Archive for March, 2007

Speeding up workflow with Photoshop Shortcut keys

Monday, March 12th, 2007

I’m working on speeding up my workflow in Photoshop CS2. 

There are two aspects that I think will help me most – mastering the shortcut keys and making more use of the functions on my Wacom graphics tablet (more on this here).

Shortcut Keys

There are literally hundreds of keyboard shortcut keys in Photoshop – far too many to list on a single page or any kind of handy reference.  It can seem pretty daunting then to begin investigating the keyboard shortcuts let alone remembering them!  One trip into the Photoshop shortcut keys help is enough to make you want to throw your keyboard through your screen!  The best way I’ve found is to start small and work up. These are some of the most common Photoshop shortcut keysand some of the most effective for speeding up workflow that I’ve found. 

The first ones to learn are the keys for the tools palette (and luckily these are easy to keep as a visual aid – to print out a copy simply right click on the image on the left and choose print image).  These have enabled me to speed up primarily because I can keep my left hand on the keyboard while I’m drawing with the right so I don’t need to lift the pen off the tablet in order to change tools or functions. So to go to the erase tool from the brush tool I just need to hit the E key.  To go back to the brush hit B

The shortcut key is the shortcut for the whole flyout, so hitting B would bring out whichever tool you currently have selected for the brushes flyout  which could be the pencil tool or the color replacement tool.
brushes flyout

[tag]Keyboard[/tag] [tag]Shortcuts[/tag] – Brushes
Photoshop toggle between foreground and background color

X toggles between the foreground and background colors. This one has speeded me up immensely!

Hitting D resets the foreground and background colors to black and white. Not one that I use often but still a lot quicker than using the eyedropper or the color swatches.

Photoshop CS2 Shortcut keys - precise cursor brush size cursorCaps lock is a quick way to toggle between the standard brush size pointer and the precise cursor.

Using the [ and ] keys to increase/decrease brush size are new to me and I’m finding them very quick indeed. Much quicker than right clicking to bring up the brush size/hardness menu in fact!  To change the hardness of the brush hold down the shift key while hitting [ or ] (this goes up/down in 24% jumps so for more precise hardness control you’ll still need to use the right click.)

Layer shortcuts

If you look in the help for keyboard shortcuts you’ll find a LOT listed for the layers pallette, these are the ones that I use most often.

Photoshop create a group

To quickly select the top layer hit Alt and . (period) and to quickly select the bottom (or background) layer hit Alt and , (comma)

Holding down Alt with the  [ and ] keys will cycle up/down through the layers.

Holding down Control with the  [ and ] keys moves the selected layer up or down through the layers stack.

An easy way to quickly group layers (see image at left) is by selecting several layers (by holding down shift and clicking) and hitting Control G. This is much faster than creating a group and then dragging the layers into it.  (If you want to group layers that aren’t sequential in the layers palette hold down control while selecting them. But remember once they’re grouped their layer order will change.) 

To select all layers hold down control and alt and hit A.

More useful [tag]Keys[/tag]

Other keys that I use regularly include Control D for deselect, for use after, for example, selecting with the lasso tool (these are shortcuts for the PC not the Mac! sorry!)  and contol Z to undo

The tab key is a handy [tag]shortcut[/tag] to get rid of all the pallettes to view the artwork with nothing in the way (press tab again to get them back).

Enter is useful for confirming operations such as cropping or transforming. (Escape is a quick way to cancel.)


There are hundreds more shortcut [tag]tips[/tag] that I could include here. I’ve only tried to include ones that I personally remember to use and that I’ve found have speeded me up.  If you have useful ones that have helped you please comment below!

I can also say that switching to using [tag]Photoshop[/tag] keyboard shortcuts has health benefits too.  If I’ve nothing to do with my left hand I usually find myself sitting on it or it’s tucked in behind my back – not good for posture OR for circulation.  Using keyboard shortcuts keeps my left hand engaged and active, and that means that I sit up straighter.  I think it keeps my brain working too which is useful when I sometimes need to spend hours at a time drawing, designing or editing photos. 

DST starts early!

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Remember that DST (Daylight Saving Time) is early this year in the US and some provinces of Canada thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  This means that we spring forward on the second Sunday in March and fall back the first Sunday in November instead of the usual slots of the first Sunday in April and and the last Sunday of October.   

Now, remember Y2K?  Well, this change is being called Y2K6 and there are a lot of people who are seriously concerned that this is going to cause computers, software and other hardware that relies on storing accurate time a lot of grief. 

Windows users need to make sure that they have applied patches.  If you run Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 then last month’s Patch Tuesday downloads should have bought the updates to your PC (if you have Windows Updates disabled then you need to make sure that you download these before Sunday).  Same goes for apps like Microsoft Outlook (the best place to download these is from Microsoft Update). 

Remember though that it’s not just Microsoft software that’s affected.  Any other software that relies on having an accurate time should be checked or needs updating.  Things that don’t update automatically will need to be adjusted manually and things that can’t cope with the early DST change, well, hopefully you can disable automatic DST detection and change the time manually.

If you are worried about problems or downsides come Monday 12th, I suggest that you spend the next couple of days checking and testing and that you have some contingency plans in place for Monday morning!

Remember, if an F-22 Raptor crossing the International Date Line can have computer troubles, so can your PC!!!!

MSN Music: Find Album Info – Lose License!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

MSN music Paste Art HereThis morning sitting in my PJs listening to some tunes, when I noticed a track in [TAG]Windows Media Player 11[/TAG] wasn’t showing a picture of the album cover.  So I idly clicked ‘Update Album Info’ thinking that it would go off and find the Art.  Was I wrong!

In fact what it did was change the details of the track entirely.  It’s the same file but the Album Name/Artist Name/Track Name are all completely different.   What the?

What’s more the original album information no longer seems to be in the Windows Media Guide database (from so I can’t select the correct album, even though I originally downloaded the tracks from [TAG]MSN Music[/TAG] – they seem to be two separate databases. 

So I will need to type in the name details manually – but what were they? I can’t remember. No problem, thinks I, playing a track will remind me what it was and I can go search for the details on the web.

MSN Music - you don't have the rights to play this file

The problem comes when Windows Media Player tells me that I don’t have the rights to play this file now.  So I plug in my password and it goes off in search of a license key …

MSN Music - The media player cannot find a valid license to play this song

And here’s the kicker, despite having the right logon on and password for the site, I now don’t have a valid license for this song.  Well of course I don’t have a license for this song – I’d never heard of it until a few minutes ago!  It isn’t my song! My song hasn’t got the name it’s supposed to have!!!

So allow Windows Media Player to update you info at your peril – you may lose your license key in the process!

I’ve warned you, if no one else has!! 

I am surprised by this – I wouldn’t have thought even manually editing the extended track info (ID tag) would affect the license.(More testing needed!) So perhaps the more automatic ‘Update Album Info’ works deeper than that… I will do some more research to try and find out.  It’s hard to test because it’s hard to find tracks that don’t appear in the Media Guide Database (or appear incorrectly) and also I don’t want to completely trash my music library! But if it does turn out that this can happen across the board, I’m much more concerned about the possible effects on my non-MSN Music downloads because they are much harder to recover/download again.

So in the meantime I won’t be allowing Windows Media Player to update album info because I have a few CDs with no burn rights that can’t be recovered because the download Company has gone bust. 

DRM stinks – and once again I wish I’d bought the album from Amazon rather than downloading music. 

Buying music online is like getting a tattoo – you don’t just regret it once, you keep on regretting it – forever!


At this point the only solution I have is to download that album again.  Which, true to form, is refusing to download right now. 
MSN Music - there was a problem with the download - would you like to retry or cancel the download

I’ll try again later but I don’t hold out much hope.  I’ve got a few tracks that permanently suffer problems downloading and once it has happened, despite a lot of searching and emails back and forth, I haven’t found a method to get it to successfully download that track.  The only solution I’ve found is to download the file on a different PC, burn it to a CD and then rip it, which is sailing close to piracy particularly with the [TAG]DRM[/TAG] rights conferred on some tracks (always check the rights before you buy!)

Anyway I’ll keep searching on this one too.  (If anyone has any ideas let me know!)



Urgent WordPress Upgrade – 2.1.2

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

Wow, I got a scary message when I logged in to the dashboard of one of my blogs tonight to say that the upgrade to WordPress 2.1.1 that I downloaded a couple of days ago had been compromised – before it left the download site –  because the WordPress download server had been [tag]hacked[/tag] into!  Yikes!

My first thought was Nooooooo! Not another [tag]upgrade[/tag]!! as I haven’t finished preping the 2.1.0 files ready for upgrading all the WordPress installations that I’m responsible for.  2.1.1 interrupted my progress this week so I downloaded that and started work.  Now this. Thankfully I hadn’t completed the roll out so only had to do my development platforms. But it sounds like a biggie – if you haven’t upgraded to 2.1.2 yet you’ll need to do that ASAP.

PS. If you’re still on 2.0.6 you should be unaffected.

A big thank you from me to all at [tag]Wordpress[/tag] who have worked through the night to fix this!

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