The info panel actually has lots of options and some of them are the kinds of things I might find helpful on a regular basis. In fact, it can be configured to display all sorts of useful information. Here’s a rundown of the items that can be added to the info panel (by clicking on the menu icon in the top right corner of the info panel and choosing Panel Options), as well as how you might put them to use.
First Color Readout – This drop-down menu defaults to the actual color values of the image file with which you’re working. On an RGB file, it will display the RGB values of the pixel the mouse is over. This is likely the best use of this readout, but you could certainly change it to another mode if you have a specific need to, for instance, know web color values for a given pixel.
Second Color Readout – It’s here in this readout that it makes the most sense to change the mode to reflect any specific color information you need, but if you have multiple needs it will come in handy to be able to reach each of these two readouts.
Mouse Coordinates – If you’re a metric kind of person rather than an imperialist, you can change the default ruler units to centimeters or millimeters rather than the default inches. You could also display coordinates in pixels, points, picas or percent of the overall image. This readout is especially helpful if you need to measure distances and relative positions for any reason.
Status Information: Document Sizes – Under the Status Information heading you’ll find some really useful options, in my humble opinion. The first is Document Sizes, which when checked will display a readout of the original file size (in megabytes) as well as the current file size (which changes based on the addition of layers, image resizing, and so on. This can be useful for keeping large files in check as well as for hitting specific size targets, which can be particularly useful when prepping a file for display online.
Document Profile – This line item simply displays the color profile of the image file. It’s straightforward, but without it, you’d have to open Color Settings under the Edit menu just to find out what the color space may be. That was something I found myself doing for years before I realized I could customize this panel and save that step.
Document Dimensions – Displaying document dimensions in inches and dpi is a great way to know not only how large a file is but whether or not it’s currently set to 72dpi, 300dpi or something else entirely. Displaying it makes opening Image Size under the Image menu in order to find out the dimensions of the file on which you’re working unnecessary—another time saver for me on a regular basis. Between this and the profile, I’ve surely saved a month’s worth of clicks.
Measurement Scale – I don’t find the measurement scale very helpful very often, so frankly I keep it unchecked. But if you wanted to, you could set up a measurement scale (in the toolbar when the ruler is active) to equate, say, one pixel to equal one inch—or some other unit of measure in order to translate your document into real physical measurements.
Smart Objects – This line item simply displays a count of the number of smart objects in a file, as well as if the path to original images making up the smart objects has gone missing. Useful if you work with lots of smart objects, less so if you don’t.
Scratch Sizes – This is a great way to check on your RAM and Scratch Disk capacity in order to determine whether your system is properly configured for speed and efficiency, even when working with very large image files. I’m currently trying to make more use of this in order to optimize my machine.
Efficiency – Want to know if Photoshop is performing well and quickly? If it is, the Efficiency displayed here will always read 100%. If Photoshop isn’t performing up to par and is relying on the scratch disk for additional processing power, it’ll show in the performance. When it does, it may be time to start over and speed things up.
Timing – This line item simply displays how quickly the previous task was completed. You’ll start to learn speeds of average tasks over time, and therefore you’ll begin to learn how long a task should take to complete, and if Photoshop isn’t performing up to snuff, this will be a preliminary indicator.
Current Tool – Whatever tool is active at the moment, its name is listed here. A handy place to check if your tool isn’t behaving the way you want it to. When this happens to me, it’s usually because I haven’t actually selected the tool I intended to—a frighteningly frequent occurrence.
Layer Count – I’ll be honest: if I wanted to know how many layers I had in a document, I might just count them up. But if I had to know, and had to know quickly, this line would be a big help.
Always Show Composite Color Values – This checkbox ensures that you’re reading color values in a WYSIWYG fashion—meaning, it’s a combination of all layers as they are displayed, as opposed to whichever layer you happen to actively be working on.
Show Tool Hints – Simple as it is, the Show Tool Hints checkbox can be very helpful as it tells you a short sentence about what you might do with a given tool. It’s a superb learning aid for beginners, and it comes in handy for experienced users as well who may want a refresher on the particulars of a given tool.