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Using the Photoshop Elements 9 Tools Panel

Photoshop Elements provides a good number of panels for different purposes. The one that you’ll use most often is the Tools panel. You typically first click a tool on the Tools panel and then use another panel for additional tool options or use the Options bar for fine-tuning your tool instruments. Clicking a tool on the Tools panel is often your first step in most editing operations.

Getting to know the Tools panel

By default, the Tools panel opens as a single row of tools down the left side of the Elements window. You can change the view to a double row of tools by clicking the right-pointing double chevron. Doing so shows all tools when you're working on smaller computer monitors.

You can also access tools in Elements by pressing shortcut keys on your keyboard. The following figure shows the Tools panel and the keystrokes needed to access the tools.

You access tools by clicking the tool on the Tools panel or typing a keyboard shortcut.
You access tools by clicking the tool on the Tools panel or typing a keyboard shortcut.

Notice on the Tools panel that several tools appear with a tiny arrowhead pointing right and downward in the lower-right corner of the tool. Whenever you see this arrowhead, remember that more tools are nested within that tool group. Click a tool with an arrowhead and hold down the mouse button, or for a faster response from Elements, just right-click a tool. The fly-out toolbar that opens offers you more tool selections within that group.

Click and hold the mouse button on a tool with a tiny arrowhead to open a pop-up toolbar.
Click and hold the mouse button on a tool with a tiny arrowhead to open a pop-up toolbar.

To select tools within a tool group by using keystrokes, hold down the Shift key and strike the respective shortcut key to access the tool. Keep the Shift key down and repeatedly press the shortcut key to step through all tools in a given group.

Whether you have to press the Shift key to select tools is controlled by a preference setting. To change the default setting so that you don’t have to press Shift, choose Edit→Preferences→General (Adobe Photoshop Elements 9→Preferences→General) or press Ctrl+K (cmd+K on the Mac).

The shortcuts work for you at all times except when you’re typing text with the cursor active inside a text block. Be certain to click the Tools panel to select a tool when you finish editing some text.

Selecting tool options from the Options bar

When you click a tool on the Tools panel, the Options bar offers you choices specific to the selected tool. The Options bar appears just below the menu bar. The figure below shows the options available on the Options bar when you select the Brush tool in the Tools panel.

The Options bar provides attribute choices for a tool selected on the Tools panel.
The Options bar provides attribute choices for a tool selected on the Tools panel.
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