The next generation of powerhouse app Photoshop, a basic part of many companies' marketing tool set, is now available in a free beta download. Adobe Systems announced that this "preview of what's to come" includes 60 percent more new features than the previous version.

This new Photoshop CS6 is expected to be released in the latter half of this year. Adobe vice president for products, Winston Hendrickson, said in a statement that CS6 "will be a milestone release that pushes the boundaries of imaging innovation with incredible speed and performance."

New Content-Aware Tools

The CS6 beta includes features from both Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended. For instance, new 3D editing features and quantitative imaging analysis, available in the beta, are part of CS6 Extended.

The first revision that veteran users will notice in the beta is a cleaned-up interface, with a repetitive toolbar removed and optional side panels added.

Among the new features are additions to the Content-Aware tools. The Content-Aware Patch, for instance, enables greater user control in selecting and duplicating an area of an image -- and, if one is so inclined, you can remove parts of a scene by realistically filling in the missing piece with the background.

The Content-Aware Move allows users to select and move an object in the image -- "magically," Adobe says -- to a new place, while still keeping the background. There's also a Content Aware auto correction, in which a variety of adjustments are automatically applied that depend on the image being corrected.

The performance has been increased via the Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine, which takes advantage of new system Relevant Products/Services graphic hardware to boost image processing. According to the company, some processes will now occur as much as 1,000 times faster. Processing occurs in background, so users can continue working while it occurs. Auto-save is implemented frequently, with 10 minutes set as a default.

Camera Raw, Video Editing

The Camera Raw functionality is updated, with revised sliders and everything set at a baseline of zero to start. Over 400 lens profiles are now supported.

The standard version of Photoshop now includes video editing, a functionality formerly available only in the Extended version. Video editing capabilities include the ability to use the app's still image adjustments for video, such as exposure or cropping modifications. Audio capability, as one might expect, is still fairly limited.

Photoshop is famous for its filters, and they have now been reduced to eight groups. A Blur Gallery allows one to create miniature objects or choose areas of focus.

A filter called Adaptive Wide Angle can correct a wide angle distortion, after the user inputs the lens focal length. Alternatively, a user could draw lines on top of objects that should be straight, and the feature will correct the shot.

Other new goodies include better vector and shape control, new airbrush tips, a range of controls for dotted and dashed lines, tweaks for layers, and a Typography workspace.