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Boost your Photoshop performance with proper preference settings

Added on Friday 27th of July 2007 02:21 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows



If your productivity comes to a screeching halt every time you wait for Photoshop to complete tasks and redraw images, or your creativity is limited due to hardware limitations like insufficient memory, it’s time to do something about it. We’ll show you what it takes to get Photoshop running at top speed.


To optimize performance in Photoshop, we’ll show you how to:

     Manage Photoshop’s RAM requirements to get the most out of every megabyte.

     Reconfigure certain features to reduce Photoshop’s demanding RAM requirements.

     Change default preferences that are slowing you and Photoshop down.



Although Photoshop is the top contender in the image-editing ring, it may not always perform to your expectations. But you can’t really expect any software to perform optimally straight out of the box. We’ll tell you what steps to take to optimize Photoshop’s performance … as well as your own.


Improve your memory

First and foremost is memory. Photoshop thrives on RAM (random access memory), so you have to make sure you have plenty of it. With computer configurations the way they are these days, adequate memory isn’t usually the cause for impeded performance in Photoshop. More likely, it’s the way in which you have the memory allocated.


Estimate RAM requirements

While the PC automatically handles memory allocation, you can modify a Mac’s. You can assign almost all of your available RAM to Photoshop if you want to (though we don’t recommend it, since your OS and other behind-the-scenes applications require RAM, too.)

The rule of thumb for RAM requirements in Photoshop CS and earlier is three to five times the size of the file you’re editing. This no longer holds true in CS2. Instead, you can use the states in your History palette to help you determine how much RAM you need to edit a document.


To estimate RAM requirements in CS2:

1.       Choose Window > History to display the History palette.

2.      Count how many history states there are where operations affect the entire image, such as a filter effect.

3.      Note the original document size (the first number) in the status bar at the bottom of your document window. If you don’t see this information, choose Show > Document Sizes, as shown in Figure A, from the pop-up menu on the status bar.

4.      Multiply the original document size by the number of history states you counted to get the approximate amount of RAM requirements for the image.




Keep an eye on efficiency

You can also watch the Efficiency indicator while you work in Photoshop to help you determine the amount of RAM an image needs.


To display the Efficiency indicator, do one of the following:

        Choose Show > Efficiency from the pop-up menu on the status bar, located at the bottom of your document window.

        Choose Window > Info (in Photoshop CS2 only) and then choose Palette Options from the Info palette’s pop-up menu. Select the Efficiency check box in the resulting dialog box and then click OK.

Keep an eye on the Efficiency indicator, as shown in Figure B. If efficiency dips below 95%, two things are happening. First, you aren’t working at peek performance. Second, Photoshop is using scratch disk space. We’ll deal with scratch disks in just a moment. The first thing you need to do is change your RAM allocation.





Allocate RAM

Once you know the RAM requirements of an image, you can let Photoshop know. Memory usage is controlled by preferences.


To set Memory Usage:

1.       Choose Photoshop > Preferences > Memory & Image Cache (Edit > Preferences > Memory & Image Cache in Windows).

2.      Enter the RAM requirements for the image that you estimated earlier in the Maximum Used By Photoshop text box.

As shown in Figure C, the default setting is 70% in CS2. On a system with 1225 MB of available RAM, that allocates 857 MB of RAM to Photoshop. If you need more RAM than what’s available, you’ll have to either install more or reallocate the RAM usage of other applications.




Cache out

While you’re on the Memory & Image Cache panel, you might as well adjust Cache Settings too. This preferences setting controls the rate of redraw for high-resolution images. The default setting in CS2 is 6. A Cache Level of...


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