Ridiculous uses for Photoshop Ryan 29 Dec 2005

82 comments Latest by Blue Buffalo Media

Every once in while I ask myself, “How is it you still use Photoshop for this little task?” Case in point: I just pasted a screenshot into Photoshop to grab a hex color from a web page.

Does anyone else use Photoshop for ridiculous microtasks like this? And what simple apps do the job better?

82 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Hieg 29 Dec 05

Well, the example you just cited brings something to mind: ColorZilla (http://www.iosart.com/firefox/colorzilla/). It’s a FireFox extension that gives you an eye dropper tool in firefox that lets you select colors and store the hex value in the clipboard….

Fred 29 Dec 05

Someone needs to install the ColorZilla extension for Firefox.

Jake Walker 29 Dec 05

Using OS X? Digital Color Meter does the trick. Comes w/ the OS.

RS 29 Dec 05

I’d try ColorZilla, but I use Safari. FF takes too long to launch and looks like ass by default.

dmr 29 Dec 05

Yes! Although I’ve recently found that taking a screen shot with apple + shift + 4, then hold control while you click and drag will copy to the clipboard.

*sigh* then switch to PS, new file, paste, eyedrop, click swatch, copy hex, switch to bbedit, paste hex. Wow; that sucks.

Quite often I still use PS to get an image’s pixel width and height.

Gstfssn 29 Dec 05

I often paste a screenshot into Photoshop just to get the measures of something. But I think ColorZilla and other similar extensions can fix this.

RS 29 Dec 05

Ah thanks Jake. Digital Color Meter is great.

Dan Boland 29 Dec 05

I second that thanks to Jake - didn’t realize that’s what Digital Color Meter was for.

Jason 29 Dec 05

I like Eyedropper


Jeff 29 Dec 05

Nice re: Eyedropper. Added to the toolbox.

Johan Van Mol 29 Dec 05

I don’t mind using Photoshop for these simple tasks. I like the idea of doing as much as possible with �ne app-one interface-one workflow-…

By the way, you don’t have to paste a page into Photoshop to grab a color from it. If you already have a file opened in Photoshop, you can simply select the Eyedropper Tool, click and hold your mouse and then select a color outside of Photoshop. As long as you start pushing your mouse button inside an open file in Photoshop, the Eyedropper will register any color in any application.

brian w. 29 Dec 05

xScope is killer. I highly recommend it. You can even copy the colors right from the loupe. It also has rulers, guides, and more.

Carl 29 Dec 05

Johan: I think the point is why do you have to have photoshop open to grab a hexcode if you need the hexcode for something you AREN’T doing in photoshop? For example, you need the hex value for colors in CSS. In that instance, having to use Photoshop just to extract a color is overkill.

Kendall 29 Dec 05

Excellent. Thanks for sharing. Colorzilla will be super useful. I agree Ryan. That’s a major pain in the ass process to go through just to grab a color.

Geof Harries 29 Dec 05

I had no idea that Digital Color Meter even existed until now. What a cool little application. Why doesn’t Apple promote this stuff more?

Fred Oliveira 29 Dec 05

One of the most ridiculous (to use your terms) uses of photoshop on my end is to measure stuff on a page. I take the screenshot, open the screenshot in photoshop, measure, and close photoshop. All this because sometimes I can’t be bothered to open up the CSS definitions and check the size.

(or use the Web developer extension to mark block sizes)

Vince 29 Dec 05

I concur with Seth - ColorPix (by Color Schemer) is fantastic. It’s small, unobtrusive, and and I use it all the time.

Sean 29 Dec 05

If you’re using an Apple to take a screenshot for colors be careful as the colors are often lightened a bit in the image. I had this problem on a big project about 2 years ago and couldn’t figure out why the colors weren’t matching properly.

Chris Renner 29 Dec 05

What Sean said. About 2 years ago I took a bunch of screenshots of screenshots of screenshots… on my mac (i think 10.2 at that point). The results were very interesting…


sb 29 Dec 05

it may be overkill to use photoshop for such a trivial task, but for me it’s still the best use of my time. i do the exact same HEX-thing a couple of times a week and i can do it in a matter of seconds, unconsciously.

i don’t believe in complicating my system with specialty tools. if it doesn’t multitask, i don’t use it. that’s why photoshop is always running on my system, just to whack out little tasks quickly.

as a former chef, i’ve had the same arguments about kitchen gadgetry. why buy (and find, when needed, which is usually immediately) a lemon zester when i’m already holding an 8” chef’s knife? it may be overkill, but the fact is: it works and i use it because i don’t have to think about it while i’m using it.

trying to remember the name of the color widget, finding it, and waiting for it to launch would be a colossal waste of my time. of course, that’s just one guy’s opinion.

jeremy 29 Dec 05

I’ve on occasion opened screen shots in photoshop to get the pixel dimensions of things. To add frustration to complexity: if I have snap to grid on the measurement can be over/under 3-5px (unless I zoom in 1000%- which has its own suck-factor).

I second the xScope recommendation as it is the tool I use to do such measurement now.

Jay Jones 29 Dec 05

One of the big reasons I use Photoshop to continue doing small tasks is for simplicity.

Now, I know that 37signalites have a mantra of “less is more”, but could it be that the “less” some people would rather have is “less apps” and not “less features”?

Case in point… web2.0 has brought about the flooding of our lives (not all bad) with more and more “simple” apps that each do one thing very well.

However, with that also comes multiple logins, multiple passwords, multiple interfaces, multiple learning curves, etc.

Somehow, I feel that I’d much rather have Photoshop open that can do many things very well than have several apps that do one thing very well.

What photoshop excels at is being able to offer almost unlimited abilities to the expert, while working just fine and functional to the novice.

So, anyway, what was the question? :) Oh, yeah! “Does anyone else use Photoshop for ridiculous microtasks like this?”


i do! :P

Bryan Buchs 29 Dec 05

I used to use PS quite often to get pixel measurements on things. There’s a handy extension for FF called “MeasureIt” that works great, although if I really need to zoom in tight to measure, I revert back to my old screenshot>photoshop method.

Bob 29 Dec 05

Just did it an hour ago, then spent 15 minutes searching the web for a simple color picker…thanks everyone! First time reading blogs has *saved* me time…

Alex King 29 Dec 05

All the time! Glad to hear about colorzilla :-D

Mary-Ann Horley 29 Dec 05

I’ve been known to use Photoshop for getting hex codes - I remember when it didn’t show hex codes and I have to use some converter app!

I find it better to use for a lot of simple stuff than many other supposedly simpler apps. I was using ImageReady to prepare screenshots for a while, and I started using PS today because I already had it open and it was so much easier for that mundane task. At this point it’s such a mature program a lot of us are likely to find it more user-friendly than simpler but newer programs.

Darren 29 Dec 05

Yeah, I do too. But I tend to have photoshop always open, so it’s not such a waste of time.

Ed Edwards 29 Dec 05

Ryan you might look at Stardocks DesktopX widgets for a
color definer by mouse pointer. Works pretty slick. Basically
it a widget with the RGB values for the current position of the
mouse… KISS

Ed 29 Dec 05

Try “WhatColor” it’s very simple and uses almost no resources.

mini-d 29 Dec 05

Best app i’ve got: ColorSchemer.

Josh Williams 29 Dec 05

Definitely xScope… as previously mentioned by several. The web designer’s killer app.

Simple 29 Dec 05

Ryan S. - I’m curious, what do you not like about the default FF look?

Love to hear you comments.

manuel 29 Dec 05

more tiny tools to kill the ps overkill? thats overkill. most of us have ps running anyways, so why find, look for, launch another tool?

Kevin Burton 29 Dec 05

OSX has this tool called Digital Color Picker that I use. works really well. Just don’t let it run in the background as it will waste your CPU.


Dan Diemer 29 Dec 05

Ditto to dmr. I use PS to check image sizes quite often. and to grab hex color aswell.

Andy Annett 29 Dec 05

For those folks who find themselves stuck in a Windows world, check out Pixie from Nattyware (www.nattyware.com)

Andy Annett 29 Dec 05

For those folks who find themselves stuck in a Windows world, check out Pixie from Nattyware (www.nattyware.com)

Alex Hutton 29 Dec 05

I like the ColourMod widget for OS X, especially in conjunction with Amnesty.

ColourMod (or something similar) is also avail. for Konfabulator.

Actually, ColourMod and Amnesty are my only real use for widgets at all.

Anonymous Coward 29 Dec 05


Michael Roper 29 Dec 05

I use QuickPicker. Just invoke it with Quicksilver, click the color area you are after, and it copies the hex value to the clipboard, then quits and gets out of your way.

Don Wilson 30 Dec 05

I have to wait 30 seconds to load photoshop to make a decent jpg of a screenshot. It’s quite annoying.

branden 30 Dec 05

another colorzilla fan here! but i still get forced to overkill with photoshop. All I want to do is crop, resize and “save for web”.

Somebody please tell me there’s a nice little app that handles all these things so i can cut back on photoshop even further.

Christoph Wagner 30 Dec 05

Did exactly the same thing until I finally downloaded colorzilla;)

ashley 30 Dec 05

Thanks for sharing useful tips. I’ve downloaded it successfully.

Bennington Purcell 30 Dec 05

I never even close photoshop. I just use it for everything, i love it. I use it like a visual text editor. LOVE IT. it is the most amazing program, it does everything.

Ben Brphy 30 Dec 05

I use photoshop mainly cropping, resizing, and saving for web. In fact that’s pretty much all I use it for. I haven’t upgraded to newer versions, b/c cropping and resizing is all I do. Can any one suggest something a little more lightweight for cropping and resizing, and saving for web? (iPhoto does a crappy job)

Doug 30 Dec 05

ColorPic for Windows is great. I wish there was a Mac equivalent.

8500 30 Dec 05

The best post I’ve seen here in months:

“Jay Jones 29 Dec 05
…could it be that the ‘less’ some people would rather have is ‘less apps’ and not ‘less features’?”


1st thought:
If you use 1 honkin app with 200 features and 1 interface it is much easier to learn and be productive than with 10 smaller apps with 20 features each and 10 different interfaces.

2nd thought:
When people got tired of visiting hundreds of sites to gather news, RSS was the key. Something like RSS feeds and readers needs to be created for finding and using Web 2.0 applications.

Mark 30 Dec 05

Anybody else love SnagIt for working with screen captures when in Windows? I continue to with Snapz Pro (on the Mac) were as good as this program. No, I don’t work for TechSmith. :-)

sb 30 Dec 05

snagit rocks. so does camtasia. so does captivate.

snagit = screenshots
camtasia = real time screen recording
captivate = click-driven screen recording with automated instructional development

i love and own snagit, but still find myself using photoshop for 1-offs, when i’m not planning to do a bunch of captures. it’s faster than launching snagit.

this has been a great thread- maybe not what 37s intended, but to me it’s another view of “less” - less tools. i don’t find photoshop bloated, even though i don’t use 50% of the features. i wonder why i feel that way? anyone else feel the same way?

i was walking to the train yesterday wrapped up in thinking about the power of immediacy. and also thinking about why basecamp doesn’t always work as well as i want it to. or, more succinctly, why i still use notepad to track most of my changes and then translate those into basecamp later. it has everything to do with immediacy. if i have to login to jot a note it takes too many cycles and takes me out of the zone. i could keep basecamp open all of the time, that would solve the issue entirely. but for some reason i don’t. i’ll try leaving it open- maybe it’ll seem like less of a chore and more of a tool that way. anyone else find this to be true?

Tim Germer 30 Dec 05

And the most ridiculous use of a bloated piece of software for a microtask has to go to…

People who use Microsoft Word to spell check their spelling either inside of [a] apps that don’t support spell check [b] or while they’re browsing.

Spell checking throughout OS X = Excellent.
Spellbound extension in Firefox = Must have.

Bob Aman 30 Dec 05

I definately second Seth’s recommendation of Color Schemer Studio for the stated task…

Depends on what apps I have open at the time I want to do the task though. Sometimes the job gets done by Photoshop because it happens to be open. Sometimes by a tailor-made application, just for that purpose. And every now and then I get lucky and I have a Dashboard widget handy that’ll do what I need. Quicksilver makes it so that this isn’t really something I worry too much about anymore.

Mischa Kroon 30 Dec 05

I could be wrong but doesn’t irfanview do this as well…

For me it’s one of the best things since sliced bread, it does a lot of the little things you can do in photoshop or some of the other image beasts. But it’s small and lovable

Davy C 30 Dec 05

I’m going to second the Pixie from Nattyware comment. I have been using this program for about a year and I love it! (www.nattyware.com)

Ward 30 Dec 05

Building webpage design comps in photoshop, that’s my ridiculous task! How many times have I had to manually create a form-based page mockup in PS and nearly gouged my eyes out= I lost count at about 999. But, I guess that’s just how I roll - tried Illustrator, and PS is still easier.

Paul Roberts 30 Dec 05

From MacCentral today:
ColorTagGen .01
Maker: RAD Productions http://www.radproductions.net/
What it does: ColorTagGen is a one-trick application�but what a trick. Using a simple two-window interface, the free program displays the RGB and hex-encoded color values for any selected color�an ideal tool for anyone who designs Web sites.
Price: Free

pete 30 Dec 05

KColorChooser, of course. Unfortunately, I have never found a truly feature-rich and free Windows solution.

dandellion 30 Dec 05

PS is my weakness…. I use it for everything including all those simple tasks. sometimes it almost takes more time to open application and desired image then to do the job.
and it is so painfull everytime I need to restart computer and boot windows just to do somehing in PS…..

A Noonie Moose 30 Dec 05

slightly OT, but if the creator of Colorzilla stumbles across this, I would *love* to see the contextual menu item “Copy HEX to clipboard”.

Not that I don’t love looking back fondly at all those pieces of paper with cryptic 6-character alphanumeric codes wondering why exactly I needed *that* particular shade of mustard.

Henrique Vicente. 31 Dec 05

As a KDE (Linux) user, I always use the KRuler, which is, basically, a screen ruler (in pixels) that has a hex color ‘grabber’ in it…

You set the ruler near the place where you want to check the hex color, put the mouse in the ruler and uses a ‘finger’ to point the place where the pixel you want to find out what color has is. :)

Rick 02 Jan 06

Some of the small PS tasks take less time than PS takes to startup.

Splashman 03 Jan 06

Sure, but virtually every professional I know has PS running continuously, so startup time is a non-sequitur.

I think there are valid arguments on both sides. Having a crapload of single-use tools is a dubious investment (in time, if nothing else), but the folks who use PS for absolutely everything are many times just too stuck in their ways to consider alternatives. I just love the comments about “trying to remember where the app is”, “don’t want to wait for another app to launch”, etc. These are folks who don’t want to admit they’re too lazy to try something new.

Douglas d'Aquino 03 Jan 06

And what simple apps do the job better?


Navi 11 Jan 06

For everyday picture editing like simple cropping & brightness/contrast, and size adjustment, I use (free) Picasa {}. It also does a pretty good job in organizing my gigantic library of images.

Big Dog 15 Feb 06

I’ve never thought about it but yes that is me too… and it made me realize one reason why I’ve always got photoshop open - it closes about as frequently as the os gets rebooted.