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Tools & Tips

Get Going with Adobe Bridge CS4

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In this tutorial, we'll take a look at one of the most underestimated and unused tool in the Adobe product family called Bridge CS4. It is available in most of Adobe's professional Creative Suite applications and I'm sure some of you use it, but a lot of people just ignore it, not realizing its potential to speed up your workflow and help organize your files. What's Adobe Bridge? Why should I use it? How does it work? Where to start? That's what you'll learn in this tutorial.

Introduction

Adobe Bridge CS4 is a very powerful media manager letting you browse, organize, locate, relocate or view different images or files from different Creative Suite products like Photoshop, Illustrator and any other application. Besides wonderful preview options, you can additionally alter images or files directly inside of Bridge or switch between your Creative Suite applications using Bridge as a "bridge."

At first, I wasn't sure why I should use Bridge and how it should speed up my workflow, but after experimenting with it, I realized what Bridge is capable of. Is there a difference to the Finder or the Explorer? Yes! There's a huge difference and this tutorial covers all the features and will help make you an efficient Bridge user in future!

First Glance

When starting Bridge for the first time, Bridge asks you, if you want it to start at login so it is instantly available when needed. You can skip this option and come back to the preferences to change it later if you want.

If this isn't the first time you've started Bridge, but nevertheless want to check your settings, go to Edit > Preferences > Advanced to turn on or turn off the Start Bridge at Login option. I recommend starting Bridge at login, since it doesn't require that much speed and works fine in the background. You can then open it much faster and use it instantly.

Preferences

Similar to other Adobe Products, there is a wide range of options you can enable or disable in the Preferences panel inside of Bridge. I would like to shortly mention some of the settings which I changed. Go to Edit > Preferences or use the keyboard shortcut Command + K.

General

The first place to start is the General section including the Appearance, Behavior and Favorite Items settings. Most of the Adobe products let you alter your interface colors. In Bridge, we can change the User Interface Brightness and the Image Backdrop, sliding from white to black or vice versa. I prefer working with a darker interface, since it emphasizes the actual images and relaxes the eyes, but that's up to you. You can additionally choose between different accent styles which you can see below.

Cache

The next step is the Cache section where you can increase the display performance by changing your Cache size and how Bridge handles your Cache. Keep in mind, the higher the values, the more hard disk space and performance you'll need to display your thumbnails and image previews. Again, experiment with the settings to find what fits your system best. You should definitely compact and purge your Cache once in a while for better performance.

Advanced

Another important section which you already know is the Advanced section, where you can change the preview settings like rendering or size. I enabled Bridge to start at login and activated Software Rendering and Monitor-size Previews.

Well that's it for now, we may or may not come back to change some options in the Preferences panel throughout this tutorial, but the best thing to do is spend some time with the preferences to make sure you utilize the full potential of your application.

User Interface, Options and Workspaces

Now, we are ready to jump into Bridge to get to know the interface, different options, task based options and much more. We'll skip the standard application menus for now and start with the options in the upper area inside of Bridge.

Go Back and Go Forward

Bridge works just like the Finder on your Mac or the Windows Explorer on your PC. These two buttons will go back or go forward one step in your file structure. You can see your file structure in the Folder panel which we'll talk about shortly.

Go to the Parents or Favorites

This little triangle, which points down, opens up a drop-down menu where you can instantly jump to the parent folder, where the currently displayed images, files or folders are located in or jump to your favorites from the Favorites panel.

Reveal Recent File or Go to Recent Folder

This little icon opens up a drop-down menu where you can select recently viewed files from all your applications or recently viewed folders from your system.

You can either clear both lists by simply choosing the appropriate option in the drop-down list or change the number of the recently viewed files or folders in the list by going to Preferences > General > Number of recent items to display. There's a little difference between displaying the recently viewed files and opening the recently viewed files. I'll show you the icon which opens up the files and folders shortly.

Get Photos from Camera

If this is the first time you are using the Photo Downloader, Bridge will ask you, if you want to download your images as soon as Bridge detects a connected device like a camera or a scanner. I recommend choosing yes. Again, you can change this at a later time. This feature is very useful and speeds up the work for Photographers or Designers who work a lot with cameras, scanners and other similar devices.

By clicking on the icon, the Bridge Photo Downloader will open, providing a few settings which you can change prior to downloading your images to your system. For example, you can choose your different devices, set the location where you want the images or files to be saved, rename them while importing them or converting them to other formats.

What I like about the Photo Downloader is the nice preview of the images, which can be enabled by clicking on the Advanced Dialog. By doing that, you'll be able to additionally assign metadata from templates or by entering metadata manually.

Refine Options

This drop-down menu reveals the task based options in Bridge, which we'll talk about shortly and skip for now. The options are: Review Mode, Batch rename and File info.

Open in Camera RAW

This little icon will open up your images in Camera RAW where you can edit the image directly inside Bridge. By clicking on Done, Camera RAW will return the altered image to Bridge. The nice thing about the new Camera RAW option is that you don't have to change any settings in the preferences prior to opening your files. Whether it is a .dng, .tiff or .jpeg file type, you'll be able to open them up simply by clicking on this icon or using the proper keyboard shortcut.

Output to Web or PDF

I really like this built-in Output module, where you can simply create PDF files or nice Flash galleries similar to the ones from Lightroom. You can choose from different formats, colors, layouts and much more. We'll talk about the Output section later in this tutorial where you'll learn how to export your favorite images, collections or selected files to PDF or the Web.

Workspaces

Similar to other applications from Adobe, Bridge CS4 is made up of multiple panels and toolbars each composing a specific Workspace. Workspaces vary depending on the tasks they were built for. Staying at the top, but moving to the right, you'll soon discover the Workspace section where you can choose from different workspaces, each prepared for a specific task.

Depending on your screen size, there could be space to display all of them, by simply dragging the double-dotted line to the left, but if your space is limited, you can either click on the little triangle on the right to choose another workspace from the drop-down menu or right-click on the name of a workspace to replace it with another one. Depending on your task in Bridge, you'll often change the workspace for better control.

In case you don't like the default workspaces and want to arrange the workspace to your needs, you can do that by dragging and sliding the edges of the panels to create more space. After you're done, simply save your own workspace by clicking on the little triangle choosing New Workspace, giving it a name and saving it. It will then appear in the workspace list.

Search

To the right of the Workspace list, you can find the Search bar. The search functionality is improved and offers a variety of options besides working much faster and more efficient. You can now search your current folders and subfolders in Bridge or use Spotlight or Windows to help find your files on your system. Applying Keywords, Ratings and other Metadata will help you find and filter your files much faster. We'll talk about that shortly.

Another very nice feature is the functionality to add other search criteria besides the name or keyword. By clicking on the New Search button, the Find window will pop up. You can now add other search criteria, change the folder and matching of the results.

Compact Mode

I really like this feature and it speeds up my work. By clicking on this icon, Bridge will change its size to compact mode which is big enough for good view, but small enough to reveal most of your screen and other applications running in the background.

You can then simply drag and drop any image from Bridge to the appropriate application you like. Although you can open up files by double-clicking, right-clicking or opening them through the Tool menu at the top of bridge, I prefer dragging and dropping the images or files since it is more comfortable and faster to me.

Breadcrumb List

As you can see, Bridge provides a nice breadcrumb list, where you can simply switch back one or more folders just by clicking on the name. By clicking on the triangles pointing to the next folder, you'll be able to view subfolders in the same folder or files from the subfolders. This listing speeds up the navigation and gives you a nice file hierarchy to look at.

Browse Quality

When working with a lot of images, you wouldn't necessarily want high quality images for thumbnail preview, since it would slow down your system. What you can do in Bridge, is choose to browse quickly by preferring embedded images, which you can activate by clicking on the first icon beneath the workspace list.

In case you want to preview your images in high quality for a more accurate preview, you can simply click on the little triangle next to the second icon which is the icon for the thumbnail and preview generation options. You'll now be able to change your preview quality from fast preview to high quality preview.

Filter by Rating

This little icon, displaying a star, helps you filter your images by their rating. This isn't the only way you can filter your files. You can additionally use the Filter panel which provides a lot more options you can use to filter your files and folders. We'll take a look at the Filter panel shortly.

Sort

Right next to the Filter by Rating option you'll find a drop-down menu where you can sort your files by different criteria like filename, type, date and more. The bigger triangular arrow represents the sort order. You can choose between ascending and descending order.

Rotate

You can rotate your images directly inside of Bridge without using Photoshop or any other application. Just click on the direction you want your image to rotate and Bridge will cover the rest. You can choose between clockwise and counterclockwise rotation.

Open Recent Files

This is the other option, referring to recent files, I mentioned earlier. This icon will open up your recently viewed files and folders in the proper application, while the reveal option displayed the recently viewed files and folders inside of Bridge. You can clear this list too.

Create and Delete Files or Folders

These two icons should be familiar to you and their function is very simple. The left one creates a new folder where you can store your images or any other files, while the right one deletes all selected files and folders.

Panels

At this point we covered all the features at the top of the Bridge interface and now it's time to take a look at the different panels and how they work. As you already know, you can arrange your panels the way you want by dragging the different panel edges. By double-clicking on the Panel name, the Panel will collapse to open up more room for other panels and previews.

Favorites

The Favorites Panel is visible by default, but you can close it or at least that's what I did, because you can simply use the Go To Parent Or Favorites drop-down menu at the upper-left corner right next to the Go Back and Go Forward icons to select a Favorite. The cool thing in Bridge is, you can simply add a folder to your favorites by dragging and dropping to access it much faster at a later time without having to search for it in your file structure.

Folders

The Folders Panel is a nice extension to the breadcrumb list and helps you see where you are at and what other folders you can access from there. I'm using both, because sometimes it's faster to work with the Folders panel.

Content and Preview

These two panels are the most important panels you'll use inside of Bridge. The Content panel displays all the images, files and folders inside of the current directory. By selecting one of the images, Bridge will instantly display a more accurate preview on the right side of your screen where the preview panel is located by default.

There are multiple ways of working inside the Preview Panel like using the loupe or zooming in or out using the proper Keyboard shortcuts. Additionally you can review the rating, any assigned labels and the file name. When selecting multiple images, you'll be able to view multiple images in the preview panel and using multiple loupes for each of them.

Filter

Bridge offers you a wide range of options to filter your images and files by enabling different options. For example, choosing only images based on their orientation, aspect ratio, specific rating, exposure time, ISO setting and much more. If your space is limited, take a look at the fly-out menu to see what else you can choose from.

Collections

The collection Panel is a very nice feature and similar to setting your favorites. By selecting multiple images you can create a collection which will later contain the images. There are two types of collections. On the one side there's the User defined collection which is marked red and the smart collections on the other side marked blue. The difference between them is the way they work after you alter or delete your images.

Both collections are created on a virtual basis which means no files are getting copied, deleted or moved physically from your hard disk drive. While User defined collections are based on the selection of the user, smart collections are based on search criteria. You can always review the current number of files in the folder or collection at the bottom left corner.

For example, if you only want to create a collection containing the images with a rating of two stars or more, you'll approach this similar to searching your files. By clicking on the Create Smart Collection icon and entering your criteria, Bridge will create the smart collection, ask you for the name and save it in the collection panel. That's it!

Now the cool thing about this is what happens now. When we go back to our Los Angeles folder and change the rating of one of the images which is not rated yet, Bridge will automatically add it to the smart collection, in case the criteria is met. This is the reason why it is a called smart collection.

Additionally you can change the folder where Bridge is searching for the images or tell Bridge to consider subfolders too. Just click on the Edit Smart Collection icon on the top right corner of the Content Panel to change or add other criteria. Rerun the search to update your collection.

To create a User based collection, simply create a collection and drag and drop your images to it or select the images first and then click on the Create a User defined collection icon.

Stacking and Batch Processing

This is another very important feature in Bridge which saves a lot of time and hard work. It's the possibility to stack images which are similar to each other. To do that, simply select a few images which you want to stack, go to the Stacks menu and click on Group as Stack. You can also use the keyboard shortcut.

But the nice thing is that Bridge can take over. It automatically detects and later stacks Panorama and HDR images. Go to Stacks and select Auto-Stack Panorama/HDR. Bridge will then search, stack and return perfect image stacks based on these image types.

After that, you can select an image stack, go to the Tools menu and open it in Photoshop to batch process it, merge it or let Photoshop create a nice Panorama by processing it. Photoshop will automatically start, do the work and return the final image or images. You can also send the files to other Creative Suite applications like Illustrator.

Metadata

So far, we've learned how to filter our images using the Filter Panel and filter options from the tools at the top, but there's another way of filtering images and files: it's using Metadata. There are two types of Metadata: descriptive Metadata and additive Metadata.

Descriptive Metadata is the one which you can see in the Metadata panel beneath the Preview panel on the right side. It contains information which describes the image, like the type of camera used, date created, size, color mode, ISO setting, exposure time and much more. Additionally you can insert extra information directly by clicking on the Info name, instead of using the File Info option which is the way to add additive Metadata.

The additive Metadata can be found, changed or added through the Refine icon by selecting the image, then clicking on the Refine icon and choosing File Info. The File Info Window will open up revealing a lot of input boxes where you can type in all kind of information you want the image to carry around with it.

You can use the arrows at the top and the drop-down menu to reveal further panels. From this window, you can additionally create different metadata templates; export them to other applications or just save them to use them again at a later time or while downloading your images using the Photo Downloader.

Another very nice feature which surprised me, is the Metadata workspace which you can choose from the workspace list at the top. Inside of the Metadata workspace, you can concentrate on working with Metadata and gather a lot of information about your images or files.

The cool thing is, you can slide to the left and right, but the image itself will stay at its position. Thanks to this, you don't have to move back and forth to make sure you are reading the right information.

Keywords

Assigning Keywords to your images will help you find them faster. There are several default Keywords which you can choose from, but you can create your own Keywords by clicking on the fly-out menu and choosing New Keyword.

There are two types of Keywords in Bridge: Keywords and Sub-Keywords. I personally assign Keywords rarely, since I'm not using the search form that much, but it is easy to use. After creating your Keywords or Sub-Keywords, you must select them from the list.

Preview Options

Now with the Interface, Tools, Panels and Workspaces covered, let's take a look at the task based options and the preview possibilities.

Basic Full Screen Preview

The easiest way of previewing your images at a larger size is by selecting one or multiple images and hitting the spacebar. Selecting one or multiple images and clicking the Spacebar opens up a Full Screen Preview of the images. By using the left and right arrow keys, you will be able to navigate to each image's full screen preview. Additional features like zooming in or out or moving around the current image at any time help you pre-select your images before moving into Photoshop.

Review Mode - Carousel View

The nice Carousel-style preview is accessible by selecting multiple images and hitting Command + B or going to the Refine icon and choosing the Review Mode. Again, use the left and right arrow keys to move the focus to the next or previous image. The best part is the ability to remove an image with a simple tap on the down arrow key. Note, the image won't be deleted, it's just removed from the slideshow.

This type of preview allows you to use the loupe and the zoom options. By hitting Command + R you'll be able to instantly access the Camera RAW, whether it's a TIFF, JPEG or any other format. Camera RAW will then return the altered image back to the preview. Other than the basic full screen preview, this review mode requires a bit more power from your computer and GPU.

If you are more comfortable using the mouse or tablet just tab on the little icons at the bottom of the preview to achieve the same effects.

Staying inside of this Preview, I would like to introduce another tip which will save you a lot of time while pre-selecting. It's the possibility to rate and label your images using your keyboard. Depending on your settings, you only need to hit the keys from 0 through 5 for rating your images and 6 through 9 for the labeling.

If that doesn't work, add the Command key while rating or labeling. Go to Preferences, choose Labels and you'll see which label color indicates which meaning and where to enable or disable the additional Command key.

By clicking on an image in the background, Bridge will automatically bring it to the front which is very nice and saves the carousel spinning and time. A second click on the image will bring up the Loupe Tool.

Slideshow

Last but not least, I would like to show you the Slideshow inside of Bridge. The Slideshow is similar to the full screen preview, except the images switch automatically. If the standard settings are to slow or not what you are looking for, just tab the H key or go to View and select the Slideshow Options for more control. Hit Escape to quit the Slideshow.

Thumbnails

Before coming to our last point, let's look at the Bridge Output options. I would like to mention some of the best enhancements in Bridge CS4. Looking at the bottom right inside of Bridge, you'll see additional options which are responsible for thumbnail preview and how the Content panel displays the files and folders.

First, there's the good old Slider which allows a smooth and fast magnification of our thumbnails. You can either click on the small and big icons on each side or move the Slider dragging the triangle.

By increasing the thumbnails, you not only have a better preview of your images, but unfortunately some of the images get cut off at the bottom. There was no solution for that in previous versions, but now the only thing you need to do, is click on the Click to lock thumbnail grid icon next to the Thumbnail Slider. Isn't that cool?

At last, take a look at the View Content area which is also located at the bottom-right corner. These three options let you choose how the Content panel should display your files and folders. You can choose from thumbnail view, detailed view and list view.

Each one displays your files in a different way. While the detailed and list view add additional information and metadata, the thumbnail preview is the simplest and fastest. At this point, I want to remind you of the nice feature which locks the file in place and allows better scrolling through the additional list information.

Output Module

This is one of the best features and makes the end of this tutorial perfect. In this section, you'll learn how to create your own PDF files or Web Flash galleries for your clients or co-workers. Select your images and click on the Output icon.

PDF

To create a PDF file from your image selection, simply choose PDF from the Output panel and start applying your specific changes to the document format, layout or any other available option which you can see below. Preview your PDF in the Preview panel and Save it, that's it!

But there's something I don't like about this Output panel, it is the fact that it doesn't refresh automatically as you might have noticed. Remember to click on the Refresh Preview button each time you change your settings.

Flash Gallery

To create a Web gallery, the only thing you need to do is choose Web Gallery from the Output panel. After that, you only need to apply your specific settings and give it a design you like. Bridge will then create the Flash gallery and even code a nice HTML Browser ready file for you.

But one of the coolest features is the possibility to upload your final product directly to your server by giving Bridge your FTP connection information. Most of these Settings are self explanatory, so the best thing to do is going through them thoroughly by yourself.

Conclusion

Well that's it for now and I hope this tutorial was useful for you and informative. Feel free to leave a comment. I'll try to answer your questions, should there be any. Thanks.

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