I use Photoshop CS4 about 80% of the time. I will sometimes use Adobe Illustrator or Fireworks for icon creation. I use a Wacom tablet for icons too, I just find it easier to be able to "sketch" my ideas freehand and then go in with the standard mouse-friendly tools to clean things up.
I think Photoshop has become the standard simply because you can achieve a level of photorealism with it that you can't seem to match with other programs. Also, if you spend enough time learning it, you can create just about anything you can imagine. Check out Burt Monroy's work if you want to see a true testament to the power of Photoshop: http://www.bertmonroy.com/. As far as the interface goes, I've always liked it, but they made some major improvements from CS3 to CS4.
Having said that, all of the Adobe programs can sort strengthen each other's weak spots, so investing in and learning an Adobe suite is well worth it in my opinion, even if you just consider yourself a hobbyist. We've all spent thousands of dollars on a/v equipment that just loses value and becomes useless after a few years, so what's so bad about spending 1k to 2k on a software package that can increase the value of our offered services? The RTOI for Photoshop alone is exponential if it allows you to provide even simple custom graphics to your clients.
As far as the learning part goes, I can't say enough good things about http://www.Lynda.com. It's the best monthly investment I've ever made and it costs about as much as Netflix. You can learn virtually anything there, and every tutorial is extremely well done. http://www.W3Schools.com is an excellent resource as well (although more for web and coding) and it's free.
Lastly, set up a Google Alerts feed or Yahoo Pipe for "photoshop" or "photoshop tutorials" or "adobe fireworks" whatever, you get the idea. You will find a slew of awesome learning resources sort of "hand-picked" by a search engine everyday.
I can't stand Photoshop's interface... at least not when I'm used to how Corel does it. With that said, there are some things that I have no choice but to do in Photoshop, but for everyday stuff Corel is still my go-to.
Daniel, as you know, I also used to do all my work in CorelDraw, before I took the job at Macromedia. I still miss it sometimes, but I've gotten so used to Fireworks now that I can hardly imagine working any other way.
Photoshop's UI is simply painful. There are no simple features there. Mostrograms give you, say, a paint brush and let you paint, leaving the high-end trick stuff for later learning. Not Photoshop. No, in Photoshop, that same paint brush tool wraps all features, from novice to guru, in one UI, such that learning to do even the simplest thing in Photoshop means you have to master some very complex ideas about how each tool works. I can't stand it, and I've been using various graphics software professionally since 1983.
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Kind of off topic....can you copy layer style in FW? This would be very helpful, and I do it all the time in PS. Still trying to learn FW....
I didnt see this until now :)
In Fireworks you can create a style then save it. It shows up in a box on the right. The style can contain drop shadows gradients fill pattern whatever. Then select your plain vector shape or text, click the style and everything is automated for you.
Anyone designed a remote(non lcd/touch screen) button 'layout' so to speak? It would be interesting to see where other people think what buttons should go where, I think.
We do 99% DirecTV so i like the hard buttons on a remote to closely match it. The best remote i have seen for hard button layout is the RTI T2-C. It would be perfect except for one annoyance. They put a POWER button where the PREVIOUS CHANNEL button should be. A properly programmed system will never need a POWER button because discrete commands will launch sources and OFF will shut the system OFF. These macro buttons can go on the touchscreen or LCD/hardbutton area for remotes like the URC MX-980.
Crestrons new TPMC-3X is a really slick remote. I didnt like it at first because there are no hard buttons for numbers but the minute you put one in your hand you realize how easy it is to use. It has a side button to toggle pages so you can click back and forth between fav channels and the number pad.
Both very nice, but way out of my price range,lol. But it does make you wonder who gives the final go ahead for production, re the RTI and the power button! like you said, almost perfect. its hard to believe it's so hard to find a decent, reasonably priced, remote with a logical button layout, I just got a harmony 785(I think 720 over your way), I've been looking and looking and putting off getting the harmony but then they were half price(still A$129) so I bought it, still not very impressed, the built quality is terrible, the buttons on the side of the lcd feel like they will fall off at any time. The only thing I like is the control it gives me re the software, pc based would still be better than web based though. I guess I will keep looking, for a remote with MY button layout, see below,
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