Ok, CS4 is now released and available, so I thought I'd write a little about what I like and don't like about it.  I've been using it over CS3 for about 4 months now in beta form, and it had (as most beta software does) a few rough edges until the last few builds.

Let's start with things I like:

- GUI is now rendered by your video card, so zooming includes a zoom animation, and odd percentages look smooth.  For example, in the past if you were zoomed to 33% there was a roughness to the image which made it pretty useless to tell what you were editing. You were kind of forced to go to 25% or 50%. Now it's all anti-aliased and smooth as glass.

- I haven't gotten into using it yet, but there is a new rotate view function (related to the GUI stuff above) where you can rotate the image while your editing just like you can a piece of paper on your desk.  It's not rotating pixels in the file, just your view of it on the screen. I can imagine this one being very big for illustrators who are used to drawing in the real world.

- Adjustment layer palette. I use adjustment layers constantly, sometimes 20 to an image. Want to burn parts of the image?  Create a curves adjustment layer, make it darker, set the blending mode to multiply, fill the mask with black and then paint with white.  That way you can always go back and edit the mask, or pull the opacity of the whole layer down to soften the effect, etc.
Well in CS4 instead of double clicking to open up the adjustment dialog, there is a palette (I keep it right above layers) which changes depending on which layer you've got active. Click on a curves AL and it shows that curve panel, click on a hue/saturation, and that's what you see. Much less modal and always right there where you can see the curve and histogram of the masked area.

- Which brings me to one of my favorites.  Vibrance adjustment layer.  Anyone who's used Lightroom has probably played with this effect.  Basically a smarter version of saturation that's much more smooth and natural. Won't let separate channels to get blown out.  Very good for controlling skin color that gets out of control when you're adding a bunch of contrast.  Or maybe that's just me adding a bunch of contrast.

- Oh and I like that it's 64bit on Vista x64 which I use.  Not sure that I can tell a tangible difference (I haven't tried 32bit since I moved to 21MP files) but I like the idea that Photoshop can use more than 4GB of my RAM.  Though the downside of this is that 32 bit plug-ins don't work, so I've got to open my stuff in CS3 to use Exposure.  And if I've got any of those Vibrance layers, it makes a mess going backward.

Now the things I'm not happy with:

- Well, it's bigger than CS3, but every new version of software is bigger. More features, more bloat, but that's why we buy faster computers.  What's the point in having the horsepower if you're not going to use it?

- Honestly that's about it for the negatives.  I'm sure there are other things I'll think of while going to sleep, but it's been stable and the additions are already so part of my workflow that I can't go back very easily.  It's crazy how fast that happens.