Adobe added some incredibly practical features to Photoshop CC 2014, especially where productivity is concerned. Time-savers include smarter smart guides and smart objects, updatable Layer Comps, a colour picker that stays open, full Typekit integration, a searchable font menu with instant font previews on existing text, better blending with Content-Aware tools, the ability to sync more settings to Creative Cloud, and more.

There are other slick new features: a command that automatically selects the in-focus areas in an image, two new motion blur filters, a Package command for corralling linked smart object content, and the ability to edit masks made with Camera Raw's Graduated or Radial filters.

Photoshop CC 2014's new features

Photoshop's improved graphics engine cause the Smart Sharpen filter and upsampling via the Image Size dialog box to be a little zippier. All Content-Aware tools are capable of better colour blending, too, especially when used in gradients (think skies, water, etc.). So, instead of adaptation presets for the Patch and Content-Aware Move tools, there's a Structure and a Color field that let you enter precise settings for more realistic blending.

Unfortunately, both fields are tucked inside a sub-menu in the Options bar so they're easily missed (plus the numeric range of what you can enter into either field should be noted in the tooltip). On the other hand, the Fill command's Content-Aware option sports a Color Adaptation checkbox for better blending, though (oddly) you have to turn it on.

Smart Guides are automatically turned on in Photoshop CC 2014. With the Move or Path Selection tool active you can see distance measurements between the active layer's content and what your cursor is pointing at, including other layer content and the document's edge. By Option-dragging layer content, you duplicate the layer and see the distance between the duplicate and original as you drag.

The new Focus Area command (top) automatically selects the in-focus parts of an image. It does a fantastic job on photos that have a strong focal point and blurry background, though its dialog box sports a couple of sliders and brushes that let you fine-tune the selection, along with a button that sends the selection to the Refine Edge dialog box for more tweaking.

New in the Blur Gallery filter family are two offerings that let you simulate motion in a photo that doesn't have any (or that doesn't have enough). The Path Blur filter (above) lets you create the appearance of motion along a path that you draw (it can be straight or riddled with curves). Fine-tune the blur's direction, angle, speed, and even how much blurring occurs at the path's start and end points using a combination of on-image and slider-based controls. The Spin Blur filter lets you put an incredibly realistic spin on an object using a simple set of on-image controls. Happily, both filters work as smart filters.

One of the benefits of a Creative Cloud subscription is access to hundreds of fonts via the online service Typekit. In CC 2014, you can access Typekit from the font menu and, once installed, use those fonts in any CC program on your computer. Also new is the ability to search installed fonts by typing part of its name or attribute into the font family menu, and preview the active type layer's content in another font by pointing at it in the font menu (you don't even have to highlight the text first).

New in an earlier incremental CC release is the ability to link to smart object content instead of embedding it (helpful when combining large files into a single document). In CC 2014, you can convert an embedded smart object into linked or vice-versa. The Properties and Info panels, and the document status bar, keep track of your smart objects, and let you fix broken links (caused by renaming or moving the linked file on your hard drive), as well as update linked content that was changed while the Photoshop document that contains it was closed (if the Photoshop document is open when you change linked content, it's updated automatically). Finally, the new Package command in CC 2014 copies the Photoshop document and its linked content to a central location for easy delivery to someone else (fonts not included).