By Ellis Vener
Answer: The Logitech NuLOOQ navigator.
Originally priced at $150 and available only for Mac OS X users, the price has now come down to $79.99. Beginning October 9, a Windows XP compatible version will be available. So what's the big deal and why should you check it out? It's an astounding way to increase your efficiency and speed while using Photoshop or other compatible applications.
The Navigator "puck" itself is a heavy but small, flat-topped dome shaped device that you put on the opposite side of keyboard from your mouse or Wacom tablet. I mouse with my right hand so my Navigator gets placed to the left side of my keyboard. On the flat top are five control buttons sitting in a touch sensitive ring.
Three of the control buttons are lit "triggerpoints," and I use mine to do everything from launching my most commonly used programs without going to the OS X Dock, to accessing my most commonly used Photoshop tools like the Spot Healing tool, the Crop tool, the Clone tool, various actions, plug ins, tool palettes like Histogram and Info and scripts. I can even convert an image from 16-bit to 8-bit mode.
The ring itself is a contextual controls. For instance, if you are using a brush, you can change the brush diameter or pressure simply by lightly running your finger around the ring, increasing or decreasing the setting in correspondence to whether you move your finger clockwise or counterclockwise.
The gray middle section of the Navigator is called the "Navring" and the cool thing here is you use it to scroll through an image to the left, right, up or down by pushing or tapping on it. Even better, give the Navring a clockwise twist to zoom into or a counterclockwise twist to zoom out of the image you are working on.
To truly understand how valuable the Navigator is, you really just have to play with it. I first saw it demonstrated back in February at PMA 2006 and thought: "Cute, but why bother?" A few months later Logitech sent a sample and I started playing with it and thought "Still cute, and I kind of understand what it does now, but I don't see how it really makes my Photoshop experience any better." After a couple of practice sessions with telephone support from Pratish Shah of Logitech, guiding me through what it could do, I thought, "I definitely can see how this makes sense for heavy-duty Photoshop production houses, but not really for small guys." I then set it aside for about six weeks.
A couple of days ago, I went back to it, and within a few minutes the "Aha!" moment happened. This thing is absolutely great! The brilliance of the NuLOOQ Professional is that it keeps your focus on the image you are working on and exactly where in the image you are concentrating. Those little tasks like mousing up to a palette or a menu, or even keyboard shortcuts, are more distracting than you realize.
The basic tooldial consists of eight cells, but by exploiting the outer-ring option, eight more cells can be addressed by any one of the original eight, giving each tooldial potentially 72 (the original or inner eight, plus eight outer-ring cells per inner cell) directly addressable tools, files, actions, palettes, commands or documents. And don't forget you have three tooldials available so really you can get very quick access to up to 216 options.
The best way I found to program my custom NuLOOQ toolrings for Photoshop CS2 was to make a list of my most commonly used PSCS2 tools in my workflow and then arrange them in a clockwise pattern in the order I use them. Analyzing your workflow like this is a useful exercise in itself and you quickly realize how many times you are having to go up to the Photoshop menu bar, over to the tool palette, adjust a brush size, or to the palette dock and then navigate through those options. Doing this over and over again during a photo editing session is a real time and concentration killer, worse if you are using a big monitor. Programming a custom tooldial for the NuLOOQ keeps your attention where it should be: on your image. It also keeps your monitor freer from visual clutter.
While this review centers on using the NuLOOQ Professional Series with Photoshop, the navigator and tooldial work with the entire Adobe Creative Suite 2 and several other programs including Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, Final Cut Pro, Internet Explorer, iMovie, iTunes, Microsoft Office Word and Excel, and Safari, and can be easily configured to support virtually any application.
The NuLooq Professional Series includes the navigator hardware and tooldial software. Requires Apple OS X (10.3 and higher) or (as of october 9) Microsoft Windows XT operating systems and is priced at $79.99.