February 19, 2009
Paving the cow paths: Auto-build panels?
People sometimes feel overwhelmed by Photoshop & other large applications: the tools and commands they need seem buried among a bunch of irrelevant stuff. We want to improve matters.
Configurator lets you build your own interface panels, grouping your essential tools and commands for easy access. Configurator is ridiculously easy to use, but actually building a useful panel might take more effort than you’d expect. You have to give some thought to how you work and to what, exactly, you want to accomplish.
So here’s an idea: What if Photoshop could watch how you work, then suggest panel configurations? In other words, the app would become smarter, adapting itself to your specific workflows.
PS would collect data on your usage patterns & feed it to Configurator in order to auto-build a panel containing your most-used tools and commands. Thinking aloud, I’m imagining something like this:
- PS would ask whether you want to enable the data-gathering process (invisible, with no impact to performance).
- If you opt in, you’d work for a few days without interruption.
- At some point PS would say, "Okay, I’ve gathered some data on how you work. Would you like to assemble a panel containing your most frequently used items?"
- If you say yes, Configurator would appear and present a list of these items, letting you uncheck unwanted ones. (For example, maybe you don’t need a button for New Document if you’re always going to hit Cmd-N.)
- The remaining items would be laid out automatically on a new panel. You could of course tweak things from there, or you could start running the panel as-is in PS.
Unlike Microsoft Office, PS wouldn’t try to be clever & modify your work environment on the fly (e.g. hiding menu items you haven’t used recently). Rather, it would just present you with some info & give you the opportunity to take action. If you’re game, great, but in any case it won’t be sneaking around, doing stuff "for" you while you’re not looking.
PS–Re: the title of the post: "Paving the cow paths" refers to streamlining existing behavior without trying to change it. A panel of most-used tools wouldn’t change the tools you use; it would just make it easier to group & access them (and by extension to hide the rest). Going beyond cowpaths–helping people discover "best practice" ways of working–is another can of worms that I’ll address in a separate post.