Adobe Touch Apps

AdobeAdobe is barnstorming both the app and the tablet markets with tools you’d never expect to find in either, as Drew Turney learns.

You can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes… In the same way, you can give a photographer, video editor or creative pro a tablet, but will he or she do more than fire up Angry Birds? Adobe is betting so, giving design and A/V pros an environment completely centred around touch and Cloud services.

Some of the apps in the new collection (not really a suite, which refers more correctly to the desktop product family Creative Suite) are digital versions of stuff we all do on paper now, so they have an uphill battle to overcome 2,000 years of human communication’s killer app. They’re all well made and show promise, but what will convince us to adopt them?

While Adobe’s Creative Cloud is now in general release, the first problem that affects the Adobe Touch Apps is the sharing environments, which are different for every component. A better approach would be to collect them all together under a single Creative Suite-style banner so they can use the same sharing tools. In some components you can only upload the result to your Creative Cloud account, in others you can send an image or file by email, download it to your device or any number of combinations of each. It makes no sense because if you use any of the Touch Apps you’ll probably use at least two of them. A ‘sharing center’ with multiple options similar to the iOS Game Center would be a welcome future addition.

The common movements, tools and elements in the Adobe Touch Apps are often very different from those of the Creative Suite, so there’ll be a steep learning curve, but one of Adobe’s strengths has always been standardisation, so once you know them you’ll be comfortable across the whole family.

And finally, in reading or considering any criticisms of these products, keep in mind that they cost a measly ten bucks (US) each from the relevant app store of your device. When you’re talking about products that (in the case of PS Touch) can do about 50 percent of what the comparable desktop product can do (for over AUD$1,000), there’s almost no justifiable cause for complaint.

Adobe Collage

Think of this one as Paper 2.0. It’s a sketching application that lets you draw out ideas by simply arranging graphics on a canvas. A nice touch of the whole product family is to be able to click a button to conduct an image search on Google, Flickr, your own Creative Cloud account files (including native Photoshop or Illustrator files) or the gallery on your device to bring it into your work.

This is the most sharing-friendly of the lot as you can email, upload or share via Skype or Bluetooth.

Adobe Debut

Debut is the one you fire up when presenting to clients and/or stakeholders. Connect to your Creative Cloud account and download any file of any file type to your device for a swipable, zoomable version right in front of you, and there’s no pixellation or resolution problems because the app downloads the full high fidelity file.

As you discuss the changes necessary, you can use the pen tool to scrawl your notes and manipulate the size of the pen, change colour or erase.

Adobe Ideas

Ideas isn’t dissimilar enough from Collage to warrant its own existence. It’s another sketch pad application, but it’s more focused on drawing rather than doodling. Where Collage has a text tool similar to the one you’d find in Photoshop or Illutrator, here you simply choose a pen, change the size, colour and opacity and start drawing. Like Collage, it has layers you can swap or move and you can bring in a picture from the onboard camera or search for one online.

One point of difference that’s cool (but won’t set the world on fire) is that it draws in vector format, so no matter how far you zoom in you don’t lose resolution and can draw in ever-fine detail.

Adobe Kuler

Among the most useful of the Touch Apps is this colour theme picker. If you’re designing a website, a print background or even looking for ideas for composing a photograph at a pinch – Kuler can give you a host of them in a few clicks.

Find a colour you like in a picture online or from your device gallery and Kuler automatically extracts a series of colours to form a theme. Refine them further by selecting presents like Moody, Dark, Deep, etc and then customise them even more by adjusting the colour sliders an increment at a time.

Or you can just swipe the colour wheel and the whole colour set will move with you, the other shades in the theme adjusting on the fly as you swipe. When you have a theme you like you can save, upload and share it or choose from Kuler themes already saved online. On reflection there’s a kind of small market for it as most creative pros will have set colours from a client, but it’s a good idea well executed.

Adobe Proto

The clear winner in the ‘wow’ factor stakes. Open a canvas and sketch out your website – draw a box for an image, a long block of boxes for a menu, a triangle for a video icon, scrawl for text or a number of other preset objects the system recognises. Then watch magically as Proto redraws the elements of your website as you draw, neatly lined up and positioned where you put them. Then simply adjust them by selecting and dragging to resize or move. If you don’t fancy starting from scratch, you can select and manipulate a selection of designs that have been done for you.

But even that’s not the real kicker. As you do all this, Proto is building the HTML code in the background on the fly. The drawing aspect is cool – if a little fiddly – and isn’t as effective as huge sheets of paper for simple brainstorming. But creating the page source with all the div tags, image tags and tables coded and ready is a true revelation.

But here again the sharing options let Proto down by only letting you upload the final product to your Creative Cloud account. Sending the HTML by email straight from your device would make this product near-perfect.

Adobe Photoshop Touch

This is the one most users will play with early on, and with good reason – though not as fully featured and without the depth of control of Photoshop’s desktop version it’s a great idea. It makes good use of the pressure sensitivity of a tablet, the one area where it makes the most sense to cut out a mouse. It will actually feel most comfortable to Wacom users initially for that reason.

Some of the traditional controls like curves and layers are there, and to really impress your audience, show them the 3D layers representation. Like the sketching apps, there are some tools that are new and some sound good, but after a frustrating 10 fruitless minutes searching for the scribble selection tool (which lets you quickly isolate or deep etch an outline) we gave up.

It won’t be quite as second nature if you’re a desktop Photoshop user but there are plenty of cute tricks. Just one is starting your camera and bringing it into Photoshop Touch directly to position your snap before you take the photo and commit the image to a layer.

The Adobe Touch Apps are all available from the Android store and Adobe Photoshop Touch is available from the Apple App Store.