Photoshop sucks

2006-02-20 01:51:00 UTC

Blunt enough title for you?

I’m mainly referring to CS2. I’ve been playing with it intermittently for the past 30 days, and I have built a list of complaints, all of which together stop me from pushing $180 across the counter for the upgrade from 5.5. I mainly arrived at that decision while making the screenshots for BZ Soundboard.


Selections can’t be moved under stupid circumstances.

Namely, when the current layer is hidden, you can’t move the selection. Huh?

Can’t drag-and-drop image files into open images.

Photoshop won’t accept the drop. You’d think it would at least check the file’s name and HFS type. Even better would be to run some kind of file(1)-like scan of the file.

The app insists upon old Mac OS behavior.

Many people like the old behaviour where clicking on any window of an app would bring them all forward. And there are several hacks that bring this to Mac OS X. But this should NOT be forced in an application. Photoshop does this, and it shouldn’t.

Can’t unlink a single layer from a set of linked layers.

Instead of you have to unlink all of them at the same time. Why? Photoshop 5.5 let you do this. Why can’t CS2?

No Unicode support in text layers.

Paste this into a text layer: ☃

Oddly, it’ll show up fine in the layers list; it just won’t render into the image correctly. You get “?” instead.

Excessive use of combo boxes.

Why do I have the ability to enter text here?

Screenshot of Photoshop's ‘Character’ (text settings) palette. Highlighted is a combo-box for entering the font.

Photoshop does provide completion, which is nice, but it should still be a plain pop-up menu. I can enter font names into that with the same effect. Even better, in the Mac version of Photoshop, it should use the Font Panel.

Non-standard UI elements.

Here’s one example:

Screenshot of Photoshop's gradient editor. Highlighted is the color pop-up for a key-point in the gradient. The arrow of the pop-up is excessively large.

Notice the hugemongous arrow. And this is a pop-up menu, not a pull-down menu. You could argue that this is a combo box, but at least on OS X, combo boxes have a text field attached. This should have the double-arrows like you see in the pop-up higher in the dialog. It also needs some kind of indicator (like ‘F’/’B’) when the foreground or background color is selected, as opposed to a static color.

I don’t mind so much this being custom, but it doesn’t look or work like a native UI element.

Preferences key combo is wrong.

Since Mac OS X, it should be ⌘,. Photoshop’s default is ⌘K. I don’t know how they thought of this selection, but it’s been around forever, and should now be retired.

Stupid save bugs.

  1. You can’t Save A Copy of a file, in PNG format, with alpha. But you can Save it As, in PNG format, with alpha. Huh?
  2. If you Save a file As in PNG format, then the window changes to reference the PNG file and the file appears saved (no “dirty” indicator in the close widget). All of this is correct. But if you then try to close the window, it’s suddenly dirty, and Photoshop complains that it “has not been saved completely because the current file format does not support all the features of your document”. Why didn’t you tell me this would happen when I saved the file?

Corrupted TIFF files.

Make sure that the “Save Transparency” checkbox in the TIFF options dialog is turned off (at least if you have an alpha channel). If it’s turned on, Cocoa can’t read your TIFF files.

No alpha support.

It is 2006, Adobe! EVERY graphics application outside of the Creative Suite supports alpha channels!

And amazingly enough, alpha support has actually regressed. Photoshop CS2 would not export the alpha of the two largest screenshots on the BZ Soundboard page (the resize screenshots). I don’t know if there is some hard-coded limit on the number of pixels that Photoshop CS2 will blend with an alpha channel, or if there’s some deeper bug, but CS2 pretended that the alpha did not exist when exporting to PNG or TIFF. I opened the PSD files in 5.5, and it exported the alpha flawlessly.


One thing I noticed while compiling this list: A number of these bugs seem to be in the class of “we’ve always done it this way”. Time for a refactor? (And I mean a real refactor, not just moving stuff around like they’ve done in every major version.)


An update (2008-03-23)

Since I originally published this post more than two years ago, several new image editors have emerged. Most people, I think, can replace Photoshop with one of these, and never miss the lost functionality.

All of these require Mac OS X 10.4 (because they all use Core Image). Prices in $ are US dollars.

  • Acorn ($50) is one of the two most popular—everybody who I know uses either Acorn or Pixelmator uses Acorn). I consider this the 21st-century update of MacPaint, and I mean that as a compliment. Start with this one—you will probably be satisfied.
  • Core Image Fun House (free) is the most basic editor you can get. It provides nothing more than filtering and cropping, and it doesn’t give you much help with the cropping (nor with scaling). However, it’s free, and you already have it: it’s one of the Mac OS X Developer Tools, as well as one of the sample-code applications.
  • Pixelmator ($59) is the most Photoshop-like, and the other most popular editor (it has the most downloads on MacUpdate and VersionTracker). If Acorn is too different from Photoshop for you, or you’re missing some of the more-advanced features, Pixelmator may be more your speed.
  • DrawIt is available in two versions: DrawIt Lite is free, whereas the full DrawIt is €29 ($42 as of this writing). It’s the most different of all the apps: The UI is essentially vector-based. The reason is that, in DrawIt, every operation is non-destructive. It accomplishes by making everything a layer. This works well, so you should definitely give DrawIt a try.
  • Iris is the only one I haven’t personally used. It’s currently a public beta; you can pre-order it for $39, or wait until version 1.0, which will be $79. The screenshot suggests that the UI is a cross between Pixelmator and Acorn.

14 Responses to “Photoshop sucks”

  1. jmcq Says:

    how about adding a layer everytime i click the brush/selection/etc? I don’t know if it’s my crap computer or the stupid program. Adobe is very helpful. They tell me how to add more.

  2. Peter Hosey Says:

    Are you sure you’re not simply looking at the History window?

  3. Rory Says:

    Jesus christ … PSD file formats.

    Let’s not use them EVER AGAIN.

  4. Miguel Antonio Says:

    WTF? get it together Adobe Team!

  5. michael Says:

    i think you guys should upgrade to the gimp its like photoshop without the price tag

  6. Peter Hosey Says:

    The Gimp is slow, at least on Mac OS X. There’s an alternative called GimpShop that puts Photoshop’s UI onto the Gimp, but it’s just as slow.

    However, your comment does remind me that I should update this post with some links to alternatives.

  7. cathy shive Says:

    umm.. it took me way to long to figure out that spam-prevention thing. my count always landed on the period and that’s obviously not a word. : )

    You should also update this for CS3 version of Photoshop. They’ve taken it to a new level of UI suckiness if you ask me.

  8. Peter Hosey Says:

    You should also update this for CS3 version of Photoshop.

    My situation is different now from two years ago. Back then, there was nothing but Photoshop (and GraphicConverter, which is worse). Now, Photoshop has nearly half a dozen competitors, and they fill my needs sufficiently that I probably never will need to go back to Photoshop again.

    There’s also the problem that Adobe’s installer (at least for previous versions) is a matryoshka-ish piece of shit that litters the software all over your system, making it next to impossible to remove. (A clear case of “why would anybody want to remove it?” syndrome.) As such, I’m reluctant to even touch it, even if a CD of it were to fall from the sky onto my porch.

    You’re welcome to do the update yourself, if you want. ☺

  9. cathy shive Says:

    Yeah, and their updating software is also a sneaky bastard! I might do that update sometime :)

  10. sjk Says:

    Just curious how you know Acorn is the most popular of the Core Image based editors. For one comparison, Pixelmator has more feedback and is downloaded more on MacUpdate and VersionTracker.

  11. Peter Hosey Says:

    sjk: Everybody who I know uses either Acorn or Pixelmator uses Acorn. Wild speculation: Maybe Pixelmator has a growing userbase of photo editors (former Photoshop users)?

    I’ll think about how to reword the post. It is a bit reckless to claim that Acorn is “the most popular” without stats to back it up.

  12. Peter Hosey Says:

    Done. The new statement should be more accurate. (The old one was “Acorn ($50) is the most popular.”)

  13. Zach Says:

    I totally agree, even on Photoshop CS3 Extended. It seems like Adobe likes to make their products excessively complicated just for the purpose of calling themsleves “advanced.” The only thing they’re accomplishing is a loss of user-friendliness. When I try to search for something as simple as making something transparent in the help menu, what it tells me to do doesn’t even work; I always get some kind of error. Am I the only one that thinks I should just be able to use a lasso tool and then be able to go into Layer and choose “Make Transparent” without having to do all the other crap like rasterizing and mastering and making blank layers or whatever it said to do? And then, my God, it took me longer to uninstall it than it did to install it [which took a half hour to begin with]. So, in a few words, I agree with you 100%.

  14. anna bannana Says:

    Well, I agree with you. Adobe destroyed a good suite of better made products, called Macromedia. They turned it into Photoshitomedia Adobocrapomedia Crap Crap Crap. If you wanna do some simple quick graphic in photoshop, you end up wasting all day, just cause you click click and just click useless menus to do a simple move. There can’t be associated, the word quick with adobe. Using adobe you lose the idea in desperate tries to search through menus and dumb useless layers. The worst applications, they destroy even the idea of art, before it begins :).

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