When working with Photoshop tutorials, it pays to memorize the main components of the Photoshop CS3 workspace. After the jump, I describe the components that are commonly referred to in tutorials. Adobe made drastic changes in the names of these components since version CS3. I will be referencing the CS4 names in my tutorials.
It is possible to completely rearrange many of these components. For example, you can hide the palettes (Shift+Tab) and move the Tool Box over there (clicking-and-dragging the blue PS at the top of the Tool Box).
Click on the image below to view a much larger version.
Menu Bar (Application Bar in CS4)
The Menu Bar gives you access to Photoshop’s commands and features. It also allows you to make things visible or invisible like palettes and guides. Some menu items act on your instruction right away. Other menu items are followed by an ellipsis (…). When you select these menu items, you will get a dialog box which gives you options to modify your request.
Many menu items are accompanied by mysterious text on the right, such as “Alt+Ctrl+C”. This indicates that there is a keyboard shortcut associated with this command. In the example above, you would hold down the Alt and Ctrl keys (on the PC), then click the C key to open the Canvas Size dialog box. It is possible to create your own keyboard shortcuts (Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…).
Menu Bar commands are indicated in my tutorials as a series of terms separated by a “Greater Than” (>) character. For example, Images > Adjustments > Hue & Saturation means start with the Images menu, select the Adjustments item, and then select Hue & Saturation from the fly-out menu.
Tool Box (Tools Panel in CS4)
The Tool Box contains tools that let you interact directly with your Photoshop files. Some of the tools have a small black triangle at the bottom-right. Click and hold down on one of these tools, and you will see the fly-out menu which contains related tools. For example, the fly-out menu for the Gradient Tool also contains the Paint Bucket tool. To select a tool, click on it in the Tool Box. Tools have keyboard shortcuts of single letters, indicated by a letter to the far-right of the fly-out tool menu. For example, you can press the G key to access the Gradient tool, and then press it again to access the Paint Bucket tool.
Options Bar (Control Panel in CS4)
The Options Bar allows allows you to adjust the settings for the tool that is currently selected in the Tool Box. For example, if you have the Text tool selected, the Options Bar allows you to change the font type and size, as well as the text color and alignment. If you have the Custom Shape Tool selected, you can change how it behaves, what shape it makes, and what color will result. I will refer to the Options Bar a lot in my tutorials.
Palettes (Panels in CS4)
Alternately referred to as panels, the Photoshop palettes give you even more options for your tools than the Options Bar does. They can also allow you to choose colors and styles, undo many steps, see important information about your files, and do more complex editing involving layers, paths and channels. There are many other types of palettes too. More seem to be added with every new version of Photoshop. To view any palette that is not currently visible, select it from the Window menu.
The Cursor is the form that your mouse takes when it is on the screen. The Cursor image changes its look inside the image window depending on what tool you currently have selected in the Tool Box.
For example, the Cursor looks like a little eyedropper when you select the Eyedropper tool. It looks like a paint bucket when the Paint Bucket tool is selected.