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By Colleen Wheeler |

Photoshop CS6: Free beta. Free training. Free insights from our resident experts

Today, Adobe made a beta version of Photoshop CS6 available to everyone, providing an opportunity for you to download and check out the new version of the application for free. The CS6 version of Photoshop includes mammoth updates to the program, and to make sure you get the most from your free test-drive, lynda.com has made our new Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course, authored by Deke McClelland,  completely free to everyone today as well.

Photoshop is used for a myriad of creative endeavors, whether it be editing, manipulating, enhancing, or even creating images from scratch. This Photoshop update has something for everyone from photographers, to print, web, and interaction designers, to video and 3D artists. The list of new features is impressive, bordering on overwhelming. Which new feature will be the most significant for you? Depends on your point of view. To help you decide where to look first during this free trial period, I quizzed some of the lynda.com resident Photoshop experts for their initial reactions:

Justin Seeley, lynda.com staff author: “My favorite new feature is the auto-saving. Photoshop CS6 automatically saves a temporary file as you work, so that if the program crashes, you can recover easily. This will be killer for new and old users alike. I’m always flooded with emails from people asking if I know any magic trick to recover unsaved work they’ve lost in a power outage or software crash. Now they don’t have to endure that!”

Michael Ninness, lynda.com VP of Product and Content, and veteran lynda.com author: “I’d say I am most interested in all the changes they’ve made to the Shape tools attempting to provide a real object-based design metaphor.”

If you’d like to see what Michael is talking about in action, check out this video:

Nigel French, author of the lynda.com Photoshop for Designers series: “Loving the new Camera RAW process. The new sliders make more sense and the results are discernibly better than previous versions. The improvements to the Graduated Filter are especially welcomed.”

James Fritz, content manager for the Design segment at lynda.com:  “As a designer, I am happy to see that with the release of Photoshop CS6 graphic designers are finally getting some love. With the addition of new vector layers and layer filtering, comping up web sites, posters, and other complicated designs is easier than ever. As usually is the case, the little ‘just do it’ updates have my favorite new feature—the ability to insert Lorum Ipsum text.”

Deke McClelland, lynda.com author of the free Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course and Photoshop One-on-One series: “Content-Aware Move, which allows you to select an object in your image and move it somewhere else while filling in the old background works extremely well. You’ll still need to have the refinement features at the ready, but Content-Aware Move gets you most of the way there.”

Chris Orwig, lynda.com author of the Photoshop for Photographers series: “I’m concentrating on the features that are particularly useful for photographers, namely the Lighting Effects Gallery, the redefined Crop tool, the Blur gallery, the redesigned Print dialog box, and the improvements to Adobe Camera Raw.”

Ben Long, author of the lynda.com Foundations of Photography series: “The Blur Gallery is cool. In general, if I want shallow depth of field (one of the things the Blur Gallery lets you simulate) I prefer to get it by using a fast lens and a wide aperture. But if I don’t have a fast lens with me—or if decide that I’d like a shot to have shallower depth of field than what I originally captured—it’s nice to have the option. I’ve also found that the Blur Gallery delivers better results than third-party plug-ins that provide similar features.”

Jim Heid, content manager for the lynda.com Photography segment: “It isn’t as glitzy as the Blur Gallery, but Photoshop CS6′s revamped Crop tool is one of those improvements that will make my photographic life better. One Crop tool enhancement in particular stands out: the tool is non-destructive. If you change your mind about a crop after you’ve been working on an image, just activate the Crop tool again and recrop. Unlike previous Photoshop versions, CS6 doesn’t discard pixels that you cropped out. It’s a bit more analogous to how cropping works in Lightroom, and it gives you more freedom to experiment.”

Here’s a video look at the new improved Crop tool from the Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course:

Not surprisingly the new dark interface that you saw in the first video is the most obvious change and the one mentioned most often by our esteemed panel. By default Photoshop CS6 will use a dark gray interface, providing a vastly different look from previous versions. You can of course change back to a more familiar lighter interface by resetting the preferences, as Nigel did: “The first thing I did when I got the beta was make the interface look like what I was used to. But upon reflection, and with some time to get acclimatized, I like the new, lean, mean dark interface.” Deke, who has been using the light interface for over 20 years notes, “Surprisingly, I’m finding the dark interface my preference. It’s much less distracting, and lets me focus on just the image at hand.”

If your interest in the new Photoshop is piqued, you can download the beta for free from Adobe and pair it up with our free Photoshop CS6 Beta Preview course. For further exploration, in the coming months, lynda.com will also be creating new courses that provide in-depth, specific information on Photoshop CS6, from a variety of perspectives.

Let us know in the comment section here what you think of the new Photoshop CS6 beta, and what Photoshop CS6 features you are most interested in learning about in greater depth.

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