Photoshop CS6 vs Photoshop CC for UI Design - the Path Selection and Direct Selection tools

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I’d like to provide some feedback from my perspective as a UX/UI designer of web and mobile apps. My feedback revolves exclusively around the Path Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool in Photoshop CS6 vs Photoshop CC.

When PCC came out, I was excited to install it. However, my excitement quickly turned sour when I used the Path Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool. These tools, up through CS6, have worked the same for me since I can remember. After years of using these tools to manipulate and edit vector elements in Photoshop, during which time I’ve become incredibly fast a fluid in using them, the mechanics of these two critical UI tools suddenly worked in a completely different way in PCC, and without any warning.

This led me to immediately uninstall PCC and revert back to CS6, as PCC was completely destructive to my workflow and agility within the Photoshop environment. I’ve built up my agility with these tools over years and found the changes to them completely obtuse and highly frustrating. As a UI designer, I need to be able to keep either of these tools focused on a single element at a time, and in PCC these tools select any anchor point on any vector element in the selection area created by these tools. This also has the very negative side effect of blasting open the folder structure in my layers palette, which destroys my sense of place. I typically only keep open folders related to portions of a design that I’m working on in that moment, which helps me to focus my attention on the right elements. I’m not simply a layer mayor, I’m a layer king and a pixel perfectionist, and I keep my ongoing work environment in Photoshop incredibly tidy at all times. A huge advantage of CS6, given that the Path Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool easily work on a single vector element/layer at at time, is that my ongoing design environment, aka the layers palette, remains stable and tidy. This isn’t possible in PCC anymore, and it’s terrible. The changes to these two tools creates incredible time delays and slows down a pace I’ve built up to over years of working with them in Photoshop, and makes PCC an unacceptable choice for UI design. I can’t take the time these tools now require to ensure I don’t select anchor points on an element I’m not trying to work on, nor can I take the time to constantly re-tidy my layers palette so I don’t loose my sense of place, and therefore my sanity, while I work.

To put it in persepctive, I uninstalled PCC after only a few minutes of use and immediately reinstalled CS6. I’ve clocked so many hours mastering vector element manipulation in Photoshop over the years, that I would be starting at a deficit if I switched to Sketch3, even though Sketch3 is “easy to use”. I use these two tools 90% of the time I’ve got a UI PSD open. My art form of UI design is completely contingent upon them working as they have for years. Any other type of advancement in PCC is meaningless to me if the two tools I use 90% of the time I’m designing gorgeously intricate UIs across dozens of layer comps don’t work the way my brain and hands expect them to work. These tools are engrained in my subconscious and if I’m going to stay loyal to Photoshop for the rest of my career, I need the Path Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool in PCC to work exactly as they have for years, which is how they thankfully still work in CS6. To make an analogy, PCC for UI design is like a car that goes in reverse when the gear shift is in Drive, and conversely goes forward when the gear shift is in Reverse. And within the span of less than 5 minutes, this warped reversal of mechanical use caused nothing but accidents in my work files, which led to me uninstalling it and labeling it unfit for use.

I’m not sure what led to the severe change in how these two tools work, but I will only use PCC if they are returned to their former method of performance. If I need to buy a physical copy of Photoshop CS6 so that I can at least buy myself a few more years of forward compatibility to compliment my working sanity while I master Sketch3, I will do that. But I’d love to just keep using Photoshop for UI design, as it works so fluidly not just with Illustrator vector elements, but also with CSS Hat and Ferry Exporter, all of which empower fluid workflows for developers who use my phenomenally exquisite PSDs. Every single layer is cleanly and semantically named in HTML conventions, so my devs can easily find their way around them for CSS Hat purposes, and I can thus use Ferry Exporter to spit out perfectly named PNGs and XML to hand over to a mobile developer. So literally my entire set of professional of workflows goes out the window due to the drastic changes made to these two tools. It’s a sad shame, and I hope I don’t have to figure out how to climb this mountain all over again with Sketch3.
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Joshua Mikael

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Posted 4 years ago

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Mike Shaw, Employee

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The behavior that you describe was changed in later updates to Photoshop CC. The Path Selection tools have an setting on the Option bar to set selection to only the Active layers, or All layers.

Photoshop CC 2014 has some new features for designers-
http://blogs.adobe.com/photoshopdotco...
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Joshua Mikael

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Mike,

Thanks for the tip. I just downloaded PCC2014 and this feature is a step in the right direction. One aspect of the PCS6 workflow that is still missing from PCC2014 is that with the Path Selection and Direct Selection tools, you can easily click from one element/layer to another without having to manually select another layer in the layers palette first. This is super handy and affords agility for UI design because it reduces clicks and shortcut key presses. While I know a shortcut that can help with this, which is press V for the Move tool and then press Control+Option and click on the element on the canvas that you want to have selected in the layers palette, just being able to keep the Path Selection or Direct Selection tool active and click on another element on the canvas to have access to that element's anchor points is far more fluid. If Adobe can bring that back, I might continue to use PCC2014. My aim here is to share with Adobe, and UI designers who are loyal to Photoshop, just how few clicks and key presses are required in PCS6 to hammer out UI designs. The sum of these physical actions directly correlates to how quickly I can complete designs. I highly recommend adding back in this additional layer of convenience of being able to keep the Path Selection or Direct Selection tool active and just click another vector element on the canvas to immediately edit that element's anchor points. If it gets added back in, please drop me a note here in the thread.

Best,

Josh
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Mike Shaw, Employee

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Thanks for the response. I will add a feature request for the desired behavior.

I'm sure you know about this, but if you enable auto select on the move tool you can just press v and click on the next element and the direct selection tool will be still selected on release of the v key to continue work on the newly selected layer.
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Joshua Mikael

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I did not know this, but thanks for the tip. That's getting much closer, but still requires a key press. However, at first blush it seems fluid enough that I'll test out PCC2014 a bit more to see if I can roll with that minor difference.

Thanks for jumping on and offering your insight!
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scamper

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Here’s why the two new selection modes don’t work:

Active Layers - I can no longer freely select any visible shape. Instead I’m forced to make a time-consuming roundabout to the layer palette, where I have to squint to find my shape layer, and activate it manually before continuing. (Hitting “V” to select a layer, then “A” to get back to the D.S. Tool is nearly as cumbersome. Plus, I leave off the Move Tool's auto-select mode.)

All Layers - Treats all my shapes as if they’re on one layer. Overlapping shapes are therefore impossible to work with -- mainly drag-selecting and deselecting points -- in situ.

The suggestions above are workarounds that add cumbersome steps to what was recently a straightforward, intuitive operation.

We either need a “legacy” setting, or some way to constrain selection on drag, via a key modifier or something. This “all or nothing" thing doesn’t work for me... and I’m only glad I’m not alone.
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scamper

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One workaround I’ve just implemented:

- put the Direct Selection Tool on All Layers, since that’s the closest thing to the old behavior
- give the Select > Isolate Layers item a keyboard shortcut

After clicking on any visible shape, use your new shortcut to isolate the currently active layer (though everything looks exactly the same, and isn’t screened out like in Illustrator, thankfully). You can then select and drag with abandon, without fear of selecting other layers. Then use your key command again to exit isolation mode.

This workaround still necessitates two needless steps (argh, Adobe!), but if it preserves your sanity at all...