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Finding Your Way around Photoshop with the Navigator

Image files are getting bigger and bigger with the release of every new generation of digital cameras. Thankfully, the capacity of available compact flash cards and hard drives also continues to rise as does the processing speed of new computers. It can be challenging though to have a sense of perspective when zoomed in on a large image in Photoshop. Thankfully, Adobe provided the answer in the form of the Navigator.

Photoshop Navigator palette"Navigator" certainly sounds like a good name for a tool designed to find your way around an image, but it's surprising how many Photoshop users don't take full advantage of it. Sitting up there in the top right-hand corner of the Photoshop workspace, it's not just a thumbnail of your image. What makes it so useful is what that thumbnail will do.

The Navigator always shows the full image, but as you zoom in a red rectangle overlaid on that thumbnail indicates the portion that currently fits in the main image window. Even when you are zoomed in to 100% or above and all you can see is a couple of petals on one mountain wildflower the Navigator will let you know where in your overall image those petals are. Adobe calls this the "proxy preview area," but "red rectangle" is more descriptive as far as I'm concerned. If you do prefer a color other than red, click on the upper right corner of the Navigator palette to open the palette options and pick whatever color you prefer.

At the bottom of the Navigator palette is a scroll bar you can use to quickly zoom in and out as needed for fine detail work or more global edits. Yes, you can zoom in with the menu or the Control-+ and Control-— keyboard shortcuts, the Navigator slider can often prove more convenient since you likely have your hand on the mouse anyway. At either end of the zoom slider is a small triangle icon that will let you zoom in even increments. The one on the left will zoom out; the one on the right zooms in.

A text box to the left of the slider shows your current zoom level. If you are a keyboard aficionado, you can also change zoom level by typing a number in the box. You'll need to click your mouse outside the textbox when done though to let Photoshop know you're done typing.

And if you want to see some other petals or perhaps the hillside in the background you can move that red rectangle around the Navigator thumbnail and the main image window will scroll to match. You can also click with the mouse anywhere within the Navigator thumbnail to center the red rectangle (and of course the main image window) wherever you like. Sure beats relying on the scroll bars for moving around.

If you haven't yet explored the features of the Navigator, I urge you to give it a test drive.

Date posted: August 31, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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