Collectively, Bridge, Camera Raw, Photoshop and, optionally, Adobe DNG Converter provide a powerful system for managing and converting raw images. As you go through the following chapters, which examine each component in detail, keep this bigger picture in mind, because it provides the context that makes the details relevant.
Raw images don't change. Instead, they're like negatives. You can interpret them many different ways during the conversion to an RGB image just as you can make many different prints from the same negative.
Bridge is the tool for sorting and selecting images, and for adding and editing metadata. The thumbnails and previews you see in Bridge are generated by Camera Raw using the last settings you applied to the image, or (if you haven't edited the image) the Camera Raw default settings for the camera model from which the image came.
If you don't like Camera Raw's default settings for a particular camera model, you can and should change them to ones that are closer to your taste.
Editing raw images and converting raw images are logically separate operations, though you can combine them.
If you have 100 raw images from which you need to produce, for example, a high-res TIFF and a low-res JPEG, the most efficient way to do so is to first edit the images in Camera Raw hosted by Bridge, then run batch operations hosted by Photoshop to open the raw images, using the Camera Raw settings you've applied, and save them in the appropriate formats.
With the bigger picture this chapter presents in mind, it's time to drill down in detail on the Camera Raw plug-in, which is the topic of the next chapter.