I would like the ability to multiple select PATH layers while viewing each layer. (like in illustrator). Also the ability to link path layers together to move all at once, or perform any of the transformations or alignment functions to path layers. The ability to link paths to an image layer would be great, so all of your paths can be transformed with your image layer all in one swoop, along with copying images and their paths to other documents by a simple drag operation.
Also grouping path layers. We use so many paths for color correction masks, the ability to group paths into a folder would be fantastic.
You can already do most of this.
Generally it looks like you have assumed, as many seem to do, that these functions do not exist, when they already do. Learn about layer structure (grouping), layer linking, vector layer masking, the mask link icon, and the align functions. And learn about these in detail. Whenever you find yourself asking "there should be a way to do this…" allow yourself a moment to realise that this is Photoshop version 12. Everything you mention above is available. It may not work exactly the same way as in illustrator, and you will have to structure your file differently, but its all there.
I probably should have been more clear in my request. I would like photoshops "PATHS" palette to function like Illustrators "layers" palette. (with the eye and lock and ability to change the color of the path highlight for that layer, select multiple layers, etc etc.). That pretty much defines what I was trying to get at. I really didn't need a work around since I've been using photoshop for about 20 years, I understand it's functions, I was just requesting a feature.
Hmm Ok. The point I am making is that you can still use the Layers Panel for most of what you are asking. There is really no reason to use the old Paths panel, which has very limited functionality. Certainly paths can be linked and transformed, dragged from documents together in this way.
What I have gathered over the years on this forum, is that the Paths Panel code was written a long time ago. And the code is apparently so impenetrable, that no one has been able to break it apart and modify it. Thats why it is really completely unchanged in its functionality for more than 10 years. Apparently they don't see the point in investing the considerable time required to modify this. "If it ain't broke don't fix" it I guess.
Nothing outdated about the paths palette. In the color correction industry it is standard operating procedure to use paths to isolate simple color areas of an image. Each image can contain a lot of paths for each model (20-30+). (flesh, shirt, pants, shoes, outfit, teeth, eyes, earrings, rings, necklaces.. etc etc.) Paths do not add to the file size like layers do. Additional layers can easily increase your files size and it's not necessary for this function.
It's not likely the paths palette will be outdated any time soon in my industry. Like I said before, my feature request was just that. I completely understand the alternate ways, paths are better for what I do, and I would like to see the paths palette more like illustrators.
In the color correction industry …
I can assure you, you are talking to someone who has worked in what you are calling the "color correction industry", doing color correction solely for about 3 whole years. Day in day out for 9 hours a day. Is using paths and the Paths Panel necessary in the way as you are describing, for the activity of correcting and modifying the color in an image? No, not at all. It would be necessary only for those that don't understand how the color tools in Photoshop really work. Especially Curves. In fact the unnatural, hard edged selections that pathing produces are potentially hugely detrimental to the natural tonal and color characteristics of a photographically sourced image. Much better, less artificial, channel based selection techiniques are available if required, for this purpose.
If you are needing to store your paths in the Paths Panel at all, it also suggests that you need to revise your technique in terms of the destructive nature of your work. Sorry got to be honest.
Wow, 3 whole years, that beats my 20.
Anyway. This is the way it's done by all our studios and every place I have ever worked. The edges are not hard if you feather them and for simple color areas, that is enough. For complex masks there are channels and density masks, but if you haven't worked with paths, you are missing an important tool in photoshop. Everyone has their own opinion on how to perform any function in photoshop. So lets just agree to disagree. Paths are simple and fast and don't add to the file size. I really didn't come here to argue technique. Just make a feature request.