Adobe is the king of creative software but not ready to rest on its laurels. After revamping its boxed Creative Suite software into cloud-connected, subscription-based, regularly updated Creative Cloud, Adobe has set itself up to respond more quickly to the fast-changing industries it serves.
As more powerful mobile devices make it possible to do real creative work away from a computer, Adobe is rolling out a new suite of mobile-first apps and hardware designed to keep a creative worker's assets, color palettes, and files available everywhere. Adobe announced these new creations Wednesday at an event in New York, along with updates for 14 of the major Creative Cloud desktop apps, including new features and performance enhancements.
Ink and Slide, alongside Sketch and Line
Adobe has never designed hardware before, but when it surveyed its user base of creative professionals, it found a couple data points that pointed to a huge opportunity: A third of the survey respondents wanted to do real creative work on a mobile device, but the same percentage say that when they aren't using the computer, their go-to tools are paper and pencil.
Adobe's new Ink smart pen and Slide ruler let you draw on your iPad with a similar feel to pen and paper. But you can also lay down shapes, quickly add perspective to your drawings, get feedback from other creatives through the integrated Behance network, and of course save your assets, files, and color swatches up to your Creative Cloud account, so they're accessible from the other CC apps.
In fact, your Creative Cloud account (including a free account) is actually tied to the Bluetooth Ink stylus itself. You can use your own Ink stylus with any iPad running a compatible Adobe app, and your assets will appear in the app without you having to log in--just pairing the Ink is all it takes.
Ink ships with Slide, which is a 3-inch ruler that works with the iPad as well. Slide requires no power--capacative pads on its bottom rest on the iPad's screen, and when you place your fingertip on top of the Slide, that completes the circuit and lets the iPad "see" it. Then you can draw precision lines and curves, or use the built-in Staedtler templates, French curves, pre-drawn shapes, trace packs, and stamp packs to quickly add stylized elements to your drawings--great for designers and architects, or just amateurs fooling around.
Adobe developed two new iPad-only apps alongside Ink and Slide, called Adobe Sketch and Adobe Line, with each iteration of the hardware affecting the software's design and vice versa. For example, as cool as the Slide is, you need two hands to use it--one for the Slide and one to hold the pen. So Adobe added a purely digital version of the Slide into the Adobe Line app, called Touch Slide. That way if you're holding your iPad with one hand and drawing with the other (say, at a museum, or outdoors), you can still use slide by placing it on your screen virtually and then using your hand to draw with the Ink stylus.
Adobe Sketch is more of a free-form drawing app, while Adobe Line is tailor-made for vector graphics, lines, curves, and perspective drawing. Both are free and iPad-only for now, and they're designed to go hand-in-hand with Ink and Slide, although you can use the apps with just your fingers too. We dive much deeper in our full review.
Another all-new, iPad-only app, Photoshop Mix puts more of Photoshop's marquis features on a tablet than ever before, with the power of cloud computing. We are talking about content-aware fill, camera shake reduction, and the Upright tool, which straightens distorted images--these are big features that would normally bring a tablet's computing power to its knees. Photoshop Mix connects to Adobe servers running the full version of Photoshop, so you can nondestructively cut up and remix your photos and save them as PSD files for more tinkering on the desktop. It's free for iPads, available immediately.
Photoshop Mix was built with Adobe Creative SDK, new tools for mobile developers to connect their apps to Creative Cloud and put Adobe's digital imaging technology into mobile apps, all for free. Developers can apply to a private beta starting Wednesday, and Adobe plans to reveal specific partners and apps already working with the Creative SDK at its Adobe Max conference this October.
New features for the desktop apps
Besides the new iPad-only apps, Adobe is updating all 14 of its cross-platform Creative Cloud apps for Mac and Windows. The updated version of Photoshop CC, for example, has a new Blur Gallery of motion-blur effects, a new Focus Mask feature for making the depth of field shallower in portraits, and improved performance in the Mercury Graphics Engine.
Illustrator CC gets Live Shapes, which lets you presto-changeo a plain rectangle into a more complex shape and then back again, and everything will render faster on the Windows side thanks to GPU acceleration for your Nvidia graphics card. InDesign CC gets an EPUB Fixed Layout tool for more easily creating ebooks that work on multiple devices.
Dreamweaver, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Muse, After Effects, Flash, Edge Animate, Audition, SpeedGrade, and Prelude all got performance updates, new features, and more efficient workflows as well. Adobe rolls out updates to the different areas of Creative Cloud (digital imaging or video tools, for example) periodically, but for the launch of Ink and Slide, the company decided to refresh the entire suite at once. You can read more about the updates to each app at Adobe's Creative Cloud site.
But wait, as they say, that's not all. Adobe also rolled out an iPhone version of Lightroom Mobile, aiming for feature parity with the already-excellent iPad version. Both of them sync with Lightroom 5 on the desktop, which is both part of Creative Cloud (including the $10/month Creative Cloud Photography plan) and available on its own.
Lightroom for iPhone can import new images from your Camera Roll, for the easiest way yet to get them into your Lightroom catalog. But Lightroom can also edit Raw files, even on mobile, and all of your images and edits sync across devices and are also available online at lightroom.adobe.com. You don't get all the editing power of full Photoshop, of course--Lightroom focuses on crops, basic adjustments, and of course filters. Once you're done editing, Lightroom makes it easy to organize your images with tags and grouping, and share them on social media.
Creative Cloud starts at $10/month for the Creative Cloud Photography package, which includes just Photoshop CC and Lightroom for desktop and mobile. Single-app plans start at $20/month and full suite plans start at $50/month. The new iPad apps (Line, Sketch, and Photoshop Mix) are free.