One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Adobe Bridge CS4 is, “What happened to Contact Sheets?” They are no longer available as a script, although the Contact Sheet II, Picture Package, and other “missing” scripts are still available for download (Mac). In fact, if you ordered Photoshop CS4 in the box, you’ll find this and other scripts in the “Goodies” folder on the Content disk.
However, the reason these scripts aren’t installed by default, is that they’ve largely been replaced by Bridge’s new Output work space. With this work space, the Bridge developers have taken a hint from Lightroom’s Output Module, and have created an experience that, well, heads in that direction. As you’ll see, there is still room for improvement; but give the new work space a chance – it is certainly an improvement over the CS3 scripts, and I’m sure you’ll see many ways that it will help make you more productive.
Let’s start in Bridge’s default “Essentials” workspace, and select a group of photos that need to be printed or saved in a contact sheet. Then, from the work space drop down menu, choose “Output:”
This changes Bridge’s panel configuration, and reveals the “Output” panel, which is not visible in any other workspace. We’ll take some time walking through the Output panel, as it has quite a range of sections and features.
Starting at the top, you have two large buttons, allowing you to select from either “PDF” or “Wed Gallery.” We’ll start with the “PDF” selection. Pull down the menu and you can see the range of preset configurations – in this case, we’ll choose 5×8 Contact Sheet.
OK, nothing happened. Nice, huh?
Well, that’s what the next button down, “Refresh Preview,” is for. Click that, and Bridge churns through your files, generating thumbnails and creating a PDF mockup, which it then presents in a new panel called “Output Preview:”
At this point, we can work our way down the panel on the right, changing the configuration of the contact sheet. If you clicked “refresh” a minute ago, and sat there waiting for Bridge to do its thing, you’ll realize that the workflow here involves making your settings in the output panel, then clicking refresh to see the changes. There is no live dynamic preview.
We start with the “Document” tab:
Very basic, you can choose your paper size, including landscape or portrait, or even popular web sizes for your output. One interesting feature here is that you can actually specify a password to open the final PDF, and you can set Acrobat options to disable printing. Be aware that these security settings are honored by Adobe Acrobat, but may be circumvented by other third party PDF readers.
The next tab is the “Layout” tab:
As you can see, this is where we take the basic parameters from the document tab, and go wild. Create rows and columns, spacing and margins to your heart’s content. You can auto-rotate images for best fit, and there is a checkbox to restrict one photo to a page.
Sidebar discussion – the “Repeat one photo per page” would be really really useful if you could create multiple size thumbnails – a’la Picture Package, for example 1-5×7, 2-3×5 – but unfortunately this is not available at all within Bridge. Seems like a hook for a future capability to me.
Further down, we have the “Overlays” tab:
Here, you are able to specify the data which appears along with your images. Big choices here: Filename, Extension, and page number. You can specify font style , size and color.
Continuing with overlay information, we have the “Header” and “Footer” tabs.
Pretty self-explanatory, except maybe for the “Divider” option. This option creates a horizontal rule of one to five pixels thickness across the page to set off your header or footer.
Below the Footer tab, we have “Playback:”
The settings here control the way in which Acrobat will open the final PDF. You can choose to have the file start in Full Screen (the user will be prompted) and can advance pages automatically with transition effects between pages. This can produce a nice result if you chose one of the templates such as “Fine Art Matte” which display one image per page, and this results in a nice slide show.
Finally, at the bottom, we have the “Watermark” tab:
Oddly enough, this is where the “Save” button is located, and where you need to go to create your finished PDF. There is also a checkbox to allow you to view your PDF on saving.
As for the watermark capability, it is pretty fundamental. You can create a text watermark, controlling its color, font, and opacity. No graphics or other identity plate style watermarks are supported.
So, there you have the basics of the workflow:
- Make your tweaks, hit “refresh,” repeat to taste.
- When you’re satisfied with the result, scroll down to the “Watermark” tab and click “Save.”
I’d give Adobe a solid “B-plus” for the results, and a “C-minus” for workflow here. The move towards a Lightroom-style workflow is a welcome change from the one-shot scripting of CS3 and earlier, but there is clearly a lot of room for improvement. This is one area I’ll be watching closely in CS5.
Next time, we’ll take a look at Bridge’s other output feature, the Web Gallery.