How to Handle Performance Options in Photoshop CS6

Everything you will need to specify Photoshop CS6’s performance, from power settings to memory usage, can be found in the Preferences pane. Here are the options:

  • Memory Usage: Memory is so inexpensive right now that you have no excuse for not having a minimum of 2 gigabytes of RAM (random-access memory). More is even better if you’re using an operating system that can handle extra memory efficiently. Version CS6 runs at its best with at least 2 gigabytes of RAM.

    When you cram your RAM, you want to make sure Photoshop can use as much as you can spare. You can use the Memory Usage slider to allocate your memory. Use a value of 50 to 80 percent, depending on how much memory you have to spare.

    Allocating more to Photoshop reduces the RAM for other applications, so if you have other programs that need a lot of memory, select a prudent value.

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  • History & Cache: Photoshop remembers how your document looks at various stages of editing, storing all the image information on your hard drive and listing the individual states in the History panel.

    Keeping track of every change you make requires a lot of memory and hard drive space, so you can specify how many resources to use by typing a value into this box. The default is 20. (The max is 1000.)

    You can set aside the amount of memory for storing screen images in the Cache Levels setting, to speed up redraws of a reduced-view image on your screen while you make changes.

    There is also a way to make it easier to decide the number of cache levels. You can use Tall and Thin (2 cache levels) if you have a smaller file with lots of layers. You can choose Big and Flat (5 cache levels) if your file is bigger with fewer layers.

    In addition, you are able to specify the Cache Tile Size, which determines the amount of data Photoshop processes at one time. Bigger tiles can result in faster processing of larger files. Smaller tiles may be better for smaller files with more layers.

  • Scratch Disks: Scratch disks are areas on your hard drive that Photoshop uses to substitute for physical RAM when you don’t have enough RAM to work with the images you open. Scratch disks are no replacement for physical memory, but Photoshop needs scratch disks many times, even if you have huge amounts of memory.

    Photoshop uses your startup drive (the drive used to boot your operating system) as its first scratch disk by default. That may not be the best choice because your startup drive is usually pretty busy handling requests of your operating system. If you have more than one hard drive, select one other than your startup drive as your first scratch disk.

    If you don’t have a second hard drive, you can improve scratch disk performance by creating a partition on an existing drive for use as a scratch disk. Remember to keep the scratch disk defragmented (that is, with the files all organized together on your hard drive) by using your favorite defragmentation utility.

  • Graphics Processor Settings: Photoshop attempts to auto-detect your video card and lists the make and model, if Graphics Processor is checked. Click Advanced Settings. Select your desired drawing mode from Basic (least amount of processing) to Normal to Advanced (most processing). If Photoshop isn’t running smoothly, switching drawing modes may help.

    If Photoshop couldn’t detect your Processor, but you have one, select the Use Graphics Processor to Accelerate Computations. Select Use OpenGL to enhance the performance of your graphics display and speed up your screen redraw.

    If some of your tool cursors don’t appear while you edit an image, try deselecting this option to see whether it fixes the problem. You must select this option to enable viewing options, such as flick panning, animated zooms, and the Rotate View tool. If your guidelines, gridlines, and paths appear too heavy, uncheck this option.

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