe CS5 is out now, so it will probably be another 18-24 months before CS6 comes out, which gives you plenty of time to send in your feedback to Adobe.

Adobe feature request form

Adobe feature request / bug form