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What a Pain

I thought I’d wrapped up all of my side jobs, but one came back to haunt me this week in the form of some changes that needed to be made to something I did a couple weeks ago. A whole lot of changes.

Actually, let’s just say that the client’s entire frigging site design is broken — and was from the get-go — and I must fix it. By the end of the week.

I’ve been trying to put in a couple hours on this job each evening this week, at least since Monday when I received the changes. I’ve made some progress, but not nearly as much as I expected given the nature of the changes. On any normal website, these tweaks — “fix gaps here,” “align these blocks there” — would have been fairly simple. But on this website, they’re not simple. Because the site was designed in ImageReady (yeah, that old Photoshop companion program before it was merged into Photoshop itself). And then cut up into ImageReady slices. And then saved automatically into HTML by ImageReady.

If you’re not a web designer, you won’t understand the significance of what I just said. Let me put it into layman’s terms: What I described was an old-fashioned way for inexperienced people to quickly throw a web page together. The problem was, the method resulted in a badly-coded web page that was assembled using the most inflexible HTML known to man, and which looked fine as long as you didn’t touch it, but which quickly went to hell in a handbasket once you started trying to fiddle around.

Worse, somebody started fiddling around before I was even brought on board with this project (yes, the design and its assembly have been done by someone else who remains unidentified). So what once probably looked like a very nice design on ImageReady’s canvas has already been rendered a jumbled, gap-filled mess. Now the client wants me to fix all these little things.

That’s hard enough on the face of it, but there are additional factors working against me, to wit:

  • I’m having to make all of my changes in a Remote Desktop session where I have access to only Notepad. (This is because the site has built-in ASP.NET dependencies that have stymied my efforts to get a local copy running on my machine.)
  • I don’t know what the original design looked like (in ImageReady) before it got sliced up, nor do I have access to the master files.

I’m rapidly discovering that this is going to take a lot more time than I’d hoped, to the point where I’ll likely need to spend Thursday and Friday evening, followed by all day Saturday, to meet the deadline. I am also starting to think that I should email the client tomorrow and let him know that the hours involved are going to result in what may be a bigger charge than he thought. This guy is usually very laid-back when it comes to money, however — being rather flush with it himself, as I understand — so that probably won’t be a concern, but I don’t want to drop a bomb on the guy.

Anyway, for tonight’s sidework extravaganza, I decided to do everything in Windows 7. My Vista installation is getting a bit long in the tooth and has really slowed down severely, to the point where it can be a huge pain in the ass just trying to get any work done. I think this is a combination of too much stuff installed (hey, I can collect a lot of useful software and utilities over a 2-year period) and too little RAM. I never thought I’d see the day when 2 GB just didn’t cut it anymore, but when you’re editing big Photoshop files with dozens of layers, it has a way of filling up all of the available RAM. It doesn’t help that literally half of the RAM is already gone just by the time Vista gets done starting up.

When my company gets the Windows 7 RTM delivered to our MSDN subscriber area next week, I’m going ahead with a clean format and a fresh installation of Windows 7 Ultimate. (I get it for free; might as well go with the top edition.) I’m also finally going to jump into the world of 64-bit operating systems — and on that same day I’m ordering another 4 gigs of RAM from Newegg. The goal is to have 6 GB available by the time I get done.

In the meantime, I’ve been using the latest Windows 7 beta build 7100 to test the “mission critical” software I need on a daily basis to make sure it works. So far I haven’t encountered any problems (fingers crossed). I decided to get the free trial version of Adobe’s new Photoshop CS4 while I was at it, since this is the first Photoshop that comes with a native 64-bit runtime. After using it for a couple hours tonight, I’ve decided that I don’t like it.

The biggest problem is the much-touted new “tabbed” interface. I guess Adobe thought that since tabs are all the rage in browsers right now, Photoshop needed tabs too. So now, when you open an image in CS4, it fills the entire canvas, displays smack dab in the center (no, you can’t move it around) and a tab bar is placed along the top of the screen. As you open more images, they replace the first one in the center of your screen, and a new tab is added to the bar. In other words, by default you can only see one image at a time.

This might make sense for somebody using a single 17″ monitor or something, but this is bollocks for us designers with multiple monitors who spread Photoshop across more than one screen. If you span Photoshop across two adjacent monitors, for example, the image will open right in the center — meaning, half of it on one monitor and half on the other! This is complete idiocy!

Fortunately, you can turn the tabbed interface off and go back to the old-fashioned way, which was to have floating windows that you could position anywhere on any of your screens. Unfortunately, the “disable tabs” preference only seems to apply to images opened via the File -> Open command. If you drag an image from Explorer onto Photoshop’s canvas — which is how I open images 80% of the time — they open in a tabbed fullscreen window — behind any image you already have open! My brain nearly exploded from the sheer stupidity of this when I saw it. There’s a workaround for this, too, but it involves dragging the image onto the toolbar across the top of the Photoshop window. That’s a pretty small target area to try to hit with a drag-n-drop when you’re in a hurry and not following the mouse cursor with your eyes.

Not only that, but I found other aspects of Photoshop CS4’s operation to be unreliable at best — things that Photoshop has done reliably and predictably for years now, if not decades. For example, when I use the keyboard zoom controls (Control+Minus and Control+Plus), I like the image window to resize automatically to match the visible dimensions of the image. This preference is still there in CS4, right where it’s always been, except now for some reason it doesn’t work sometimes. Tonight I loaded a group of small website images into Photoshop, and on some of them, the window would not resize when I zoomed in or out. On others, it would. What kind of logic governs this?

In the end, I decided I’m not going to bother upgrading from Photoshop CS3. I’ve probably gotten more comfortable with CS3 than any other version of Photoshop, to the point where I’m whipping stuff out on a daily basis and I’m no longer expecting (nor tolerating) the software to get in my way. Since Photoshop CS4 appears to offer nothing of great use to me (other than that 64-bit runtime) and a whole lot of frustration and head-scratching design decisions besides, there will be no upgrade for me. No way.

Decisions like this always scare me a little, because any time you say “Nope, I’m not upgrading because I don’t like the new way,” a voice in the back of your mind says “What if that new way is here to stay? What if that means you can never upgrade? And then what happens down the road when you can no longer use your old version for one technological reason or another?” It’s why I always try to make an effort to “get used” to new stuff when software I use gets revamped. But this time…eh, I have to work at too frenzied a pace to slow down and try to adapt to Adobe’s unconscionable choices.

Anyway, that’s about it for me tonight.

2 thoughts on “What a Pain

  1. Wow, that’s just…wow. My jaw dropped when I started reading about the ImageReady page, and then it kept dropping further…and further…the more I read. Hell, I think the crappy HTML editor Geo-Frickin’-Liberal-Cities used to give you probably would have been preferable…

    I mean, really, who uses ImageReady to build a web page? And to think, I used to hate Dreamweaver because it’d throw in all sorts of extraneous code (like completely unnecessary page breaks) everywhere, but that sounds like a dream compared to what you’re going through.

    And the new Photoshop sounds silly. Tabs? I mean, I know older versions had some tabs (like for brushes and what not), but they weren’t essential to the experience — you could still do everything how you wanted and ignore the tabs. I admit, though, I had to laugh a bit when I read about the single image split amongst your screens — it’s just so ludicrous. I guess nobody at Adobe uses mutilple monitors.

  2. Hee, ImageReady. Yeah, I was surprised when I saw that comment in the HTML (“Slices generated by ImageReady” or whatever it said), which is how I figured out how the site was built. This simultaneously explained why so many of the images included bits and pieces of the surrounding artwork, as if they had been sliced up unevenly. It turns out that’s exactly what happened.

    I think even semi-recent versions of Photoshop would still insert that ImageReady comment if you used the “Save for Web” feature to generate HTML, but I never do that so I’m not certain.

    Yeah, the new Photoshop is pretty silly. While searching the web for instructions on how to turn that tabbed stuff off, I found a bunch of other designers complaining about it on their blogs. I don’t know how Adobe QA tests software, but in my humble opinion I think they need more test cases. I remember they did something similarly cocked-up with Photoshop 6 — they actually changed the Control+H shortcut for toggling the “marching ants,” and there was such an uproar in the design community that they issued a 6.0.1 patch to put the shortcut back. I remember being so distraught by the removal of Control+H that I stuck with my old version until the patch came out.

    I’m hoping maybe Adobe will eventually patch Photoshop CS4 so that the “disabled tabs” preference is adhered to even when dragging and dropping, but the problems I mentioned are already occuring on patch release CS4 11.0.1…sooooo we may be waiting for CS5 on that one, and that’s a best-case scenario.

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