Hot on the heels of Adobe Photoshop Touch, Adobe has unveiled the beta version of Photoshop CS6, and it's available for anyone to download and try for free, whether you're an existing Photoshop user or not.

While there are no unexpected must-have features, there are lots of tweaks and minor upgrades to the existing Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop Elements 10 tools.

When starting up the Adobe Photoshop CS6 beta for the first time, for example, you will notice that it has a new darker interface to help you focus on the image you're editing.

Photoshop CS6 Beta: 10 things you need to know

But there's more to the update than a superficial interface makeover. So here we explore 10 of the most important things about the new software.

1. Photoshop CS6 Beta introduces GPU-acceleration

Adobe has introduced the Mercury Graphic Engine to enable Photoshop CS6 to make greater use of a computer's graphics processing unit (GPU). Consequently, it makes some adjustments and edits render more quickly.

2. Photoshop CS6 Beta uses on image controls

Adobe is moving to more intuitive 'on image' controls, so the strength of some filters, for example, can be adjusted by moving a control displayed on the image itself rather than on a dialog box on the side.

This enables you to keep your eyes on the picture, not jumping back and forth to dialog boxes or sliders.

3. Photoshop CS6 Beta has a black interface

By default, the Photoshop 6 interface is dark, but if you prefer the old style you can change it back via Preferences>Interface.

4. Photoshop CS6 Beta has a new Crop tool

The Crop tool has been overhauled, and is now similar to the one in Lightroom, so if you're a Lightroom user, you'll have no trouble adapting.

Photoshop CS6 Beta: 10 things you need to know

When it's rotated to straighten the image, the image rotates instead of the crop rectangle, and you can use guides such as the rule of thirds. Helpfully, it quickly switches into the straightening mode, enabling you to you drag a line along an element such as the horizon that needs to be level. The guides can be changed by hitting the O key.

There are also shortcuts to a range of customisable aspect ratio options, and there's a handy command that switches the crop rectangle between landscape and portrait orientations. Another useful new setting is Delete Cropped Pixels. Untick it to crop the canvas but leave pixels on the layer, in case you change your mind.

However, if you really don't like the new style, tick 'Use Classic Mode' in the Options Bar's fly-out menu to revert to the old Crop tool you know and love.

5. Photoshop CS6 Beta has a new Filters menu

Adobe has reviewed the filters provided in CS5 and reorganised the menus for CS6. It's also dropped a few of the filters, including the Pixel Bender options.

Photoshop CS6 Beta: 10 things you need to know

A new Oil Paint filter is an astonishing way to transform pictures and offers a lot of control over the way a seemingly random pattern of brushstrokes is added to an image.

6. Photoshop CS6 Beta has a new Layers Filter

This is useful with images that have numerous layers, since it enables you to filter the layers in the Layers' panel by type, characteristics or by searching by layer name. It's even possible to see just those layers with a certain colour.

The filter also enables you to quickly toggle between a subset of layers and the entire stack.

7. Photoshop CS6 Beta reveals a Tilt Shift filter

Photoshop CS6's new Tilt Shift filter (found in Filter>Blur>Tilt Shift) enables you to replicate the popular miniaturisation/tilt-shift effects by adding blur from a plane.

Photoshop CS6 Beta: 10 things you need to know

This filter uses 'on image' controls so you can drag and adjust the effect on the image, rather than through a dialog box. This is also one of the GPU-accelerated effects.

8. Photoshop CS6 Beta brings Character and Paragraph Styles

Just like in fellow Adobe Creative Suite program InDesign, Photoshop CS6's new Character Style and Paragraph Style Panels enable you to save your favourite font, size, colour, and other type-related settings and edit them via the fly-out menus.

9. Photoshop CS6 Beta enables local white balance in Adobe Camera Raw

Photoshop CS6 enables local white balance adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw using the Adjustment brush and/or the Graduated Filter tool. Another new local adjustment is Moire Reduction, and the other sliders have been updated to match the basic adjustments.

Photoshop CS6 Beta: 10 things you need to know

Other changes have been made to Adobe Camera Raw too, including its adjustment sliders and save versions.

10. Photoshop CS6 Beta has a Content-Aware Move tool

Adobe's new Content-Aware Move tool is found in the same Tools Panel button as Spot Healing and Patch. It extends the Content-Aware Fill technology to moving a selection, blending it into its new location, and simultaneously filling in the hole it left.

It needs to be used with care, but when it works well, it's a great time saver.