With the release of Photoshop 22.3.0 in March 2021, users of Mac computers with the M1 chip now have an ARM-based version of Photoshop that runs natively on the new chip. Adobe claims increased speed for this version of Photoshop, and from watching it perform via internet screen-sharing, it does appear to be noticeably faster.
This new ARM-based version of Photoshop only supports Photoshop extensions (now called “plugins” by Adobe) that use Adobe’s UXP plugin architecture. The older CEP architecture is still supported if Photoshop is run in Intel emulation mode, i.e. Rosetta, but this sacrifices the optimization and speed Adobe has developed for the M1 chip.
The current TK7 panel was developed using the older CEP architecture since that was all that was available at the time. However, I started UXP coding in July 2020, and the TK Lum-Mask plugin released last October used it. Based on what I learned developing that plugin, I planned to convert TK7 to the UXP format also. However, once I started this process, I knew that simply recreating TK7 using the new UXP architecture wasn’t going to cut it. UXP lets me do new things, so why not push further? And so, the idea for TK8 quickly came into focus. The general layout of TK7 would be maintained in TK8 to make the transition as easy as possible, but there would be new functions, new actions, new masks, bigger buttons, better options, and faster response. TK7 would be a conceptual foundation, but TK8 would be a next-generation plugin, better than anything that came before.
Months into the process, TK8 is on target to live up to expectations. I’m really excited by it and hope to have it available later this year. However, ARM-based Photoshop is here now, and Mac M1 users need a plugin that utilizes the new UXP architecture now. So, TK8-beta is being released now to accommodate them. It has almost all the functions of the current TK7 panel plus a few of the new features planned for TK8. And, while the Mac M1 is the main reason for releasing TK8-beta at this time, the new plugin also works on all computers running Photoshop 2021. Intel-based Mac and Windows computers can install TK8-beta the same as M1 Macs. So even if you don’t have a Mac M1 computer, you can still try out TK8 to see where things are headed. Both TK7 and TK8-beta can be installed simultaneously, so you can choose which you’d like to use.
New features available in TK8-beta compared to TK7 include:
- Optional “always on” tooltips
- Cleaner user interface with bigger buttons
- Expanded web-sharpening options
- Improved Layer Mask mode to allow rapidly trying different luminosity masks as layer masks
- New method for adding user actions
- Ability to add unlimited user actions to the Combo and Cx modules
- More obvious selection indicators
- New mask modification options
However, this is a beta version of TK8. It’s is still being developed and Adobe is also still developing the UXP architecture as well. So, while I see the potential of TK8, I’m also aware of some limitations.
- No written instruction manual or video documentation. There are extensive tooltips coded into all buttons and sliders and much of the TK7 literature applies equally well to TK8-beta, but there is no definitive resource that covers the different elements and how they work.
- English-only. Multiple languages are once again planned from the product version of TK8, but translation happens near the end of the development process and will be added later.
- All UXP plugins have a “focus” issue as discussed on this thread. They steal focus from Photoshop so that keyboard shortcuts don’t always work after clicking on a UXP plugin. This is an issue Adobe is aware of and plans to fix, but it can be annoying. NOTE: Clicking on the Options bar restores focus to Photoshop.
- Can’t rule out bugs. While I’ve been testing TK8 extensively, it’s all new code, which means there’s the possibility I’ve missed something. However, releasing an early beta version means that anyone using the plugin can contribute to making it better. Simply contact me if you find something that doesn’t work or could be improved.
TK8-beta is free for all customers who have previously downloaded TK7 version 2. The download server has already sent an email with the necessary files. Check your email (including the junk/spam folder) if you already have TK7 version 2 that was released in July 2020. Additionally, TK8-beta is now included in the download folder for TK7. So you can also use your original “TK7 (updated)” download link to get a new download folder that contains the installer for TK8-beta.
TK8-beta will give you an idea of what to expect when the product version is available later in 2021. It’s continuing to evolve and already has several new features beyond what’s included in this beta version. I hope you’ll give it a try and provide feedback on any problems encountered or additional features that would be useful.