In Adobe Photoshop CS4, the keyboard shortcuts for viewing channels changed, and the Curves adjustment layer was implemented as a non-modal panel rather than a modal dialog box. While these changes were done for good reasons, many people are unhappy with them and wish they could do things as they did in Photoshop CS3 and before. Since Photoshop CS4 shipped, a couple of tools have emerged to roll back the changes to some extent.
Use Old Shortcuts plug-in
In Photoshop CS4 (for Photoshop CS5 see below), you can download and install a plug-in that restores the pre-CS4 shortcuts for viewing channels, where Command-1/Ctrl-1 is the composite view of channels. (In Photoshop CS4/CS5, Command-2/Ctrl-2 displays the composite channel view, and accordingly, the single-channel viewing shortcuts were all moved up one key.) The link to the plug-in is available from John Nack’s blog post “Use Old Shortcuts” plug-in now Universal. To install it, first unzip the downloaded file, identify the plug-in for your system (Mac or Windows), then drag it into the Plug-ins folder inside the Adobe Photoshop Cs4 application folder. It doesn’t matter where it is inside that folder.
In Photoshop CS5, you don’t have to use the plug-in to restore the channel shortcuts because there’s a built-in option that does the same thing. To use it, choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and select the Use Legacy Channel Shortcuts check box.
This is a panel that lets you add a new Curves adjustment layer or edit a selected Curves adjustment layer using a dialog box, as it was before Photoshop CS4. This panel was built as an extension using Adobe Configurator, and is again downloadable from John Nack’s blog (CS4 Curves Dialog panel) (CS5 Curves Dialog panel). To install it, first double-click to unzip it, then double-click the unzipped .mxp file. It should open in Adobe Extension Manager, which should install it into the right location automatically. You may need to download and install (or update) Adobe AIR for the extension to work. For more details, see John Nack’s blog post, Using a dialog box to edit a Curves adjustment layer.
Important: It’s still recommended that you learn the CS4/CS5 shortcuts and Curves adjustment panel workflow and shortcuts, because it’s the way future versions of Photoshop are likely to work. There is no guarantee that the plug-in or extension will still work or be upgraded to work with versions of Photoshop beyond CS4. Even though I’ve used Photoshop for many years, I’m using the new shortcuts, partly because I agree with the decision to make the Actual Pixels (100% magnification) shortcut (now Command-1/Ctrl-1) match other Adobe and Apple software.