Adobe on iPad

These are not secrets: I’m no fan of Adobe’s Flash platform, I’ve been pretty vocal about my disdain for their bloated and maddening desktop software, and I’ve gone on record with my dislike for their tablet publishing strategy. So it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that Adobe is not in fact a monolithic company, that they’re not all bad. There are smart, impassioned people working there and they’re still capable of producing surprising, even delightful software.

For example, it’s worth noting that at least one Adobe team is producing some very good apps for the iPad. I’ve been a fan, if not a devoted user, of the company’s surprisingly lightweight and responsive sketching app Adobe Ideas since it debuted. I also think their Photoshop Express app is well done and, thankfully in spite of its name, very un-Photoshop-like.

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Multi-touch

Apparently there’s more where those came from, as yesterday Adobe released three new apps for iPad: Adobe Eazel is a fascinating and exquisitely responsive painting program with an intriguing, five-finger user interface that’s only possible on the iPad. Adobe Nav turns your iPad into a kind of input peripheral connected to Photoshop CS5, letting you access Photoshop’s tools as if the iPad were a hardware extension of your desktop. And Adobe Color Lava lets you mix colors and create color swatches with an interface that recreates the feeling of mixing watercolors with startling fluidity and delightfulness.

None of these are perfect, but they’re all imaginative and incredibly creative, and what’s more, they are fearless in acknowledging that this platform is something new, that it requires an entirely different approach to software, that in order to succeed, they have to create products that truly embrace the strengths and the weaknesses of the iPad. Adobe has laudably eschewed their traditional, insurrectionist habit of trying to build their own platforms within other players’ platforms (and ignoring the native characteristics of their hosts) while also pushing the cost of such unwelcome ambitions onto their users in terms of bloat, reliability and, well, cost. What may be most remarkable about these apps is that the priciest of them is still just US$4.99. That’s a long, long way from the hundreds of dollars that the company typically likes to charge for its premier products. I’m not sure I’m going to become a regular user of any of them, but at this cost I can hardly resist playing with them, at least. They should do more of this.

  1. Khoi, play around with the open documents portion of Adobe Nav.

    If you are like me, you will have over a handful of open documents when designing. In addition to tap-to-bring-to-front, you can take any open document you have in Photoshop, get up from your desk with your iPad and walk around showing off your comps to your team.

    Perhaps the most delightful discovery we made in designing this app is that I don’t have to save off JPEGs. They’re just there on my iPad.

    Socialization of design improves greatly and it’s just a hell of a lot of (design fun).

    – G

  2. Your next to last line says it all – “playing with them” because that’s all they’re good! Lets take NAV…Adobe charges their users for an app that allows customization of the toolbar and switching between open images on an external device. Who in the world of design thinks it’s smart workflow to turn to an external device to perform central tasks? Can’t customize the toolbar within Photoshop can you?! But most certainly on an external device you have to pay additional for!! That’s shows unequivocally that Adobe thinks of ways to make money over implementing the best functionality into it’s flagship product and taking care of the users that have supported them for so long. And Color Lava…oh please..the ability to mix colors and create custom swatches has existed for quite a while in the form of which you can already access within PS. I can already access kuler on my iPad, create and save swatches then load them into PS. Have we degenerated to the fingerpaint level to mix colors and have to pay $5 for it. Come on, Adobe should think innovation for the benefit of the artist not innovation for the sake of making them money. Give credit when credit is due…not for gee whiz pointless in the real world toys.

  3. Chris: You don’t have to pay for anything. If you don’t like what they’re doing, pass on it. Or, if you decide to try it and then you still don’t like it, you can rest easy knowing you only spent a few dollars. It’s not the end of the world.

  4. I can’t find replacements for Adobe products fast enough in most cases, but I’ve been like a giggly schoolgirl when it comes to Lightroom. Long may Adobe avoid making it anything like an Adobe product.

  5. credit where credit is due, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. this is new territory, and adobe is TRYING to put out something thoughtful here. which is more than i can say for their festering, bloated, inconsistent + overpriced creative suites. let’s hope this signals a new direction for a company that went over the hill long ago.

  6. The bigger story for us designers here in Adobe XD – and perhaps those of you with better ideas for connected apps to Photoshop of your own – is that we also published an SDK. Get crackin’.

    Khoi, thanks for this forum. Great site. Big fan.


  7. Hi Khoi,

    Have you tried Adobe Photoshop Lightroom? Unlike Photoshop, it’s incredibly light, easy to use and beautifully designed – something really different from the apps in the CS family.

    My hope is that Adobe does a Snow Leopard-type release one day and make the CS family run faster, better with less bloat and no new features. But I doubt that’ll ever happen.

  8. Alvin, we on the Photoshop team care quite a bit about performance and streamlining the application. It won’t happen overnight and it remains to be seen whether we will do an entire release of just that, but we are working on these things.

  9. The applications look nice but I doubt they’re anything other than expensive novelty applications. Opening a third party application to control an application you’re already using seems counterintuitive to me.

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