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Scott Kelby's Review: Apple's New MacBook Pro (Somebody Get My Gun!)

This review was written for Scott’s blog, Photoshop Insider


There are things I absolutely love about my new 15″ Apple MacBook Pro (photo above courtesy of Apple), but at least 40 to 50 times a day, I want to have a friend fling it high into the air so I can use it for skeet shooting practice.

Now, before I dig into this review too far, part of the problem seems to be an Apple thing, but part of the problem may be something Adobe can fix in Photoshop CS4, because it’s there where the problem is most prevalent, and it’s there where I find myself stringing together somewhat colorful phrases I would not normally assemble.
My Worry
My main concern about the MacBook Pro was that the glossy glass screen would be too glossy for accurately editing photos in Photoshop.

My First Impression
I was pleasantly surprised at how great photos look on its crisp glossy screen. In fact, it’s so luscious, I think it makes the photos look better than they really look. Also, I was concerned about reflections, and while it is more reflective, and I keep thinking that’s going to be a problem; so far, it really hasn’t been. Surprisingly, the only time I really notice the reflections is when it dims the screen. Then, I’m much more aware of them.

The Reality
I’m still worried. Because it makes photos look so darn good, I only want people to see my photos on a glossy MacBook Pro glass screen, but of course, that’s not going to happen, as they’ll be viewed on the Web on whatever computer they have, and of course, they’ll be viewed in print. I’ve only had my MacBook Pro a few days, so I haven’t had a chance to do any serious printing in-house on my Epsons, and just last night I sent my first lab print to, so I have no idea how my on-screen color correction and edits will relate to my final images in print or on the Web. So, while I’m pleasantly surprised at how nice the screen looks, I’ll have to wait and see how the Photoshop editing process plays out. I will update you on this as soon as I know.


My Worry
I know that one of the key features in Photoshop CS4 is the new hardware accelerated graphics and that now Photoshop hands off a lot of processing directly to the graphics card, and while I could see a difference in my old MacBook Pro, I was wondering if the new NVIDIA graphics card in the new MacBook Pros would really make that big a difference.

My First Impression
It’s way better than I expected. So much so, that it actually changes your Photoshop experience. I’ve never felt like Photoshop has moved faster than it does with the new NVIDIA cards. It’s crazy fast, and zooming, moving, rotating views, etc. is just amazingly, crazily, wonderfully fast.

The Reality
My first impression was correct. So much so, that I’m going to install an NVIDIA graphics card in my MacPro tower at home, which is the machine I do most of my serious photo work on.


My Worry
Since the new MacBook Pros don’t come with a mouse button, I was afraid it would be weird not having something to click, and it would take me a long time to get used to it. Instead, the whole trackpad is a mouse button (well, most of it anyway), so wherever you are, you can just click.

My First Impression
Wow, you don’t really need a mouse button. I started working with it immediately, because your hand sits right where it always did, and when you want to click, you just click with your thumb like you always did. After five minutes, you don’t even think about it again.

The Reality
I was wrong. The trackpad is killing me, and is the main culprit behind all my MacBook Pro Pain. Apple will have to fix part of it (and if the reports I’m reading online are correct, they’ve already begun a fix), but Adobe will probably have to fix the other part.

The problem is a combination of the new trackpad finger gestures, which let you control navigation and rotation within Photoshop much in the way you work with photos on an iPhone (you can flick images around, you can pinch to zoom in, etc.. It’s actually a very cool intuitive idea). Here’s the problem; my thumb rests on the trackpad where it always rests—right where the click button used to be. But if it moves upward even 1/16 of a inch (which it often does), then the trackpad thinks I want to rotate the canvas view in Photoshop, and so it turns my canvas to a 45° angle. Sometimes, it just starts tilting my canvas back and forth while I’m trying to work. Sometimes it not only rotates my canvas, it zooms me out to less than a 1% view of my image. So, 40 to 50 times a day (maybe more), I have to go and reset my Canvas to normal, and then zoom back out to fit in view. It is driving me crazy to the point that I now find myself making finger gestures to my new Mac.

I went to the Trackpad preferences, hoping there was a way to turn off the “rotate my screen wildly and zoom in and out at random” feature, but sadly, there was not (see the capture below).


I’ve pretty much turned off whatever I can in the preferences above, and yet, still I rotate. Here’s a quick video of how this affects my day.

Now, this problem happens to a lesser extent in my Web Browser and in my Mac Mail application, where suddenly my text zooms in, or gets really tiny. It doesn’t bother me as much there, but that’s probably because it doesn’t rotate my view, eh?

Other problems with the trackpad are:

  1. The cursor seems to vanish sometimes. Not all that often—just sometimes
  2. If your thumb doesn’t hit the right place, it kind of ignores you, and this drives me crazy when editing text. I keep clicking my cursor on the spot where I want to edit, but it won’t move. So, I often click somewhere near where I want to edit, and then use the back-arrow key to get back to the text I want to edit. Arrrgggg.
  3. Every so often, it kind of freezes, or pauses, and you can’t do anything.

There are forums full of people will similar problems, and apparently Apple is already working on a fix for this. Now, here’s what I need Adobe to do; I need a preference to turn “Rotate View” off. (note: It just froze again, and I had to move the cursor using the arrow key to type this next line). If I could turn the feature off, then at least that problem would go away.

It’s not really Adobe’s fault that they didn’t anticipate that a computer that was not yet released would turn a very cool new feature into a nightmare, but at this point, that preference will help a lot, but it won’t help with the zooming issue.

—-My Worry
Apple won’t fix this fast enough to keep me from tossing my new MacBook Pro (whose otherwise design, fantastic keyboard, and other features I dearly love), from the top of someplace very high.

My First Impression
Apple usually makes things right. I actually have great faith in Apple fixing this quickly, because they are known far and wide for their excellent customer service and customer satisfaction

The Reality
I’ll just have to wait and see. However, this isn’t the end of the story—I will update you on when the fix is in, how the new glossy screen plays out, and any other developments, but for now, I thought I’d better share my experience.

If you’re having similar experiences with CS4 and your new MacBook Pro, please let me know, because if it’s “just me,” and my own poor trackpad skills, then I want to amend this review.


  • Kirby Ferguson says:

    Using any trackpad for Photoshop is painful. My Macbook trackpad is torture for image editing. It’s not the device’s fault — it’s just not the right tool for the job. Use a mouse.

  • Eliam Puente says:

    I don’t have the Pro but I just got a MacBook and YES the new trackpad is a bit annoying. I’m use to holding down the button and dragging with my index finger but now ti acts weird when I do that. It stalls the drag a lot because it thinks my thumb wants to do something else. I just need to get use to it. That is why I bought a wireless mighty mouse the very same day.

  • Sara says:

    I have had exactly the same experience in regards to the track pad and photoshop with zoom and rotation. Thought it was just me, but glad to know it isn’t. Ended up buying a new wireless mouse to solve the problem.
    Love the new “view” choices but miss the multi-page contactsheet feature in CS4.

  • David says:

    I recently ordered a Macbook Pro 15″, but don’t have it yet. I’ve never used a laptop for long periods of time before (never owned one), so hopefully I’ll be able to correct the leaving of my thumb on there soon, but I also am getting a wireless mouse, which will help.

    If/when Apple fixes this problem, A) will they give it to people that want it free of charge, B) only include it in the Macbook Pros shipped after they fixed it, or C) will they ship with new MBP, but also charge money for an update for people who already have it???


  • DJ NEFF says:

    Its glad to know Scott shares my pain. I have so many nice things to say about my macbook pro, so many. Yet it seems to be the smaller things, the “man i just wish this was fixed stuff” that would just put me over the edge into completely drinking the Kool-aid. The screen was just about a deal breaker for me, i miss my firewire 400 port and I am itching for someone to make my trackpad do exactly what i want it to, but i have to admit when i hold it, and use it, it feels better that the previous generation

    All the amazingly intuitive features are making my life easier 90 percent of the time. Its just funny sometimes how important or at least how much i notice that small 10 percent that doesn’t work or act as amazingly beautiful as the other 90. And as the saying goes, i must accept the things i cannot change, i just hope apple doesn’t feel the same way. I hope they realize how important their relentless attention to detail will not only continue to inch this technology closer to ultimate perfection, but raise the bar so high for individuals such as myself and for them, to which no matter how utterly awesome my MBP is, i will always want more. I just hope one day I actually get it. First though, I agree with Sir Kelby, lock my background on Photoshop and I’ll be satiated for now.

  • Lukas says:

    Never wanted to use a trackpad in Adobe software, Allways had a wacom bamboo and dissabled the trackpad as soon as a mouse or other pointing device is present.

  • Anthony says:

    I love the trackpad and the gestures, but have the exact problem you do with the resting thumb and the random zooms. Wish I could turn off zoom and only zoom.

  • Julie Strothman says:

    Thank you for your post! I’ve had my mbp for a week and was sure I was just missing a setting. It’s driving me crazy in photoshop. (Though it’s caused me to learn about 20 keyboard shortcuts I hadn’t made the effort to learn.)
    “Just use a mouse or tablet” is not sufficient as a solution. I am way too mobile with my machine to always be using a mouse. This is a FAIL and I, too, hope there’s a solution soon.

  • Randall says:

    Something that is esp annoying is that you can’t undo a rotation in at least Adobe apps. God forbid you’ve done a heavy edit on an image and then accidently rotate it. I don’t think the trackpad moves show in the history function.

    And what is that compass thing [ which usually the harbinger that it’s about to some crazy zoom you don’t want ]?

  • Jon Innes says:

    you are absolutely correct this is a major issue. Had they done any usability testing at Adobe or Apple they would have caught this.

    I can work with a mouse or tablet at the office, but Photoshop on my shiney new macbook is useless without those input devices. Sad, a highly capable graphics laptop whose arrogant designers failed to actually think about how users will use it.

  • Joseph Skelly says:

    Thankfully, Adobe has released a patch to fix this, dated 2/25. See knowledge base article kb408468:

  • Andrée says:

    In this case Scott, you are the cause.

    It’s multitouch. You can’t just put an additional finger on the pad that you’re not using.

    I imagine people with years of experience using normal small (bad) trackpads have habits that run deep in the cortex.

    I started fresh and have never had any issues. These new trackpads are heaven on earth. Give them the credit they deserve.

  • Kevin says:

    The trackpad’s uncontrollable zoom is driving me crazy and I am really, really tired of pressing Command-0 while surfing the web.

    Perhaps this is just a devious ploy by Apple to sell more of the wireless Might Mouse?

  • Porl says:

    I too am just about to go insane in After Effects CS5 with my (until this) dreamy MacBook Pro. I thought it was my skin at first and have been trying to remove my fingerprints to make it work better so I am glad it is not me!

    I use an intense amount of shortcuts and multi fingering when I am creating and editing complicated masks and rotoscoping and all that fun stuff and to have my monitor window zoom out to -3000% is beyond comprehension when I have four fingers poised on keys and need the mouse placed EXACTLY on an anchor point.