AEC Tech News (#246)

18 Mar, 2009

First Look Review: Photoshop CS4

Depth, flexibility, and speed make this latest release
a powerful tool for design and engineering applications.

By Ron LaFon

Photoshop CS4 from Adobe Systems is a powerful image and photo editor. The toolsets it includes make it a valuable application for a remarkably broad range of professional endeavors, including CAD, DCC, and visualization projects. For this review, we had a look at Photoshop CS4 Extended, which offers numerous high-end capabilities for design professionals and the professional imaging communities.

A couple of recent changes affect all users who work with Photoshop CS4, so I'll have a quick look at those first. For users who keep bumping into the RAM ceiling imposed by 32-bit operating systems, Adobe Photoshop CS4 is now optimized to take advantage of more RAM on systems running Windows Vista x64. This is all included "in the box," so when you install the application on Vista x64 systems, two versions of Photoshop are installed -- one for 32-bit, the other for 64-bit. You'll probably need both versions because many third-party plug-ins will run only on the 32-bit version, although a few 64-bit plug-ins are starting to appear. The x64 version of Photoshop CS4 Extended is faster and smoother in operations on systems with more than 3 GB of RAM installed.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 now supports GPU OpenGL acceleration, which will be good news for CAD and DCC professionals. This means faster zooming, all the way down to the level of individual pixels, smooth navigation -- without lags -- around an image, and significantly faster painting and editing. With the Rotate Canvas tool, you can nondestructively spin your image to any desired orientation and Photoshop CS4 adjusts your selections, grids, rulers, and other tools to match your chosen orientation. NVIDIA produced a Quadro CX graphics card designed specifically for Photoshop; however, the NVIDIA FX line of graphics cards for design professionals works quite well also.

Images can be rotated and zoomed effortlessly in Photoshop CS4, thanks to integrated support for OpenGL, a capability that's readily available in most advanced CAD-targeted graphics cards.

Although we're generally accustomed to thinking of Adobe Photoshop as a 2D image-editing application, Photoshop CS3 expanded the application's 3D capabilities significantly. For the new Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended, Adobe has rebuilt the 3D engine from the ground up in order to provide much faster performance; allow editing of properties such as lights, materials, and cameras; and create more realistic renderings with its new high-quality ray tracer. Read more »

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Ron LaFon, a contributing expert for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor, and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.

AutoLISP: A Civil Designer's Helpmate

By Salvatore Napolitano

AutoLISP can assist civil designers in many ways. If you want to push your software beyond its limits, you should consider AutoLISP. With AutoLISP you can make unusable survey drawings workable in Civil 3D. You can extract elevation data from a plain AutoCAD profile. You can also query and label object data in plain AutoCAD. I've found AutoLISP to be invaluable for doing things that supposedly can't be done with out-of-the-box AutoCAD and Civil 3D.

Make Unusable Survey Drawings Workable in Civil 3D
Nothing is more frustrating than receiving hundreds of unusable points. You select points from a survey drawing for Civil 3D surface creation. At the select points prompt, Civil 3D will respond at the command line, "0 found"! The problem: The existing conditions plan has spot elevation points as custom blocks with attributes (case 1). The custom blocks are totally useless in Civil 3D. Without an existing surface, we can't do any of our proposed grading work.

I found AutoLISP to be a quick solution to this problem. The AutoLISP program I wrote prompts the user to select the blocks, and it will create AutoCAD points at the elevation given by the elevation attribute. Then one just needs to use Civil 3D to create Civil 3D points from the AutoCAD points. An alternate solution is to use attribute extraction to output elevation data as a text file. Then you simply import the point data from the text file to create Civil 3D points. Read more »   

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Residential Design and Construction 2009
April 1-2, 2009
Boston, Massachusetts
This year's event includes more than 220 exhibitors and design exhibits dedicated to providing the most up-to-date industry trends. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on


What’s New at

CAD Manager Survey Update, Part 2
Even when business is bad, take a proactive approach to make sure you're using your staffing and resources to their maximum potential. Read more »

Data-Exchange Tools Can Save Time, Money, and Headache
Understand why you need a multi-CAD interoperability solution and how to select the right one for your office. Read more »

Looking for "Hot Tip Harry?"

Hot Tip Harry's latest AutoCAD customization tips are now posted online at Cadalyst's CAD Tips site. Harry's posting tips all the time now, and you can find the latest ones by checking the Recently Posted list, along with the latest tips from Tips & Tools Weekly. You can also find out about the latest tips from Harry himself (aka Cadalyst's Bill Kramer) by hanging out on Harry's Tip Jar Discussion Forum. Look for the posts labeled "Hot Tips!" for regular updates.

Brand new, Cadalyst and Hot Tip Harry also introduce his new Programming Concepts Discussion Forum. Keep tabs and chime in to exchange AutoCAD programming expertise and advice.