September 26, 2007
Feedback, please: User-powered help inside Photoshop?
I have a very simple idea–one that I think could be very powerful. I’m proposing that Photoshop (and other Adobe apps) become living organisms, platforms that constantly improve as users learn & share. Whether the idea sees the light of day depends largely on what you say about it.
I want to start by addressing a simple problem: Let me preserve what I’ve learned & keep it at my fingertips. If you’re like me, you’ve probably jotted down a million notes about software over the years, storing them on sticky notes, on legal pads, wherever… most of which are nowhere to be found at the moment you need them. Instead of settling for this, what if you could capture your knowledge about Photoshop inside Photoshop?
It’s the simplest idea in the world: let’s let people jot down notes and stick them into the application itself. Instead of living only on the local hard drive, the notes would be stored on the network. That way, no matter where you found yourself working, your accumulated knowledge would always be there, in the context of the tools themselves. In essence you’d be micro-blogging from within Photoshop.
Ah, but the network is built for sharing. So what if you could elect to share your notes with others, and what if you could see what they’d shared?
Here’s a practical example. Let’s say you go into Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask dialog box. “Amount” is straightforward, but what the hell do “Radius” and “Threshold” mean, exactly? Let’s say you make sense of it, or you find settings that work really well for certain images. Why not jot down a note right there? That way you’ve enriched Photoshop with that knowledge, in context, and made it part of your permanent collection.
But what if you don’t know what something means? Maybe you could see what Bruce Fraser has to say on the subject–reading a note with Bruce’s tips right in the dialog. Inside Illustrator’s Live Color feature the other day, I was dying to have Mordy Golding drop by my office and give me the straight dope. Why couldn’t I see Mordy’s writing–or hear audio narration, or see a video, for that matter–right within Live Color? Why can’t I see Mac Holbert’s best practices for printing–right in the print dialog?
As I envision it, notes would be searchable, and you could give a quick thumbs-up/-down, TiVo-style, to each note. That way the good stuff would bubble up while the crap falls into obscurity. (And, of course, you could always elect to keep your notes private–which they would be by default.)
Here’s a really simple mockup I created to depict the concept running in a palette/panel. (Yes, it would look slicker when real UI designers did their thing.)
So, what do you think? Would you find value in jotting down what you’ve learned, making it portable and permanent? Would you share that info with others? Would you read what they’d shared? Is any of this worth a damn? I’m dying to know your take. Here’s a 3-question survey, and comments are welcome.
PS–At risk of overloading the concept, I may as well confess that I regard notes as the “thin edge of the wedge.” I want not only my knowledge to live “in the cloud”; I want everything that makes my copy of an app mine–custom palettes, brushes, swatches, font styles, everything–to live on the network, to be synched seamlessly and to be sharable with others. If I come up with a kick-ass skin for using Photoshop for Web design, I want you to type “JNack” into your copy of Photoshop and have it, bang, zero friction. Viva the Photoshop Nation.