Photoshop plugins (or plug-ins) are add-on programs aimed at providing additional image effects or performing tasks that are impossible or hard to fulfill using Adobe Photoshop alone. Plugins can be opened from within Photoshop and several other image editing programs (compatible with the appropriate Adobe specifications) and act like mini-editors that modify the image.ps
Photoshop-compatible plugins fall into several main types: filter plugins .8bf, import plugins (also called 'acquisition') .8ba, export plugins .8be, file format plugins .8bi, and automation plugins .8ly. Also, there are selection plugins 8bs and parser plugins 8by, but no one other than Adobe has ever created plugins of these types.
"Import/export plugins" acquire or write image data from or to certain devices, "file format plugins" open and save less common image formats (not inherently supported by Photoshop), and "automation plugins" automate certain tasks in the manner of Photoshop "actions" (macros).
Host applications or plugin hosts are graphics applications that are capable of running plugins. Many commercial graphics applications support Photoshop-compatible plugins — Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop Elements, PhotoImpact, Corel PhotoPaint, and Adobe Fireworks are the most renowned ones. There are several dozens more plugin hosts, including little known products like Chasys Draw IES, free editors like GIMP (with certain add-ons) and viewers like IrfanView. Much support is limited to the Microsoft Windows platform and .8bf filter plugins.
Photoshop fully supports all available plugin types; certain hosts, like Photoshop Elements, support most of them, while the majority of hosts support filter plugins only and many of them don't even support all available filter plugins.
The support for plugins was more uniform up until 2002, when Adobe restricted access to the Photoshop SDK containing the specifications for Photoshop plugins, and made the developer license more prohibitive. Since then, developers of other image applications have had limited or no access to it anymore, so they can't support newer host features. Therefore, plugin developers face a dilemma: either support the new host features that appeared in Photoshop 7 and later versions, like the access to layers, and lose the compatibility with other image applications, or use the old SDK version which already includes all important specifications and make sure the plugin will be supported by all hosts.
Around 2005, Adobe changed the policy so that developers could make the request for the SDK via a Web form with no fee charged for it and with all requests handled individually.
|1991||Adobe first introduces filters and support for third-party Photoshop-compatible plugins in Photoshop 2.0. The same year, Aldus presents Aldus Gallery Effects - a set of filters including Emboss, Mosaic, Charcoal and other effects. When Aldus and Adobe merge in 1996, Gallery Effects will be embedded into Photoshop.|
|1992||Kai Krause releases one of the most renowned plugins of the 1990s -- Kai's Power Tools (a.k.a. KPT). Many artists of the time consider it a must-have plugin set for Photoshop. It features several advanced warp and deformation effects, as well as support for bump maps and 3D graphics formats (in KPT SceneBuilder).|
|1994||Joe Ternasky releases Filter Factory, a plugin allowing users to create their own filters using an internal programming language resembling C and compile them as separate plugins. It uses programmable formulas to process the red, green and blue channels of each pixel of the image. However, the fact that it requires considerable programming skills is viewed by many as a serious drawback.|
|1994||Alien Skin Software, founded a year earlier, creates the first drop shadow filter for Photoshop. The same year, they also release the Black Box filter set, later renamed to Eye Candy, which becomes an all-time favorite among Photoshop users.|
|1994||Auto FX Software is founded. In the subsequent years they release a couple of much-noticed Photoshop plugins and automated effects software products. Photo/Graphic Edges is one of the common image enhancement tools used by graphic artists of the time.|
|1997||Alex Hunter, inspired by KPT but dissatisfied with the limitations of the Filter Factory, presents FilterMeister -- "a 'bigger and better' Filter Factory". It is said to be much easier to use than Filter Factory, and many of today's free and commercial plugins are made in FilterMeister.|
|2007||Filter Forge Inc. brings procedural texturing to Photoshop by releasing Filter Forge, a plugin allowing users to build custom filters without any programming. In Filter Forge, filters are assembled in a visual node-based environment.|
|2008||YouSendIt Inc. enables delivering files across different users/computers from within Photoshop.|
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