April 22, 2009

Grand Unified clarification

Thanks for all the feedback on the CS interface ideas I posted Monday. I’m still on the road, so I haven’t yet been able to reply to most comments. I look forward to reviewing them in more depth.

One key point of clarification: I wasn’t suggesting that Adobe try to merge the applications into one behemoth. In fact, I specifically said that’s a total non-starter. Why a number of people wrote in to then say, “Oh my God, don’t merge the apps into a behemoth” is kind of puzzling.

Some other points:

  • I’m also not sure why a few folks said (paraphrasing), “You should only make the individual apps better, and then (when you’re done with that) worry about integration.” Of course, there’s no such thing as “being done” improving the individual tools, and there’s no excuse for putting integration improvements on hold.
  • Philip Kerman wrote, “Look at what software people really love… it’s the awesome fast apps that do one thing and do that one thing very well.” Wasn’t I just saying that instead of building further redundancy into various Adobe tools, we should focus on making each one great at what it does, and on making them all function as an integrated whole? That to me is is the antidote to bloat.
  • Adobe apps are being developed in more modular ways. The Flash panel extensibility that got wide adoption in CS4 hints at a future where modular features can be written once, then dropped into multiple apps.
  • The Adobe video applications (After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD, Soundbooth) can already share screen content via Dynamic Link. That is, you can do things like send an AE comp to Premiere (or a Premiere sequence to AE) without rendering, with the data changing live in one app as it’s updated in the other. Isn’t that better than stuffing lots of each app into the other (adding overhead and inconsistency)?
  • As you’d imagine, my ideas around app integration are closely tied to my ideas about Configurator & customizability. I believe that each Adobe app should present solutions via task-oriented workspaces, and I believe that each app should itself be a workspace of the greater Creative Suite. You’d effectively be able to pick the parts of the Suite app you’d want for any given project, and within each app you’d pull up just the components needed for the task at hand. (For example, Photoshop would be the pixel-editing workspace of the Suite, and within PS there’d be workspaces geared towards sub-tasks (e.g. color correction).) I’ll try to elaborate on this when time permits.
  • Aiming high doesn’t mean forgetting the small stuff. When I started on Photoshop, PS7 had just shipped. The two biggest applause grabbers were the Healing Brush (crazy Buck Rogers image science) and being able to rename a layer inline in the Layers palette (a completely humble change, one that saved literally zero clicks, but one that just felt totally right). Apps have to deliver both the sizzle and the steak, and we’re working harder than ever on both.

I don’t claim to have any magic bullets here, nor do I claim that any of this would be easy. I don’t accept, however, that “good enough is good enough.” How is developing the Creative Suite going to be interesting for the next 5 years, the next 10? Taking only little steps, going to work while muttering “time to make the donuts” ain’t gonna get it done–not for me, anyway. I believe Adobe can–and must–aim for more transformative changes.

Posted by John Nack at 10:29 AM on April 22, 2009
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