The Incredible Collapsing Tool Palette
Photoshop CS3 introduced users to a significantly revamped user interface. Some of the innovations Adobe made I like, other ... not so much. But I must say, I really like what they've done to the tool palette.
It's always been there, sitting on the right-hand side of your screen when using Photoshop. The tool palette gave you easy access to the Layers and Channels in your document along with many of the most used controls. With the addition of new tools in each release though, it's gotten hard to fit everything you want. It long ago became impossible to fit everything in a single column, with Info, Navigation and the Histogram at the top, and everything else underneath. Often, I found myself opening History, Actions, perhaps Character and Paragraph depending on the project, and there just wasn't room for everything. So they started encroaching further into the document window, or I was forced to use the Window menu to open and close the ones I didn't need all the time.
When it got affordable enough to add a second monitor to my main desktop system, I rejoiced as this gave me room to finally keep everything open, all the time. One monitor for the images I was working on, and a second for all those tools. But I have Photoshop on my laptop as well, and even a wide screen display didn't really give me the space I needed, so I've had to resort to opening and closing tool controls, much as I once did on my desktop.
But now Adobe has provided me and others like me a solution, and it's a great one. With the changes to the user interface in Photoshop CS3, the tool palette is still there, but it's got a whole new bag of tricks up its sleeve. If it had sleeves, that is. OK, not the best metaphor, but you get my point.
The default arrangement gives you access to the most common tools in the standard column layout, but sticking out from the upper left-hand edge is a row of buttons that give you easy access to everything else. Click on a button and the corresponding tool flies out so you can get at its controls. Click on a different button and the first tool puts itself away and the second one flies out in its place. Don't need any of these tools? Easy: just click on the button a second time for the tool you are using and away it goes without opening something else. They've given us one-click access to everything, and those clicks are in the same part of the screen you need to go to anyway rather than making you reach back and forth to the menus, then the tool palette, back and forth, back and forth.
And if really want to free up some space, you can click on the small triangle in the very upper right of the palette (or really anywhere on the top bar containing it) and collapse everything down in a very elegant way. Everything is still there, but collapsed to just a collection of buttons. This is a godsend for laptop users. Or if you want to expand everything, click on the small triangle in the very upper left of the palette. From either mode, click on the same triangle a second time to return to the normal layout.
If you really want to, you can click on the left-hand arrow to expand the tools on that side, and then click on the right-hand arrow to collapse the normal tools on that side. Each arrow expands or collapses the tools on that side of the palette.
The collapsing tool palette was added to the entire CS3 suite — a wonderful usability enhancement.