January 09, 2014

Everything is a Remix: iPhone Edition

On the 7th anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction, it’s interesting to look back and the ground it broke, the origins of some of its innovations, and more:


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January 07, 2014

Now available: Stand In (UI prototyping straight from Photoshop)

According to the team, the new Stand In will let you:

  1. Share your prototypes with teammates and clients. Let them experience your designs on their devices instead of scrolling through PDFs on their computers.
  2. Design and use your prototype in real time. As you make changes in Photoshop, Stand In sends the changes to the fully functional prototype.
  3. Move past boring static screens. Add buttons with press states, content that scrolls, modals, and more!
  4. Bring your prototype to life with screen transitions and animation. Stop telling people how the app is supposed to work. Start showing them.

The tool costs $25/mo. & requires a Mac running Photoshop CC.

“Much more than image extraction,” writes Photoshop’s Tim Riot, “Stand In takes positioning, styling, state, even motion data, from PSDs and creates prototypes that feel like real apps which you can view on your iPhone. This capability, to fluidly create in Photoshop and seamlessly output designs to any context, is at the heart of the Generator technology.”


10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 27, 2013

They snuck in a flux capacitor!

Here’s a great idea, featuring great UX details.

People loved the photo backup/sharing startup Everpix, but it keeled over after netting just ~6,000 paying customers. (That’s hardly surprising in a world where backup & sharing come free with every phone.) It started to popularize a neat feature called Flashback, one that showed photos from your archive taken exactly one year ago.

Now I’ve found Timehop, a free iOS app that finds the images you shared across various social networks, then gives you snapshots from one, two, and more years ago. The daily push notification it sends provides a little treat I’ve come to anticipate.

What sets the app apart, though, is the delight its creators take in otherwise-mundane UI details. The spinning loading indicator is a Back To The Future-style flux capacitor:


(In the app itself it animates.) They’ve also enjoyed making their mascot Abe paw at the pull-to-refresh indicator, seen here captured by Beautiful Pixels:


Well played, guys. Can’t wait to see what you cook up next.


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December 18, 2013

Tastemade: The proverbial 1-inch hole

“People don’t come to us because they want 1-inch drills,” the CEO of Black & Decker is said to have remarked, “They come to us because they want 1-inch holes.”

The beautifully executed app Tastemade (App Store) represents an interesting evolution in creative software. Instead of offering an open-ended toolset for doing any number of projects, it aims to do just one thing well—namely, produce short, highly watchable person-on-the-street reviews of restaurants. The entire interface is built to walk you through making & sharing exactly one kind of content. Through constraint + automation, it tends to quickly produce a very nice “hole” (example).

The app is full of nice design touches. For example:

  • Based on its knowledge of your location & Foursquare data, the app can guess which restaurant you’re visiting, auto-populate the title field, then choose an appropriate font/music combo (which you can then change).
  • You’re prompted to capture a number of shots, and a colored progress indicator helps ensure you shoot enough but not too much.
  • When you go to choose a color look, your existing clips are played back at 2x speed, making it easier to see the impact of the filter on more footage.
  • One of the clips you shoot of the venue is placed behind the title & blurred.


Now, is this particular problem worth solving (i.e. do a lot of people want to record, share, and watch restaurant reviews)? I have no idea. (I’m not allowed out of the house; thanks, kids.) I think, however, that the radically reduced barriers to building & distributing software will keep reshaping the creative-tool landscape, producing more highly focused apps that nicely address one specific need.

1:15 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

December 16, 2013

Freeform: 3D sculpting in space

I can’t wait for this to be featured in a super-unsexy remake of Ghost:


[YouTube] [Via]

9:27 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

November 30, 2013

Rendering real-world 3D content in real time

MIT is making pure magic:

Check out some below-the-table stills on Colossal.

inFORM is a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance. inFORM is a step toward our vision of Radical Atoms. 


9:34 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

October 04, 2013

AppSeed turns sketches into HTML, PSDs

Lean startup methodology strongly emphasizes paper prototypes: What’s the simplest, fastest, lowest-cost thing you could do to increase learning & decrease risk? To that end, AppSeed aims to let you sketch on paper, then turn the results into functioning, HTML-based app prototypes:

Interestingly, it ties into Photoshop:

Test your design on the phone and edit it in Photoshop through PS Connection.  This creates a Photoshop document that has all your drawn elements on their own layers, giving you the pixel perfect control to move your design into the next stages of production.



8:16 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

September 13, 2013

Stand In: UI prototyping straight from Photoshop

The first fruits of independent developers extending Photoshop’s new Generator feature are starting to arrive.

“Much more than image extraction,” writes Photoshop’s Tim Riot, “Stand In takes positioning, styling, state, even motion data, from PSDs and creates prototypes that feel like real apps which you can view on your iPhone. This capability, to fluidly create in Photoshop and seamlessly output designs to any context, is at the heart of the Generator technology.”

3:02 PM | Permalink | No Comments

August 15, 2013

New app Composite helps Photoshop design for screens

“Design with Layer Comps… Link screens by naming layers… Open in Interactive Mode.” Sounds promising.

Composite is a brand new way of creating interactive prototypes. It automatically connects to your Photoshop® documents and converts your mockups into interactive prototypes in seconds. No need to export images or maintain tons of hotspots.

While designing in Photoshop® you can also get a live preview of your design directly on your device, ensuring the design works in the right scale and context.

[Via Tim Riot]

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July 21, 2013

AIREAL: Disney’s prototype for haptic feedback in thin air

What if Dyson made video games? As Engadget writes, “The idea is to give touchless experiences like motion control a form of physical interaction, offering the end user a more natural response through, well, touch.”


9:52 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

July 12, 2013

3Gear: Gestural control for Photoshop

3Gear Systems is exploring ways to control Photoshop via their gesture-sensing technology:

Here’s a more general demo of their tech:

8:12 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

June 12, 2013

The multitouch fish tank, door handle, and more

Touché is a funky interface project from Disney Research, turning everything from liquids (!) to door knobs into multitouch surfaces:

According to the project site, the technology “can not only detect a touch event, but simultaneously recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body during touch interaction.”

We added complex touch and gesture sensitivity not only to computing devices and everyday objects, but also to the human body and liquids. Importantly, instrumenting objects and material with touch sensitivity is easy and straightforward: a single wire is sufficient to make objects and environments touch and gesture sensitive.

1:40 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

June 08, 2013

WiSee recognizes gestures through walls

What the what?

WiSee is the first wireless system that can identify gestures in line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight, and through-the-wall scenarios. Unlike other gesture recognition systems like Kinect, Leap Motion or MYO, WiSee requires neither an infrastructure of cameras nor user instrumentation of devices. We implement a proof-of-concept prototype of WiSee and evaluate it in both an office environment and a two-bedroom apartment. Our results show that WiSee can identify and classify a set of nine gestures with an average accuracy of 94%.


[Via Bill Roberts]

8:10 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

May 31, 2013

UI Demo: Razer Switchblade running Photoshop

Interesting. What do you think?

[Via Mark Maguire]

2:10 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

May 04, 2013

A funky “Smarter Objects” interface

Hmm—I’d imagine this MIT project being less bizarre when applied to a wearable augmented reality interface like Google Glass:


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April 29, 2013

Ethereal: Draw in the air with Photoshop + Leap Motion

Check out this nifty project from Anastasiy Safari (known for his popular color-picking Photoshop extensions). It combines PS with a Leap Motion controller:

1:55 PM | Permalink | Comments [14]

March 24, 2013

A great-looking new calculator app

“Get excited about making the simple stuff fun,” Stu Maschwitz told me. Seems like the makers of Llumino took that advice to heart:


8:01 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

March 07, 2013

A gesture-control armband

C’mon, haven’t you always wanted to use rock fingers to control your stereo?

I’m kinda skeptical about the MYO armband getting widespread, but the video does suggest a series of fun mishaps (chicken-slicing gone wrong; army robot flailing; and “You have died of dysentery”-style messages you read while expiring after a ski crash). But hey, prove me wrong.

5:28 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

February 15, 2013

I just found my new favorite weather app

John Gruber once wrote, “In hindsight, I think the use cases for the original iPad are simplicity and delight.” Haze for iPhone nails that mission for weather:

“Is it going to be warmer tomorrow? Don’t read it. See it. The beautifully animated background shows you the trend. Use Haze frequently to unlock colorful themes and customize the look.”

The UI rewards exploration with lots of polished details, and the use of theme unlocking is an interesting way to encourage active use.

The one downside I’ve detected thus far is that the reliance on taps & gestures rather than on traditional buttons & labels leaves some functionality obscure. I feel dumb for not having discovered one of the most basic operations (tapping the central readout circle) on my own. (I hadn’t seen the video before downloading the app.) Even so, the app’s easy to navigate & a joy to use.

Oh, and if you like this sort of thing, check out Summly for news. It crashes too much & the summaries aren’t always great, but it’s lovely enough to explore that I stick with it.

12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

February 12, 2013

Feedback, please: Voice-driven photo editing

What do you think of PixelTone, an experimental interface from Adobe Research & the University of Michigan?

11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments [19]

December 19, 2012

Interesting UI o’ the day: Samplr for iPad

Check out the multitouch music-making interface for Samplr:

I imagine myself trying to compose some Christmas music using this app, then having to quote Norm MacDonald: “Happy birthday, Jesus–hope you like crap!” [Via James Roche]

2:50 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

November 28, 2012

CTRL+Console: iPad control for Lightroom & Premiere Pro

Check out Jeff Chow’s (now funded) Kickstarter project:

What do you think? It’s great-looking, but I remain a bit skeptical about using touchscreens (which obviously lack the physical variation of a keyboard or dedicated hardware controller) in this way. If you’re a Photoshop user with an iPad, are you using Adobe Nav–and if not, why not? I suspect the problem is that one has to keep glancing over at a touch screen, whereas one can navigate a keyboard (or physical jog wheel, etc.) simply by feel. Yet the concept remains alluring, so I’m curious about others’ assessment.

[Via James Cox]

2:53 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

November 16, 2012

iPad laser virtual keyboard

“It’s the most fun you can have with lasers without a cat,” they say. Hmm—be that as it may, I have a hard time imagining people shelling out $179 and then using this thing comfortably. Still clever, though.

[Via Guy Nicholas]

8:33 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

November 02, 2012

Microsoft’s offbeat Digits hand-gesture sensor bracelet

“Dear society: You got used to seeing people talk into space & learned to figure ‘Bluetooth, not schizophrenia.’ Now let’s see you get used to dead-eyed zombies fidgeting with the air to turn virtual dials as they walk. [Here’s more info.]” —Love, the tech industry

I kinda want to get one of these into—or rather, next to—Russell Brown’s hands.

8:42 AM | Permalink | No Comments

August 19, 2012

Using Kinect to turn objects into puppets


KinÊtre is a research project from Microsoft Research Cambridge that allows novice users to scan physical objects and bring them to life in seconds by using their own bodies to animate them. This system has a multitude of potential uses for interactive storytelling, physical gaming, or more immersive communications.

“When we started this,” says creator  Jiawen Chen, “we were thinking of using it as a more effective way of doing set dressing and prop placement in movies for a preview. Studios have large collections of shapes, and it’s pretty tedious to move them into place exactly. We wanted to be able to quickly walk around and grab things and twist them around. Then we realized we can do many more fun things.” I’ll bet.

Pretty darn cool, though if that Kinect dodgeball demo isn’t Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy come to life, I don’t know what is.

Here’s more info on using a Kinect as a 3D scanner:


8:39 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

July 28, 2012

A creepy look at the future of augmented reality

You know this is coming. You know it’ll be almost impossible to resist.

“The more we use knowledge found on the Internet (and not in our own minds) the less capacity we have to actually hold that knowledge internally.” Seems about right. [Via]

10:13 PM | Permalink | Comments [6]

July 13, 2012

New demo of the Leap motion tracker

Can. Not. Wait.

Check out more info from the MIT Technology Review, and from the product site.

[Via Mausoom Sarkar]

9:09 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

July 11, 2012

Wacom Cintiq goes multitouch


I can’t wait to see what Adobe tools can do with multitouch plus a super high precision stylus that pays attention to pressure, tilt, and rotation.

This bad boy costs $3699 and will be available in early August.

10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments [14]

June 10, 2012

Levitation as UI

“What if materials could defy gravity, so that we could leave them suspended in mid-air?” ask the creators of ZeroN. “ZeroN is a physical and digital interaction element that floats and moves in space by computer-controlled magnetic levitation.” One could ask questions about precision and practicality, but… holy crap, levitating balls as UI!


9:02 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

June 02, 2012

(T)ether: A spatially-aware system for animation & annotation

Hey, it’s the return of my (not at all) beloved Nintendo Power Glove!

Cynical take: “Oh, you were bitching that UIs requiring you to lift your hands & touch a screen would make you tired? Wait’ll you have to hold up an iPad in one hand just so you can re-create Lawnmower Man! You’ll be built like Jeff Fahey in no time, tuffy!”

Actual take: Cool!

Check out the project site for more info.

[Via Dave Simons]

8:22 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

May 25, 2012

Touching—sort of—across time & space

In high school I had my first long-distance girlfriend. My dad would roll his eyes at our pre-Net attempts to connect. “Oh, you’re probably eating a cheese sandwich as 6pm, because Jeanne said she’d eat a cheese sandwich at 6pm…”  He was kidding (and wrong), but there’s much to be said for synchronicity across space.

Enter Marco Triverio’s concept “Feel Me.” As Fast Company puts it,

When a friend is typing, you can see where they’re touching on your own screen. And when your fingers match up, from halfway across the world, haptic feedback can allow you to serendipitously touch. In a text-me-later culture, Feel Me enables communication that’s transient and visceral.

I think it’s rather brilliant. And as for Jeanne, sometimes I now see her across space, hobnobbing with Mitt Romney. Funny old world.

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May 23, 2012

LEAP Motion promises object-tracking UI breakthroughs

If this thing ($70?!) works even remotely as advertised, we’re in for an exciting future:

[Reader Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie quips, “I just shudder about the possible single-finger gestures to force quit software.” (Hmm, seems very John Gruber-positive.)]

10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments [13]

May 12, 2012

Recursive drawing

What do you think of this cleverness?


Could people wrap their heads around the idea enough to use it productively? In my experience many people still struggle with things like symbols & Smart Objects–if they even use them at all. [Via Mausoom Sarkar]

8:31 AM | Permalink | Comments [11]

April 20, 2012

Controlling a 4-story pipe organ via Kinect

Just think of the horrors Andrew Lloyd Webber could wreak with this thing (ideally with a Beowulf cluster of them).


8:00 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

April 13, 2012

The iPad GUI PSD: Now ready for Retina, CS6

Hats off to the guys at Teehan+Lax for serving the design/Photoshop community with this great app creation resource. “It’s based on iOS 5.1,” they write, “and includes hundreds of Retina assets available natively on the platform.”

Because Photoshop CS6 is such a big step forward for interface designers, the new file requires use of the CS6 beta:

This time around we executed the file in Adobe’s latest release, Photoshop CS6 (currently still in beta). It’s a free download right now and, in my humble opinion, one of the best releases of Photoshop to date. Its perfect pixel snapping, grouped layer styles and a few other features enabled us to create the assets with more accuracy, yet remain remarkably editable. We highly recommend it, not just so you can use this file, but so that you support great software releases like this.

Check out the iPad GUI PSD (Retina Display) at Teehan+Lax.

11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

March 26, 2012

Demo: Filter layers by name, type in Photoshop CS6

Sometimes the best things are the smallest. I’m so weirdly proud of the layer searching shortcuts in PS CS6.

  • You can hit Cmd-Opt-Shift-F to put focus on the Layers panel’s new search field. Start typing and Photoshop will start displaying only the layers whose names match.
  • Hitting the same command highlights the text in the field, letting you start typing again to filter with a new string.
  • Hitting Delete clears the field, making Layers display all layers again.
  • Hitting Return/Enter will put keyboard focus back onto PS proper (consistent with how other text fields work in the app). Esc does the same but also cancels whatever change you just made.


Note that clearing the field isn’t the same as toggling filtering on/off with the little red switch to the right. Why? Because toggling the switch is non-destructive: You can set up filtering criteria (e.g. show me all text & adjustment layers), then quickly enable/disable filtering; you don’t have to keep setting up the parameters.

A big deal, used by tons & tons of people? Maybe not. But to me it speaks volumes about quality and craftsmanship, and God help me, I live for this stuff.

Here Grant Friedman of PSDTUTS quickly demos the basics:

8:45 AM | Permalink | Comments [5]

February 21, 2012

Starfield: Kinect-powered swinging

My question: if a Wookiee pushes you, do the stars turn into a bunch of lines?


8:33 AM | Permalink | No Comments

February 16, 2012

Turn any rigid surface into a multitouch UI

Ehhh, what? But yes, it’s apparently real. Read more here.


8:38 AM | Permalink | No Comments

January 23, 2012

Design tools: Gesty & UI Toolkit

Of potential interest to Web/screen designers:

  • Gesty is a set of vector gesture icons useful for UI/UX designers, manuals publishers and many other creators.” $4.99 [Via]
  • The $8 UI Toolkit offers “20 Photoshop Styles, 94 Vector Glyphs, 40 Background Patterns, Shadow Creator Action, 130 Custom Shapes, 10 Ring Indicators, 10 High-Res Photo Textures, 34 Common UI Symbols.” [Via Jason Santa Maria]
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December 12, 2011

Delighting in the details

Interface designer Neven Mrgan made a good point on Friday:

Touch gestures are the new keyboard shortcuts, but the difference is delight: no one ever saw ⌘⇧S and thought “awesome!”

To which I say: Well, no normal person, maybe. :-)

I remember learning Photoshop and discovering that holding Option would turn Cancel buttons into Reset buttons.  “They didn’t have to do that,” I thought–delighted.  Later when I learned After Effects, the teacher showed that Shift-dragging did one thing while Option-dragging did another.  I asked how one would do both things at once, and though he didn’t know, when I combined the modifiers, sure enough, it worked as I wanted.  “My people, my people…” I thought. And just the other day, I took enormous pride in persuading the Photoshop team to get the semantics of a new shortcut just exactly right.

It’s craftsmanship that counts*, and delight flows from the feeling of speed, power, and control. Whatever the surface, let my fingers–and my brain–fly.


* As Photoshop godfather Mark Hamburg observed, “People pay for features because it’s easier to justify the expense. People adore polish because it makes the product feel good, and that adoration will carry you farther in the long run than features.”

9:50 AM | Permalink | Comments [10]

December 04, 2011

An enormous multitouch display with stylus input

Jeff Han & Perceptive Pixel blew everyone’s minds with their multitouch demo a year before the iPhone debuted. Six (!) years later he demonstrates their 82″ (!!) multitouch display featuring pen input:

Here’s hoping we see more pen-enabled goodness & lay that “If you see a stylus, it means they blew it” dogma to rest. [Via]

9:09 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

October 18, 2011

iOS 5 for tots: Quick pro/con

I want Robert Shaw from Jaws to describe my morning as he would a shark attack: “Up comes a reminder on the iPad and the Netflix stops streamin’, and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’…” Yeah, it got ugly. (Sorry, other conference call participants.)

Good news, though: You can now go into Settings->Notifications, find the Calendar app, and set the notification type from Alert (which interrupts the video) to Banner.  Now our guys can watch their morning Mighty Machines without going ballistic when it pauses.

On the downside, here’s an intriguing little bit of usability research: Finn is often generating four-finger “swipes” (new in iOS 5 for switching apps) when simply trying to drag on the screen. While coloring in lines in the aforementioned Harold, he’d push hard and his little knuckles would register as multitouch swipes.  Thus he’d start switching apps, bringing up the list of apps, etc.  Who knew?

As always, I pine for Apple to introduce multi-user support in iOS.  Now in the kids’ profile I’ll add “disabling global swipe gestures” to “making it harder to exit the app via the Home button,” “disallow scary stuff on YouTube,” etc.

Update: Double who-knew: BubCap home button covers “are just rigid enough to keep toddlers from pressing the home button, yet flexible enough that adults can activate the button with a firm push.” [Via Iván Cavero Belaunde]

2:43 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

October 14, 2011

New Wacom tablets add wireless, multitouch

The new Capture ($100) and Create ($200) models offer multitouch input, and you can add wireless connectivity for an extra $40. Neat. (And those prices are quite a deal, considering that they include a copy of Photoshop Elements.)


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October 10, 2011

Use multitouch gestures to prototype a design

Adobe Proto captures, I think, the real spirit of tablets: be fun, fresh, immediate, and playful. Here’s a demo from PM Devin Fernandez:

Like Photoshop Touch, it’s coming soon for Android & iOS.

9:26 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

October 03, 2011

Introducing Photoshop Touch

Combine, Edit, Share. I’m delighted to introduce Adobe Photoshop Touch, a new tablet app for creative imaging. With PS Touch we’re bringing Photoshop fun & power not only to new platforms, but to a whole new audience.

Here’s my brief overview:

To see the app in action, check out Russell Brown’s 10-minute feature tour:

So, when can you get it, and what does it cost?

We plan to release Photoshop Touch for Android shortly, after which we plan to bring it to iOS. When we talk about reaching new audiences, we’re not kidding: Photoshop Touch is priced at just $9.99.

So (to anticipate an inevitable question), why Android first? Many Adobe apps (Adobe Carousel, Ideas, Photoshop Express, Eazel, Color Lava, Nav) have already been released on iOS first, and it’s good to support customers across platforms. We’re busily coding for iOS as well, so I wouldn’t make too much of this particular detail. No matter what tablet(s) you use, we can’t wait to get Photoshop Touch into your hands.

One last thought for now: We’re still very, very early in the evolution of mobile devices for creative work, and Photoshop Touch–along with the many other Adobe touch apps announced today–is just a beginning. We’re eager to hear what you think, and I’m looking forward to hearing ideas & questions here and on Twitter (@PhotoshopTouch). (Today I’ll be largely offline, showing the app in person at Adobe MAX, so I apologize in advance if I’m slow to respond.)

11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments [36]

July 19, 2011

What’s with Photoshop & multiple undos?

Over on feedback.photoshop.com, customer Michael Piontek notes the following:

Unlike most modern apps, Photoshop only has a single “undo”. If you press command-z a second time, Photoshop will redo the change instead of continuing to undo. Not even Illustrator or InDesign works this way at this point.

To work around this issue, I customize my keyboard shortcuts to use “step backward” (command-z) and “step forward” (command-shift-z). For the most part this works great and I’ve been very happy with it.

But it brings up a new problem: if I change the selected layer, then press command-z (“step backward”) then the layer change is undone as well.

Michael is touching on two separate issues:

  1. The keyboard shortcuts used for undo/redo
  2. Layer selection changes when using “step backward” instead of “undo”

1. Photoshop’s unusual Cmd-Z mapping is due to the fact that the app lets you toggle across multiple history states in one keypress.

For example, you might do something, then click 10 steps back in the History panel.  Let’s say you then hit Cmd-Z.  Would you expect Photoshop to undo the most recent operation (getting you back to where you’d been prior to the last click), or to go to the 11th-back history state (that is, to go further back in time)?  I’d expect PS to do what it does now: it undoes the click instead of digging me deeper.

I’m not sure it’s possible to preserve the current (and to my mind correct) behavior while also making Cmd-Z work in the more common way (which would also be correct). Of course PS could ask customers to make a choice via a dialog, but that’s just a recipe for blank stares.

2. I can’t think of a good reason for the current behavior. When Photoshop added multiple layer selection in CS2, we made some changes to avoid problems caused by old crutches for not having the ability to select more than one layer at a time. This behavior with the layer selection changing when using “step backward” appears to be a rough edge from that work, so it’s worth asking the team whether this behavior can be changed.

Note that a user has provided nice workaround leveraging a script.

[Thanks to Jeff Tranberry for his assistance in researching these questions.]

8:02 AM | Permalink | Comments [20]

June 14, 2011

25 Awesome Keyboard Shortcuts for Photoshop That You May Not Know

The title pretty well says it all: check out this list, especially the first few (new in CS4/5).

Having written a version of a book covering just Photoshop shortcuts, I pride myself on my knowledge here, and even I picked up a few good tips from this list.

8:42 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

June 11, 2011

Beautiful Kinect Graffiti

Jean-Christophe Naour uses the motion-sensing gaming platform to paint with light, using his whole body:


I’ve had a somewhat similar idea: use the gyroscope a smartphone (or multiple phones) to capture a person’s gestures in space, then use the resulting paths to do 3D painting & animation. That work could happen on the phone itself, or the paths could be imported into After Effects & other apps (think MotionSketch.next.), or even run interactively in Flash, WebGL, etc. Maybe the idea’s too esoteric to have legs, but I’d love to see it tried.

8:08 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

June 07, 2011

How to collapse/expand Photoshop layer groups (folders) at once

Designer Erica Schoonmaker tweeted the other day,

I wish there was a shortcut to collapse all layer folders in Photoshop.

There is! Thanks to Jeff Tranberry, I can now point out the following*:

  • Open/close all layer groups (folders) at the current level of hierarchy: Cmd-click the arrow next to the group
    • This is handy when you want to open/close, say, all the top-level groups without disturbing the open/closed state of any groups nested within them.
  • Open/close all layer groups nested within the current one: Opt-click the arrow next to the group
    • This is nice when you want to open/shut a bunch of nested groups, without affecting any that lie outside the target group.
  • Open/close all layer groups, period: Cmd-Opt-click the arrow next to a group


So, to keep things simple: when in doubt, Cmd-Opt-click a group’s arrow and you’ll collapse/expand all groups.

*On Windows please substitutes Ctrl for Cmd and Alt for Opt.

8:34 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

May 09, 2011

“OS X Inception”

Heh–Chris Baker tackles the who’s-in-whose-dream question using just his Mac’s Finder:


3:58 PM | Permalink | No Comments

April 22, 2011

Do-it-yourself huge multitouch

Is it or is it not a great time to be alive?

Check out Seth’s site for more info. [Via]

8:08 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

December 28, 2010

Video: Tricks to make progress bars seem to move faster

I remain a fan of the old time-killing Photoshop demo joke: “You know, if you grab the bar with your mouse and pull, it’ll move faster…”


12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

November 04, 2010

Feedback, please: A Photoshop iPad companion

In August I asked for ideas on tablet-based companions for Photoshop, and last week at MAX we demoed a paint-mixing prototype. Now the designers have taken a crack at mocking up some companion features that could run on a phone or tablet.

In a nutshell, you get:

  • groups of task-based tools & commands (e.g. all your photography/retouching tools & buttons on one page, or all your painting ones, 3D ones, etc.)
  • interactive, task-based tutorials that drive Photoshop, helping you get things done

The idea is to let you work faster–offering more organized access to tools & knowledge. What do you think? What would you pay for this?

2:51 PM | Permalink | Comments [36]

September 15, 2010

New PSDs for iPhone 4, Android UIs

9:27 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

September 14, 2010

Feedback, please: Potential Web/drawing features in Photoshop

Photoshop’s vector shapes & layer effects (strokes, gradients, etc.) are mainstays of Web & mobile design work, but they haven’t gotten updated in a while.  If the Photoshop team were to improve this area of the app, what improvements would you find the most important?

The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes popular requests we’ve heard.  It would be great to get your feedback via this quick survey.  We can’t do everything (certainly all at once, anyway), so please let us know what matters most.


  1. Enable “real” vector shapes (stroke & fill directly editable, without reliance on layer effects or a dialog box)
  2. Support dashed- and dotted-line strokes
  3. Enable smart shapes:
    1. Preserve corner roundness when scaling rounded rectangles
    2. Support other parameterized shapes (e.g. stars with an adjustable number of points; lines with arrowheads)
  4. Make various layer effects enhancements:
    1. Apply effects at the layer group level
    2. Re-order effects
    3. Duplicate effects (e.g. apply multiple strokes per layer)
    4. Enable panel-based editing of effects (instead of relying on a dialog box)
    5. Add/edit effects on multiple selected layers at once
    6. Make graphical styles “live” (i.e. if edit the style definition, all styled objects update)
  5. Enable layer search (i.e. type to filter by layer name or attributes)
  6. Improve snap-to-pixel behavior
  7. Improve text rendering
  8. Export text & graphical styles as CSS
  9. Support guide sets (e.g. for grid layouts)
  10. Support linked files (i.e. edit one file to update buttons, icons, etc. across multiple PSDs)



  • We want to know what’s more important than other things, so please bear that in mind when assigning relative ratings.  (That is, don’t make everything “extremely important” or “not important.”)
  • Please don’t tell me that Photoshop should never be improved vis-à-vis Web & mobile design, and that everyone should use Fireworks (or Illustrator or whatever).  You may be completely right about those apps, but it’s just not relevant to this survey.
  • Inevitably there’s some amount of overlap among these items (e.g. applying effects at the layer group level would offer an alternative to applying multiple copies of one effect on a layer; for example, you could stroke a layer, then add another stroke on a group containing that layer).


Many thanks in advance,

2:59 PM | Permalink | Comments [109]

August 17, 2010

Tablet companions to Photoshop?

In playing with Photoshop Express for iPad, Jesus Diaz from Gizmodo observed:

I got a craving for something very simple, which I hope Adobe can make (and which will be extremely useful for me and other desktop Photoshop users): Release an application to convert the iPad into a Photoshop control surface. I will love to display this application while I’m working on the image and quickly use it to apply filters and transforms. Or just access many of the Photoshop tool palettes, adopted to touchscreen use.

Photoshop-control apps such as Photokeys, Keypad, and perhaps others already exist & have for some time.  Do you use them?  I haven’t encountered anyone who’s mentioned using them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  How widespread is this desire?

Other companion ideas that spring readily to mind:

  • Using multitouch input from a tablet to drive Liquify (for pinching, rotating, etc.)
  • Using multitouch to mix paints together, a la a real artist’s palette, then send the results to Photoshop (i.e. what gets mixed on the tablet is streamed into your PS brush)
  • Using a tool like Configurator to assemble custom layouts of tools, buttons, interactive tutorials, etc. that would run on a tablet and drive desktop Photoshop
  • Other?

Your feedback and ideas would be most welcome.


6:46 AM | Permalink | Comments [40]

August 13, 2010

“Upgrades,” a dead-on parody of software evolution

As Lili Von Shtupp might say in Blazing Saddles, “Oh, it’s twue, it’s twue!!”

My thoughts on the subject from a couple of years back: “Get lean. Stay hungry.”

[Via Marc Pawliger]

8:55 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

August 01, 2010

The Van Halen of cameras

Apparently people are digging Samsung’s two-screen compact camera, which features a now-larger front-facing screen for compositing self portraits (and hypnotizing babies).  Interestingly, in “Jump Mode,”

The front LCD will provide a visual cue to those in front of the camera to jump in unison, and immediately trigger the ST600 or ST100 to take three consecutive images to help users capture an image that essentially freezes their subjects in mid-air.

Also interesting:

The Smart Gesture UI allows for the quick access and use of key features with either a simple tilt or a hand gesture. Users can quickly scroll through photos by slightly tilting the device in either direction, swiping their finger across the screen, or by selecting the appropriate photos for a slide show.

6:32 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

July 21, 2010

Video: Local layering ideas

Jim McCann is a graphics researcher (you might remember his interesting work with gradient-domain painting), and I’m happy to say he’s joining the Adobe advanced technology staff. He has some ideas about dealing with the limitations of traditional graphical layering models (as seen in Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, etc.):

For more videos & papers on the subject, check out the project page. [Via Jerry Harris]

9:50 AM | Permalink | Comments [10]

July 20, 2010

Video: Technicolor dreamglove controls a computer

When he’s not helping bring Puppet Warp to Photoshop, Jovan Popovic does interesting work at MIT in computer interfaces and… fashion?

More videos & info are on the project team’s site.


9:19 AM | Permalink | No Comments

June 28, 2010

Huge multitouch wall at the World’s Fair

The Wall of Chile  at the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair features a 4-by-1.2 meter (13-by-4 foot) display wall that enables visitors to access more than six hours of high-definition video and thousands of photographs.

Here are more info & more projects from the creators.

2:54 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

June 24, 2010

Stylus recommendations?

Why is it I can draw more accurately with our 2-year-old’s Magna Doodle than I can with an iPad? Simple: it’s the stylus.

I tried a stubby Pogo stylus a few months back and had an instant aversion to drawing with a big, flat, round disk. I see that other styluses are available, but I’ve yet to find a good set of comparisons. If you’ve successfully used a stylus to draw on an iPad, I’d like to hear your recommendations.

Incidentally, the imprecision of drawing with a finger certainly raises the value of natural media brushes (e.g. a realistic pencil simulation). Crappy input driving a high-precision line looks bad, but crappy input driving a deliberately crappy (sketchy) line looks more like “I meant to do that.”

[Update: Incidentally, just so people know, I’m not completely incompetent when it comes to drawing.]

10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments [17]

Illustrator-friendly iPhone UI elements

I find myself mocking up iPad interfaces in Illustrator (<-trendy tongue twister?) this morning, so I’m finding this collection of iPhone UI vector elements from Rusty Mitchell & the folks at Mercury Intermedia quite handy. Thanks, guys! [Update: See also Mordy Golding’s vector iPhone and components.

[Previously: iOS elements for Photoshop.]

10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

June 16, 2010

Real-world Minority Report UI

MIT researcher John Underkoffler was a science advisor on Minority Report–then helped build a real computer with an interface like the one in the movie:

I remain skeptical about many of the details shown here, but I always love to see new experiments & to hear the reasoning behind them. [Via]

8:39 AM | Permalink | Comments [5]

June 06, 2010

The spinning progress indicator in Photoshop CS5

I’ve heard a number of questions about the new spinning progress cursor (screenshot) that Photoshop CS5 uses. The cursor simply replaces the 1984-vintage MacApp watch cursor (non-standard in Cocoa), for which Apple provides no modern replacement on OS X.

Pierre Igot and others are mistaken in thinking that the CS5 cursor is an alternative to (or, more damningly, an attempt to hide) the “spinning beachball of death.” Photoshop uses the beachball when it’s warranted–i.e., when the app is unresponsive. (The beachball is provided by the OS when the app doesn’t process user interface events fast enough.) It has always used the watch cursor in other cases, where the app is busy performing a task but isn’t locked up, and where the task should be done shortly.

Let’s say we’d (inappropriately) started using the beachball in all cases where we’d previously used the watch cursor. Though it would have no impact (positive or negative) on performance, it would have a big impact on perceived responsiveness, and we’d start hearing “CS5 locks up all the time!” This would be especially profound given persistent misperceptions (arguably deliberately cultivated) of what 64-bit means.

Let’s say that instead of using the watch cursor, we’d pop up progress bars all the time, where none existed in the past. Same result: same performance, unhappier customers.

Let’s say we’d stuck with the 1984-era watch cursor (which I saw pop up the other day in Safari). We’d hear “Look, PS is still Carbon/32bits in places!” You don’t think so? I actually have commenters claim that the all-caps text in iTunes (and previously Finder) is somehow due to Carbon. (And arguably, given the decline in society’s use of wristwatches, I can imagine catching flak about relying on a floppy disk-like anachronism.)

We gave this issue a lot of consideration, and ultimately there wasn’t a perfect solution, so we chose a route that modernized the app UI without misusing standard Apple UI or misrepresenting app responsiveness. Maybe it’s something we can improve in the future, and we’re certainly open to feedback.

Of course, the real issue here has very little to do with one cursor vs. another. It has to do with a question of whether Adobe builds “real” Mac software. We do, and we’re making more progress all the time. There’s a lot of detail to unpack here, and being on the road, I can’t get into all of it now. I’ll try to do so soon, and in the meantime you might want to see my thoughts about platform consistency.

2:55 PM | Permalink | Comments [44]

June 02, 2010

Brief thoughts (and a question) on tablets & styluses

When did my finger start resembling a giant breadstick? More on that in a moment.

Of tablet computers Steve Jobs recently said, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.”

I think he’s right, insofar as he’s talking about requiring the use of a stylus. There’s a big difference, however, between requiring something and enabling it as an option.

Regarding the former, ten years ago I bought and almost immediately returned a big Kyocera-Palm frankenphone. I loved the promise of a phone/pocket computer, but having to pop out a stylus to perform even the simplest tasks was a deal breaker. In contrast, my simple Nokia offered just two soft keys and a rocker switch, but that simplicity led to an efficient UI. Forcing me to use a stylus forced me to ditch the phone.

When it comes to drawing and painting, however, using a finger really sucks for anything precise. Yes, a talented artist can do impressive work, but there’s a reason people don’t use their fingers to draw and write on paper. Have you tried drawing anything with any precision on an iPad? (Don’t just launch an app and screw around; try to draw something very specific.) Maybe it’s just me, but suddenly my fingertip looks enormous, blotting out the area I’m trying to mark. I find myself tipping my whole hand up and down, trying to see what’s underneath my finger.

I don’t know what can be done with the I/O on iPads and future tablets, but I really hope that a vendor can deliver a pressure-sensitive stylus. I think it would be a watershed moment for sketching on the go.

Question: Would you be willing to pay for such a thing? And if so, how much?

PS–Yesterday Steve acknowledged the imprecision of a finger: “The minute you throw a stylus out, you have the [reduced] precision of a finger, you can’t use a PC OS.”

PPS–Somehow I neglected to mention an insight gained talking with artists at Pixar and elsewhere: they find drawing and painting on an iPad interesting, but in a sort of abstract, intellectual way–until you show them the ability to smudge pixels with a finger. That’s when they start lighting up. Pretending that one’s finger is a pencil isn’t that interesting, but using one’s finger as a finger *feels* deeply correct. There’s some kind of lower-brain connection that brings out a lot of smiles.

3:12 PM | Permalink | Comments [45]

May 29, 2010

The Knowledge panel arrives in Photoshop CS5

Sometime in the last 48 hours, your copy of Photoshop CS5 quietly sprouted some new functionality. We hope you like it, and we’d love to get your feedback.

Adobe is now delivering the Knowledge panel for Photoshop (see screenshots). This tool delivers interactive step-by-step guidance, walking you through some 70 tutorials written by expert authors. Unlike other tutorials, these can drive Photoshop: clicking links executes commands in PS (e.g. clicking “File->New” brings up the New Document dialog box).

To try out the new panel, make sure you’ve logged in using your Adobe ID and password (click the little “CS Live” icon in the upper right corner), then look for Knowledge under Window->Extensions. You may need to quit & relaunch PS after logging in. (Details below.)

So, why is this important?

In brief, it lets the community make Photoshop smarter & easier to use, leveraging the Web inside the app.

I’ve long been frustrated that Adobe applications–like most large, powerful apps–simply throw the user into the deep end of the functionality pool. Very little in the interface suggests how pieces can or should be used in sequence to achieve a goal. The apps are highly flexible & very general, but users tend to suffer from “the paradox of choice.” They know the app is capable of X, but they don’t know how to do it, and they may feel foolish & resentful.

I’ve long thought we could do better, and last year I presented some ideas for a more task-based Photoshop UI. As I wrote then, we had two goals:

  • Present a more streamlined interface (“everything you need, nothing you don’t”), showing only the tools and commands that are relevant to the task at hand
  • Present best-practice guidance on how to accomplish specific tasks (“not just yet another way to do something, but the *right* way”)

The Knowledge panel delivers on the second of these. Our plan was to deliver it together with a complimentary Toolbox panel (screenshot), tying the contents of both to workspaces. That way, when you’d click “3D,” Photoshop would not only rearrange your existing panels; it would also present just the tools needed for 3D work (plus contextual information), as well as step-by-step guidance on completing common 3D tasks. The same would go for painting, Web design, etc.

Unfortunately we ran out of time to deliver everything in the box. Thus we’re delivering the Knowledge panel as an update, and if you’d like to check out the (somewhat unpolished) Toolbox panel, you can download it here. The Knowledge panel auto-installs in English only, so if you’re using another language version of PS but would still like to use the panel, please grab it and install it. Relaunch Photoshop after installation, and then look under Window->Extensions for each panel.

Both panels were built in Configurator, so you’re welcome to grab the source files to see how they were made. I plan to post details soon on how to drive Photoshop from HTML. I hope to see many authors enhancing Photoshop in this way.

Because of the way the CS5 dev cycle played out, this release offers us a chance to test drive these enhancements without making them a marquee feature. We’re eager to hear what you think. Is this stuff useful? Should we take it further? Please let us know. [Update: here’s a very quick poll.]


PS–I’m incredibly grateful to the many authors (too many to list here) who contributed content, to the Adobe Learning Resources folks, and to Victor Gavenda and the excellent, patient folks at Peachpit who really tied the room together.

8:21 PM | Permalink | Comments [25]

May 27, 2010

Using Mixed Case panel titles in Photoshop CS5

The ALL CAPS panel tabs in CS4 and later are one of the more polarizing aesthetic details of the applications. If you’d like to change Photoshop panel tabs to Mixed Case, grab this plug-in (Mac) or these registry entries (Win).

On Mac drop the plug-in into the “Adobe Photoshop CS5/Plug-ins” folder; on Windows double-click the “DisableUppercaseTitles_ON.reg” file.
[Update: You can do the same in InDesign CS4/CS5. Colin Fleming writes, “Create a folder, name it ‘noallcaps’ (one word, no spaces, no caps), put this folder in the InDesign application folder–done!”]

10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments [21]

May 02, 2010

“Use Legacy Shortcuts” option in CS5

In Photoshop CS4 we changed a number of keyboard shortcuts related to selecting and targeting color channels. At that time I posted a plug-in (Mac)/registry entries (Windows) that one could use to switch many of these changes back to the CS3-and-earlier behavior. To make things easier to discover, in CS5, there’s an option in Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts… to “Use Legacy Channel Shortcuts” (screenshot). That is, you no longer need to use the plug-in/registry entries.

Note that this option can’t change things entirely back to the old behavior. Moving adjustments from modal dialogs to a non-modal panel simply means that some commands would now conflict (e.g. hitting Cmd-1 can’t both display a channel & target a channel). See my earlier post for a more detailed list & explanations of why this is.

10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments [32]

April 28, 2010

Using a dialog box to edit a Curves adjustment layer

In response to my notes on how we’ve polished the Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS5, I saw a couple of requests for a way to edit adjustments (especially Curves) via a dialog box instead of via a panel. To do so in CS4 you can download and use this panel (screenshot). In CS5 the architecture that supports extension panels has changed, so you need to grab the CS5 version of the panel.
In case you have trouble installing the panel via Extension Manager*, you can download this plain-zipped version (or the CS5 version). Unzip it and drag the resulting “Curves – Dialog” folder into your “Adobe Photoshop CS4/Plug-Ins/Panels” directory.
* If you’re getting permissions errors on Windows Vista or Windows 7, try right-clicking the Extension Manager icon, clicking Properties, selecting the Compatibility tab, and checking the “Run this program as an administrator” checkbox.

3:34 PM | Permalink | Comments [6]

February 07, 2010

Concept video: “Augmented HyperReality”

Behold your pulverized, ultra-mediated consciousness of the future:

Fullscreen viewing recommended. [Via]

7:16 AM | Permalink | Comments [7]

December 23, 2009

Doing the right thing with Cmd-H

Here’s another little glimpse into the future:

As I’ve written previously, when OS X took over long-standing Photoshop shortcuts, it created a tricky situation: break Photoshop users’ habits/flow by changing PS to match the OS, or deviate from the new OS conventions?

In Photoshop CS4 we changed Cmd-` (Cmd-~) to cycle among open documents, matching the standard Mac convention (while continuing to honor the Windows-standard convention, Ctrl-Tab, as well). As expected, it’s been a painful move for some customers*, but sometimes that’s necessary.

With regard to Cmd-H, Photoshop’s keyboard shortcut editor has long made it possible to assign Cmd-H to hiding the app. Doing so takes just a few seconds, yet many people are unaware of this or unwilling to invest the time. Therefore our plan is that in the future, the dialog you see above will pop up once (on Mac only) the first time you hit Cmd-H, asking which behavior you prefer. Special thanks to John Gruber (who independently suggested this solution) for offering the team some timely words of encouragement.

Yes, in terms of these little tweaks, there’s always much more to be done, but we made some good progress in CS4 and plan to make even more in the future. I thought you’d like to see a little proof of that commitment.

* It’s possible to switch shortcuts back by dropping in a plug-in/running a registry entry (here’s the download). In the future we plan to make it easier to control this preference inside Photoshop.

11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments [56]

December 21, 2009

The littlest things

[Warning: Contents may cause excruciating boredom.]
I switched from Microsoft Entourage (sorry, old friend) to Apple Mail a few weeks ago*, and I’m almost embarrassed to note my favorite “feature”: Mail doesn’t abusively “help” me by inserting a space before pasted text. Entourage would drive me crazy with that behavior, especially when putting URLs between parenthesis.
On the other hand, I loved how Entourage would auto-insert the correct accent when I’d type “vis-à-vis” (<–pretentious much? sorry). Maybe more importantly, when I'd tab from the address field to the message body, Entourage would remember the previously active insertion point in the body text. (Who cares? I care, as apparently I tweak addresses/subject lines with some frequency.) And Entourage would also keep everybody on the "To" line when replying to all.
Why am I boring you with this? Okay, yes, things are a bit quiet in the office today, but I also want you to know that I'm a perfectionist. I'm writing up a long and hopefully thoughtful piece about the Photoshop UI (responding to recent posts**), and “sweating the details” is a big, big deal to me–and to many of my colleagues. More interesting bits to come.
*Why? By not relying on one giant database, Mail should play better with Time Machine (and, I’m hoping, be less vulnerable to global freak-outs).
** Let’s not try to delve into a discussion of those other points yet. Sit tight. I’m writing a lot.

10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments [26]

December 17, 2009

Inspector panels: Food for thought

In previous entries I’ve noted the need for a properties inspector/editor in Photoshop:

The richness that’s possible in a PSD file has totally outstripped the Layers panel’s ability to display & control it. […] Photoshop needs a properties inspector, a panel that lets you view & adjust the parameters of the selected object. […] Such a panel can supplant & control other dedicated panels, making it possible to display more info & yet fewer panels on screen.

New panels in CS4–Adjustments, Masks, and 3D–represent movement in this direction. It’ll take time to unify things more fully.
I mention this because I happened across UI designer Keith Lang’s inspector ideas & thought you might find them interesting:

Some of the details remind me of what’s been shown in Adobe’s interesting “Rome” application sneak peek (worth popping into full-screen mode):

Lots of good food for thought. Feedback is welcome as always.

4:16 PM | Permalink | Comments [14]

December 07, 2009

FluidPaint: Digital painting using actual liquids

For a little Monday mental stimulation, peep “FluidPaint: An Interactive Digital Painting System using Real Wet Brushes”:

Here’s related info (PDF). [Via Jerry Harris]

3:18 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

December 03, 2009

New panel, scripts let you batch-eliminate “copy” in PS layer names

God bless scripters and the spirt of “Just Do It.” Responding to reader feedback here about the desire to remove “copy” from duplicated layers, scripter Mike Hale used Configurator to create a simple panel (screenshot) that does just that–nuking “copy {#}” from all layers or just the selected layers.

  • The panel for Photoshop CS4 is downloadable from PS-Scripts.com. It’s wrapped as an MXP file, meaning you can simply double click it to install it using Adobe Extension Manager. After installing the panel, relaunch Photoshop and look under Window->Extensions for “RemoveCopy.”
  • Sometimes Extension Manager doesn’t play well with Vista (as I think it requires you to be logged in as an administrator), so I’ve posted the panel in a simple ZIP package as well. You can unzip the contents, then place the panel folder into “Adobe Photoshop CS4/Plug-ins/Panels.”
  • You might want to use the scripts on their own (not via the panel), especially if you like to assign keyboard shortcuts to commands. You might also want to use them in CS3 or older versions of Photoshop. Therefore I’ve posted just the scripts as well. Drag the expanded contents to “Adobe Photoshop CS{whatever}/Presets/Scripts,” then relaunch PS. Once they’re installed, you can choose Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts & assign shortcuts if you’d like.

Thanks to fellow coders Trevor Morris and Jeff Tranberry for their quick help in making this happen. Please give Mike props & speak up if you encounter any problems.

7:02 AM | Permalink | Comments [10]

December 01, 2009

(Optional) Death to “Copy”

Stick a flashlight under your chin & cue In The Year 2000, because here’s a tiny glimpse of the future:
(Optional) Death to "Copy"
Thanks for all the feedback on this one.

2:38 PM | Permalink | Comments [20]

November 27, 2009

Photoshop, you’re a tough old bird

How do you change wings on a plane while it’s still flying?

We sometimes feel that way working on Photoshop. It’s essential to keep improving the app, yet with such a rich feature set and so many things baked into customers’ muscle memory, we have to be very wary of breaking workflows. It can be tougher than you’d think.

Last week we were talking about adding a command to Photoshop’s Fill dialog (savvy readers might be able to guess why), and we wanted to assign a unique keyboard shortcut to it. Having ghost-written a version of the Photoshop Power Shortcuts book, I like to think I’m pretty darn knowledgeable on the subject. Yet even I wasn’t aware of all the little nuances & thoughtfulness that went into this old command.

Upon investigating, and just for your reference, here are the Mac shortcuts in play (Windows users swap in Ctrl/Alt as appropriate):

  • Delete (alone) = Clear: Fill with transparency for normal layers, or with background color for background layer
  • Cmd + Delete = Fill with background color
  • Option + Delete = Fill with foreground color
  • Option + Cmd + Delete = Fill with history
  • Option + Cmd + Delete + Shift = Fill with history and preserve transparency
  • Option + Delete + Shift = Fill with foreground and preserve transparency
  • Shift + Delete = Open fill dialog with last-used settings

There’s a whole little language at work here:

  • Opt means foreground
  • Cmd means background
  • Adding Shift means preserve transparency
  • Opt + Cmd means history
  • Therefore all four together = Fill with history and preserve transparency

[Update: Gah–I reversed the roles of Opt & Cmd above; now fixed. Just seeing whether you’re paying attention (yeah, that’s it).]

Why on earth am I rambling about all this? Tryptophan poisoning? No, just a couple of reasons:

  1. If nothing else, I thought this list of shortcuts might be handy.
  2. It’s this kind of fastidious attention to detail that made me delight in Photoshop & After Effects. I remember sitting in an AE class & figuring out the meaning of a couple of modifier keys, then combining them and seeing that, yep, they did just want I expected. My people!, I thought.
  3. This sort of “intellectual density,” as my friend on AE once called it, is exactly why evolving Photoshop is often hard & necessarily slow:
    • First things first, “Do no harm”–or as Stephen Colbert might subtitle it, “Doooon’t [Screw] This Up, America.”
    • The rules and connections are often subtle.
    • If you come up with a new, elegant solution to something, will you have time to retrofit your innovation to the rest of Photoshop? What about to the rest of the Creative Suite? And all at once, without stomping other well-established conventions? Yeah, good luck with that. So now you must choose: Innovation or Consistency?

We’re not curing cancer here. We’re not sending anyone to the moon, or writing software to keep heart-lung machines pumping. But we do care, an awful lot, about making the most beautiful, complete, cohesive tools possible. And if it weren’t challenging, it probably wouldn’t be fun.

7:35 AM | Permalink | Comments [14]

November 19, 2009

Interesting multitouch ideas: 10/GUI & BumpTop

Speaking of multitouch, the folks at 10/GUI have some interesting ideas on how to make multitouch practical on the desktop. If nothing else the ergonomic observations are spot on.

Then there’s BumpTop, which has been around for a few years & which is now available for download. It’s cool, but as I’ve written previously, I have a hard time imagining it’ll get widely adopted. Here’s the demo:


11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments [9]

November 17, 2009

Multitouch comes to Flash

I’ve gotten quite a few inquiries over the years asking when Flash Player would support multitouch inputs. The answer: right now! Here’s a quick video demo:

For more info on multitouch, hardware decoding, etc., check out these interviews with the FP engineers. [Via]

4:29 PM | Permalink | Comments [9]

September 28, 2009

CS4-style Flex skins available for panel dev

Commenters here sometimes slag the use of Flash panels inside Creative Suite apps, saying that Flash leads to poor UI. These comments confuse the technology with how it’s been used. Unfortunately it’s true that some SWF panels (example) have been poorly done.
Endeavoring to drive more consistency, the Adobe Experience Design & developer support teams have created a set of “Scope Skins” for use in CS4 panels. According to the download page,

Scope Skins (for Flex Builder 3) were created to skin Adobe Flex apps to provide the same UI as a native Creative Suite panel. This was done with little impact to the functionality of the standard Flex 3 components.

If you’re creating panels for use in Photoshop and/or other Suite apps, please take a look at these skins and let us know what you think.

4:42 PM | Permalink | Comments [10]

MAX session: How to Write a Plug-in for Photoshop

Next Monday from 5:00-6:30pm at Adobe MAX, Mark Niemann-Ross will be hosting an interesting session:

This hands-on session will walk you through the process of creating a Flex plug-in for Photoshop. We’ll start with a basic “hello world” shell, add a Pixel Bender filter, and then integrate an online service. You get to take your work home with you and show your mom!

4:41 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

August 31, 2009

Feedback, please: Task-based workspaces in Photoshop

Ever wish that Adobe made a “Photoshop for Photographers?” Or maybe a version with just what you need for Web design, or video?

If so, I’m guessing it’s because Photoshop is so packed with features that the ones you need are needles in a stack of needles. The sheer volume of choices can be paralyzing, and people don’t feel they’re doing things the best way.

Most customers use only a fraction of Photoshop, yet every part of Photoshop is used by a lot of people. Therefore it’s difficult and painful to remove any features. How, then, can we make Photoshop fit your needs precisely without disadvantaging others?

Here’s an idea. We could revise Photoshop’s approach to workspaces with two goals in mind:

  • Present a more streamlined interface (“everything you need, nothing you don’t”), showing only the tools and commands that are relevant to the task at hand
  • Present best-practice guidance on how to accomplish specific tasks (“not just yet another way to do something, but the *right* way”)

We plan to use an upgraded version of Configurator to create custom panels that are associated with each workspace. Please see this PDF walk-through (note the explanatory annotations) and let us know what you think.

Let me be clear up front: This feature needs to be valuable to pros, not just beginners. For some reason people see “help” or “guidance” and think “newbie,” but there’s much more to the story here.

So, what do you think?

[Related philosophical background: Photoshop as seen through Johnny Cash]

4:42 PM | Permalink | Comments [77]

August 18, 2009

Vector graphics software… from 1963

JFK was in office, and yet the app Sketchpad (from then-25-year-old Ivan Sutherland) offered multitouch input, auto-correction of vector strokes, and even reusable symbols (a la Flash, Illustrator, etc.). Very cool:

Apparently Dr. Sutherland once employed–you guessed it–John Warnock, seen here introducing Adobe Illustrator in 1987. [Via]

7:02 AM | Permalink | Comments [8]

August 17, 2009

Cool interface demos o’ the day

  • SLAP Widgets are “real live plastic and silicone objects that are used in conjunction with a multi-touch table to allow users to control interface values through physical push buttons, sliders, knobs, keypads and keyboards.” Here’s a very cool (albeit slow-loading) video of the system in action*. (Can Slap Chop integration be far behind?)
  • Fontplore is “an interactive application designed for searching and exploring font databases… It does all that on an interactive table, using tangible objects to navigate and control actions.” The site includes a brief video demo.

I keep wanting to see great font exploration & management built into Adobe apps. TypeDNA offers a cool Photoshop-plug-in, using optical character recognition to determine a given font’s name, suggesting font harmonies, and more. I’d like to see these concepts taken even farther, offering browsing, comparison, activation, and purchase in all Suite apps via Flash panels.

* Who knew that Frustrated Total Internal Reflection is a multitouch technology & not just the story of my teenage years (okay, most of my years).

7:05 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

June 23, 2009

Tip: Committing a text edit in PS and AI

Reader “ray” brought up a good point:

“On the mac, when editing text in Photoshop, hitting the enter key finishes the edit* and deselects the text. Hitting escape cancels the edit and reverts the changes.

In Illustrator, hitting enter inserts a carriage return (line break), while hitting escape finishes the edit. This inconsistency is very frustrating, as my muscle memory for these actions is constantly wrong.”

Understood. There is a consistent alternative, though: in both apps, hitting Cmd-Return/Ctrl-Return will commit your changes. Hope that helps.

* Note that on the Mac, Return & Enter are different keys. Return inserts a carriage return (line break), and Enter finishes the edit. Cmd-Return and Cmd-Enter both finish the edit. So, when you want to be done editing text, just remember to add the Cmd/Ctrl key + Return/Enter regardless of app/OS and you should be all set.

6:18 AM | Permalink | Comments [9]

June 17, 2009

Brush locking (aka “Huh?”)

We’d like to discard an obscure feature in Photoshop & replace it with something better. First, though, I’d like to sanity-check that no one needs the existing feature. (Fair warning: This is some nerdy, slightly esoteric stuff.)

In Photoshop 6 and earlier, it was simple to control the relationship between tablet input & brush size and/or opacity. The app featured two independent checkboxes, one meaning “pressure = size” and the other meaning “pressure = opacity.” Easy peasy.

In Photoshop 7, the brush engine became much more powerful, and in the process these options got a bit harder to use. Brushes gained many new parameters (scattering, hue variation, etc.), each of which had the ability to respond to many new inputs (pen tilt, rotation, stylus wheel, etc.). Therefore the two simple checkboxes had to give way, being replaced by a series of popup menus spread throughout the Brushes panel. The placement was less obvious, but the power was much greater.

The real usability snag, however, came from the lack of clarity around brush presets (which include pressure settings & more) and brush tip shapes. People click presets, thinking they’re just changing brush tip, and they end up changing other settings as well. (From this screenshot, you can see why it’s easy to confuse the two.) The results sound like this:

“Okay, where the heck is the setting for pressure = size? [rummage, rummage] Okay, found it. Now, switch to a different brush… Wait, the pressure setting turned off. WTF? Switch it on again, then switch brushes and… [insert stream of profanity]”

At least that’s what I imagine. And that brings us to the feature in question, brush locking. In Photoshop 8.0 (CS), we tried to make things better by adding a little lock icon next to each set of parameters. The idea was that you could set some parameters (e.g. pressure = size), then lock them down so that they wouldn’t change when you applied different brush presets. That is, the locks would override whatever settings the presets included.

Locking was never a great solution, but it was what time permitted back in the CS cycle. Since then I’ve heard less complaining, but I don’t think that’s because people are using locking. (Am I wrong?) I think it’s simply a matter of folks eventually figuring out how things work or learning to live with some strangeness.

In any case, we think we can do better in the future. Photoshop could offer a pair of checkboxes on the Options Bar (the thing that runs below your menus) that control “pressure = size” and “pressure = opacity,” overriding whatever’s set in the Brushes panel. We also have some thoughts about better differentiating brush presets from brush tip shapes.

So, if you use brush locking in Photoshop and see a good reason to keep it around, please speak up. Otherwise it’s toast.



4:15 PM | Permalink | Comments [46]

June 06, 2009

Instant-turnaround feature requests

a.k.a., Stuff that already works as requested.

Thanks for all the great feedback on our JDI initiative. We’ve been combing through 300+ individual sets of suggestions (!), plus many hundred additional responses. I hope to get a chance to comment on more suggestions via blog comments, and maybe via a dedicated post discussing notable ones.

In the meantime, I’m seeing quite a few requests for things that Photoshop already does. On one hand I’m always happy to tell people that they can get what they want right now–no waiting, no fee. On the other, it’s a bit of a bummer that people don’t find features, much less answers, on their own (and we’re talking about people savvy enough to find this blog).

I thought you might find it useful to have some of these requests, plus their solutions, listed here.

  1. “PLEASE PLEASE stop the open doc window resizing when I zoom in or out, just leave it alone.”
    • This has been a preference since the dawn of time: “Zoom Resizes Windows.” For some weird historical reason, by default it’s enabled on Mac & disabled on Windows.
  2. “Allow resizing of the Curves display” [in the CS4 Adjustments panel]
    • It’s the little button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel, second from the left.
  3. “Curves: Let me Cntrl-click to set a point on the curve again! The on-image editing is fine, but old habits die hard.”
    • You’re referring to using the Adjustments panel instead of the Curves dialog box. Using either one you can Cmd-click/Ctrl-click with either the Eyedropper tool or the on-image adjustment tool.
  4. “Adjustment layers that can limit to groups: right now they affect everything below them. Be cool to drop them in a group and have it only affect that group.”
    • That capability has been there since layer sets/layer groups were introduced: put the adjustment layer into the group, then set the group’s blending mode to Normal. (By default it’s set to “Pass Through.”)
  5. “Ability to remove tools from Toolbar, like the 3D tools.” Also: “Unhide the tools. The pop-out tools is a hold over from when monitors were 640×480.”
  6. “Where is ContactSheet II in PhotoshopCS4? I want it back!”
    • It’s right here: Mac, Win.
  7. “Merge visible into new layer, instead of having to create a new layer, hold down option key, and then choose merge visible.”
    • Hit Shift-Cmd-Opt-E/Shift-Ctrl-Alt-E. (Update: Sorry, made a typo the first time around.)
  8. “Change the default layer stroke color to something usable (Black?)”
    • Haven’t tried CS4, then, eh? What we really need, though, is either to make the Layer Styles dialog sticky (so that the next drop shadow you create starts with the last one’s settings), or to let you set your own default values (your preferred starting point for each adjustment–e.g. global light off).
  9. “Close all other tabs” command, similar to browsers”
    • Cmd-Opt-W/Ctrl-Alt-W; also File->Close All.
  10. “Add smudge tool (with strength slider) to brush presets.”
    • Brush presets don’t record the values in the Options Bar, which would include the Strength slider. You can create a tool preset (via that icon at the left of the Options Bar–the one you never click) that does the trick, however. (Think of tool presets as a higher level of brush preset: they capture everything the brush preset would–brush tip shape, dynamics, etc.–plus whatever’s in the Options Bar.)
  11. “Enable the Save For Web dialog to allow for exporting just selected slices.”
    • The feature is there: Inside the S4W window, select the slices you want & hit Save. In the subsequent dialog (save location/options), choose “Selected Slices” from the “Slices” menu at bottom (screenshot).

And just on keyboard shortcuts:

  1. “Please, enable user to adjust his own hotkeys. I’m using photoshop since 1.0”
    • Yes, but apparently not one who values this capability enough to have chosen Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts at any point in the last four versions. (Sorry, this sort of thing gets a bit depressing. And please let’s not say, “Well, it wasn’t intuitive or discoverable where you put the command…” Sure it is.)
  2. “Cmd-H should hide Photoshop”
    • That’s debatable. In any case you can (on Mac) choose Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts, then open the Photoshop menu, choose Hide Photoshop, and hit Cmd-H. (JDI-wise, I’ve added a request to have Photoshop ask what to do the first time you hit this command.)
  3. “Bring back Ctrl+1-4 channel shortcuts for good (new are too stretchy)”
  4. “Give an option for the Adjustment Layers Palette to automatically hide, perhaps by hitting some hot key.”
    • A) You can choose “Auto-Collapse Iconic Panels” via preferences.
    • B) You can assign a keyboard shortcut to the Adjustments panel, then use it to hide/show the panel.
  5. “Add a shortcut to show/hide current layer.”
    • You can assign one to Layer->Hide/Show Layers.
  6. “Switch Cmd-Z and Cmd-Opt-Z shortcuts.”
    • Bet you know what I’m gonna say! :-)
10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments [32]

April 24, 2009

Multitouch coolness o’ the day: WiiSpray.com

I don’t have a lot of background on the project, but WiiSpray.com–using a Nintendo Wii controller + Flash to enable collaborative graffiti painting–caught my eye:

The site is light on info, but you can see a few photos of the spray can controller. I particularly like the idea of controlling a stencil with one hand while spraying paint with the other.
Previously in a similar vein:

10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

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.

10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments [15]

April 20, 2009

Feedback, please: A Grand Unified Suite?

The Dear Adobe blog asks, “Why does Adobe have 14,000 different applications?,” then makes a modest proposal:

So here it is. The Worst Idea Ever. Combine ‘em all. All of them…. What I want is to open a .adobe file in my Adobe.app, click a “Mode” dropdown, select Photoshop, and get my photoshop windows. Edit all my layers with bitmappy precision. Then, when I need to edit something in vector, I don’t use the pathetic excuse for vector tools in Photoshop mode, I switch to Illustrator mode, and all my bitmappy layers suddenly work as Illustrator objects…

Outrageous! Impossible! And yet, maybe not crazy at all. Read on if interested.


10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments [66]

March 23, 2009

Polishing the Adjustments panel [Part 3 of 3]

Bryan has now listed some of the benefits of the Adjustments panel in CS4. That doesn’t mean we think things are perfect, however. As Photoshop moves forward–especially as we do more things non-modally/non-destructively–we need to address any lingering legitimate usability beefs. Here are some possible refinements:

  • Enable an option (via the panel flyout) to have panel adjustment text fields take focus when an adjustment is created. If you pop the dialog form of Levels, you can tab into/among the various fields. You can’t set focus on the panel using just the keyboard. We should fix that, either by putting focus there automatically, and/or by adding a shortcut for the purpose (e.g. Shift-Return).
  • Similarly, add an option to auto-select the eyedropper tool and/or on-canvas adjustment tool when creating/selecting an adjustment layer. This would better fit the modal dialog form, where there’s no need to select a tool.
  • Enable a single-key mechanism for activating the on-canvas adjustment tool. (Ah, but what key? they’re all used).

Anything else?

9:47 AM | Permalink | Comments [20]

The design of Adjustments in CS4 [Part 2 of 3]

On Thursday I talked a bit about how the Adjustments panel introduced in Photoshop CS4 fits in with the team’s larger vision for the product. Now I’ve asked my fellow Photoshop PM, Bryan O’Neil Hughes, to elaborate on some of the design goals that informed the effort. Bryan drove the development of this feature, so I thought you’d like to hear his perspective (in this post’s extended entry).


8:29 AM | Permalink | Comments [19]

March 19, 2009

Adjustments & the future of the Photoshop UI

The new Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS4 is a polarizing feature. Some people love it; others, not so much. My job is to help improve things as we move forward, so I want to hear your feedback.

Just asking for comments in a vacuum, however, isn’t going to produce useful results. Therefore I’m planning to publish three related posts:

  1. The bigger picture of where we’re going with the Photoshop interface, and why
  2. An overview of the advantages Adjustments provides right now
  3. Some ideas on how to improve it in the future

As for feedback on this post, for now please focus on the big picture. The subsequent posts will provide a chance to gather specific, actionable feedback about the current & future versions of the panel. Preamble aside, please read on in this post’s extended entry.


6:52 AM | Permalink | Comments [50]

March 01, 2009

Drive Photoshop with your iPhone

Oh, now this is cool: PhotoKeys is a $4 app that lets you drive Photoshop (switching tools, nudging layers, running actions, etc.) from an iPhone.  [Via Jesse Zibble]


I’ve taken it for a spin, and it works as advertised.  Setup proved to be a bit more time-consuming than I’d expected (involving installing a simple free server app, killing off my VPN connection, restarting the iPhone, and assorted trial and error), but all told it wasn’t bad.


It’s funny: thinking about the dearth of unused keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, a bunch of us were talking about just such an idea the other day.  Cool to see that someone has already beaten us to the punch.


Of course, what’s really in short supply is another modifier key (a la Shift, Cmd/Ctrl, and Opt/Alt) or two.  Having another way to modify commands would open up exponentially more possible combos.  It would be brilliant if an app like PhotoKeys could add such a thing, but I think the bottleneck would be Photoshop.  That is, the app needs to open up a more flexible, general purpose way to accept inputs.  (How about MIDI, so you could hammer saturation with a whammy bar? ;-))


Out of curiosity, if Adobe were to create (or work with a hardware company to create) a simple, inexpensive hardware device, would you be interested in it?  What would it need to do/look like/cost in order to be interesting?  (This is one of those ideas that’s come up for years, so I’m just tossing it out there for consideration, not hinting at anything specific.)

9:12 AM | Permalink | Comments [35]

February 25, 2009

Optional plug-in disables trackpad rotation

During the CS4 development cycle, the Photoshop and Bridge teams worked closely with Apple* to support the multitouch gestures supported on MacBook Air and newer MacBook Pro systems.  As a result you can zoom and rotate documents using three-finger combinations.


The rub is that especially on the latest systems (with the enormous trackpads), it can be too easy to zoom or rotate accidentally.  Unfortunately Photoshop doesn’t ship with a preference that would govern the behavior.  Therefore we’ve released an optional plug-in that will disable zooming and rotating via the keyboard if you’d like.  Just drop it into your Plug-Ins folder, restart Photoshop, and you’ll be set.


* Next time you hear someone start in with a bunch of “Adobe doesn’t care about the Mac” crap, I’d like you to think of this.  People here go the extra mile because they do care.  Deeply.

2:47 PM | Permalink | Comments [36]

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.

11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments [28]

February 14, 2009

PDF containing all Lightroom 2 shortcuts

Rick Miller from Adobe’s education field team writes, “I’ve recently had requests from users who would like a PDF reference guide that covers just the shortcuts in Lightroom 2. So I’ve created one…enjoy!”

9:50 AM | Permalink | Comments [5]

February 12, 2009

Scrubby sliders & more

You may well know about "scrubby sliders" in Photoshop–the little finger-with-arrows icon you get when your cursor hovers over the label next to a numerical field, such as "Opacity" on the Layers panel.  (Here’s a screenshot borrowed from Photoshop Essentials.)  With scrubby sliders you can click and drag on the text label, moving left and right to adjust the field’s value up and down.  You may not have discovered a couple of nuances, however:


  • Holding Opt/Alt while scrubbing makes the values change 10x more slowly.  This is great for fine-tuning a value.  Conversely, holding Shift while scrubbing makes the values change 10x faster.  This is great for making an audience sick while demoing canvas rotation.  (Open a really big image, zoom out, hit R, and then Shift-drag over the Rotation Angle text on the Options Bar. Entreat your viewers to stare at the center. Watch them become your willing thralls…)
  • Some fields don’t have text label next to them, and it therefore seems that you can’t use scrubby sliders with them.  Ah, but that’s where holding down Cmd/Ctrl while mousing over the field comes into play.  By holding the modifier while dragging, you can use a scrubby slider on these fields.  (Adding Opt/Alt or Shift works as you’d expect.)


On a related note, when you put focus on a text field in Photoshop, you can nudge its value up and down by using the up/down arrow keys.  Holding Shift while arrowing naturally makes the increment of change 10x larger.


It’s all these little custom behaviors that help make moving Photoshop from Carbon to Cocoa a rather involved affair.  The app has developed a lot of little tweaks (e.g. holding down Opt/Alt in dialog boxes to turn Cancel into Reset) that don’t just come along for free.  It’s also an illustration of why custom widgets are sometimes desirable.  I’d like to see Photoshop and other CS apps make scrubby sliders much more universal/discoverable via something like the Adobe video apps’ sliders (screenshot). [Update: See also the ones in Flash CS4.]

There’s one other related thing, which I hate to mention as it’s a bug, but I can offer a solution.  In CS4 if you click on a text label to highlight a field, then use a mouse wheel to adjust values, you may notice that the field stops changing.  The workaround is to keep your cursor over the text label, or anywhere outside the field itself.  Sorry about that rough edge.

7:26 AM | Permalink | Comments [22]

February 09, 2009

Layer-related shortcuts you might want to know

Based on some recent comments (e.g. “Please add a way to navigate through layers via the keyboard”), I get the impression that many people don’t know some/all of the following:


  • Opt/Alt + left/right bracket keys change layer selection, selecting the layer above/below the current one.
  • Those shortcuts plus Shift extend the layer selection.  For example, to select the layer above the current one while keeping the current one selected, hit Shift-Opt-]/Shift-Alt-].
  • Shift-Opt-,/Shift-Alt-, (comma) selects the the current layer and all those below it.  Shift-Opt-./Shift-Alt-.  (period) selects the current layer and all those above it.
  • Opt-,/Alt-, selects the bottom layer.  Opt-./Alt-. selects the top one.
  • Cmd-G/Ctrl-G groups layers into a layer group (aka layer set, aka “little folder thing”).  Shift-Cmd-G/Shift-Ctrl-G ungroups layers.
  • Cmd-Opt-A/Ctrl-Alt-A selects all layers.
  • Shift-Cmd-N/Shift-Ctrl-N makes a new layer. Add Opt/Alt to do so while skipping the layer options dialog box.


And while we’re at it, you can also change blending modes via the keyboard:


  • Shift-plus (=) selects the next blending mode.  Shift-minus (-) selects the previous one.  Note that the target of these changes depends on what tool is active.  If you’ve got a painting tool (Brush, Clone Stamp, etc.) selected, the changes apply to the tool’s blending mode.  If you’ve got other tools selected, they’ll apply to the blending mode of the selected layer.  (My rule of thumb is to tap V to make the Move tool active before applying blending changes to a layer via the keyboard.)
  • Shift-Opt-letter/Shift-Alt-letter will set the selected tool/layer to a specific blending mode.  For example, M is Multiple, N is Normal, and H is Hard Light.  A fairly complete list is here (scroll down).


If you find this kind of thing useful, check out Trevor Morris’s list of PS shortcuts, or Michael Ninness’s old but useful Photoshop Power Shortcuts book.  (I updated it for PS7.)

[Update: See the comments below for more good suggestions.]

4:36 PM | Permalink | Comments [20]

February 07, 2009

Expanding Smart Objects

Thanks for all the great feedback regarding ways to manage complex documents.  I should probably toss in the inevitable disclaimer that we’re just gathering feedback, none of this is a promise/hint about future work, void where prohibited, blah blah.


A couple of people have mentioned the idea of expanding Smart Objects back into the layers that formed them initially.  That is, you’d be able to select multiple layers, turn them into an SO, do various things to the SO, and then explode the layers back out into the main layer stack.  It’s a great idea, and of course (you knew this was coming) it’s really hard to make work, which is why it’s not supported today.  In case you’re interested, let me explain why.


Smart Objects let you apply a variety of transformations to the selected object.  You can scale, skew, perspective-transform, warp, and filter them.  The trick is, how would you turn the transformed content back into layers while preserving its appearance?


In some cases the job would be easy.  Let’s say you put four layers into an SO, then scale it up & want to expand the layers back out.  That seems pretty straightforward: apply the same scale factor to each layer, then move it so that the positions match.  The same might go for skewing & distorting, though I may be overlooking some cases.  But what about warping and filtering?  It gets tough, if not impossible, quickly.  I’ve made a little illustration (read it left to right) that may help illuminate the challenges.


The upshot is that expanding Smart Objects back to layers could be made to work some times and not others.  Addressing at least the simpler cases would be a worthwhile effort, though that task would have to jockey for position relative to other SO-related enhancements.


For instance, if PS offered an option not to save the composite data of an SO in a file, the SO wouldn’t add file size above and beyond the layers it contains. That would in turn open the door to PS creating SOs automatically when transforming layers, which is essential to getting more people using this feature.  The consequence would be more time spent opening files, however, as SO composites would have to be rendered on the fly.  That in turn adds new requirements to other PSD-reading apps–e.g. that they be able to run filters on the fly in order to preserve appearance.  The whole thing becomes a quasi-religious argument about format compatibility and trading one kind of performance for another. There are many cans of worms here.


If you’ve read this far, my fellow geek, you may be interested in previous entries about The Secret Life of Smart Filters and the closely related Simplicty vs. Power in Photoshop.  Nobody ever said progress was gonna be easy. :-)

3:42 PM | Permalink | Comments [17]

February 05, 2009

Feedback, please: Managing complex PSDs

Designers–and Web designers in particular–create some of the most complex, intricately layered Photoshop compositions possible.  How could we make the management & navigation of these files more efficient? I’d love to get your take on the following ideas:


  • Layer panel search/filtering:
    • Photoshop could offer a small search field at the top of the Layers panel.  As you’d type in text, PS would narrow down the display of layers (e.g. typing "b-u-r-r.." would hide everything but the layer called "burrito").  Searching would also find custom tags applied to layers.  Hiding layers in the list would have no effect on the appearance of the document.
    • Separately, PS could offer buttons on Layers that would let you filter the view so that you could, say, show only type layers, or only type layers and bitmap layers, etc.
  • Layer sorting: Photoshop would offer the ability to sort the Layers panel by layer type, layer name, etc.
  • Symbols (i.e. reusable objects that enable "edit one, update many"): Photoshop already supports this concept to some degree via Smart Objects.  You can convert a layer to be an SO, then duplicate the object, edit one copy, and have both copies update.  The interface could be made clearer, however (e.g. through adding a Symbols panel for managing objects).
  • Linked files (place a file, update it externally, and have all placed copies updated in PSDs): Again, Photoshop already supports linked files in a couple of ways.  If you double-click a Smart Object placed from Illustrator, PS will open a copy in AI.  You can also choose Layer->Smart Objects->Replace Contents… to have an SO replace with a file on disk.  Oh, and video layers are always linked to external files.  The raw materials for a traditional linking implementation are there, but PS would need to add things like a Links panel.
  • Type styles:  As you can in Illustrator and InDesign, you could assign a style to type layers in Photoshop, and when you changed the style definition, PS would update all layers that have the style attached.
  • Other?  Anything I haven’t mentioned?  Anything you like in other apps?


To gather feedback I’ve created a very quick survey, and of course your comments (below) would be most welcome. (And in the interests of sharing ideas freely, you can browse others’ responses, too. Note that I can’t edit/reply inline to suggestions posted via the survey.)




2:39 PM | Permalink | Comments [87]

January 13, 2009

Photoshop Subvertising

Artist-vandals in Berlin have rather brilliantly hacked a set of subway posters, overlaying them with stickers showing the Photoshop UI. [Via Mark Stern, Serge Jespers, Jeff Lietz, and others]


I have a soft spot for the trippy impromptu public art projects that subway posters often become–everything from Van Dycks & puke lines to political commentary.  I got an unreasonably big kick out of a Bourne Identity poster in the NY subway that featured three images of Matt Damon on which someone had scrawled, respectively, “Loner… gun owner… stern taskmaster.” (Told you it was unreasonable.)


[Update: Kottke links to more photos on Flickr.  Apparently the project is called "Don’t Forget…" [Via]]


[Previously: Real-world Photoshop.]

9:08 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

January 07, 2009

The MacBook Wheel

“One button. Endless possibilities.”

I look forward to hearing that Adobe is “dragging its feet” for not abandoning keyboard shortcuts and fully embracing The Wheel by noon yesterday. ;->
[Update: Reader Don Tardiff points out that the Simplex typewriter was doing the wheel thing a century ago. (“Notice no screen, hard drive, or battery.”) Reached for comment, Jonathan Ive said, “That’s. How. We. Roll.”]

3:58 PM | Permalink | Comments [13]

October 25, 2008

SNL Multitouch

Being kind of hyped about multitouch user interfaces, I loved seeing Saturday Night Live spoof the TV channels’ infatuation with flashy but often meaningless info displays. Skip ahead to 5:20 or so to check it out:

If for some reason the embedded video isn’t working, you can try it (and see stills) on this Engadget page.
It really is kind of hard to satirize just how dorky people can look when filling live TV time with these things.

10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

October 15, 2008

XD responds to user feedback

A brief note: A number of folks have questioned the XD team’s decision to render their new INSPIRE publication through the Flash Player.  I passed the feedback along to the design team, and now XD manager Ty Lettau has replied.

1:41 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

October 14, 2008

New Adobe XD pub, thoughts on CS4 UI

The Adobe XD (Experience Design) team has launched INSPIRE, a new online publication in which team members can share thoughts on how, why, and what they design; gather feedback; and more.  Among the good bits:



(Apropos of nothing, both designers are among a similarly named group of "me Julies," which seems like it should be British slang if it isn’t already.)

3:29 PM | Permalink | Comments [16]

August 25, 2008

iPhone GUI bits

  • The guys at teehan+lax have created a slick, well organized iPhone GUI PSD file.  Geoff Teehan writes, "We created our own Photoshop file that has a fairly comprehensive library of assets – all fully editable."  Nicely done! [Via Joel Eby]
  • Felix Sockwell offers a detailed walk-through of how he developed icons for the NY Times’ iPhone app.
  • Vaunted info-design expert Edward Tufte critiques iPhone interfaces in terms of their info-to-overhead ratio. [Via]


Marginally related at best, but too good not to share: the highly unique unboxing video for the Samsung Omnia. [Via Russell Williams]

12:12 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

July 30, 2008

Photoshop.next UI hints on CNET

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk ad nauseam about the need to better manage Photoshop’s complexity.  We need to give you the power to make the app “everything you want, nothing you don’t.”  Last week Stephen Shankland from CNET asked what kind of progress we’re making, especially in the context of the more task-based interface of Ligthroom.  I disclosed some details that appear in his article:


Adobe is taking a page from the Lightroom specialization playbook for Photoshop by trying to make it more customizable to specific users and tasks. But in contrast with Lightroom, company is trying to do so without sacrificing the software’s general-purpose nature, said John Nack, [principal] product manager for Photoshop.


“We want to make it possible to be everything you want and nothing you don’t,” Nack said. “One of the tough things has been dealing with the enormous breadth of Photoshop. We end up presenting same interface to architects as we do to Web designers as radiologists as prepress folks.”


To achieve that goal, Photoshop’s interface will become more open-ended and even programmable, he said.


“You’ll see some of the things we’ve learned about Lightroom–making things browsable and less modal–come into Photoshop,” Nack said. In other words, it’ll be easier to shift Photoshop from one task to another.


With a “Configurator” application that should be released by Adobe Labs within a month or two of release the next version of Photoshop, Adobe will let users create and share their own Photoshop control panels written in Adobe’s Flash programming language, Nack added. “Our goal is to make it possible for expert users to reconfigure the environment on a task-by-task basis and share those workspaces with other people. You don’t have to write code. You can knock together an interface and make it sharable.”


As I’ve written previously, using Flash in the Suite isn’t about slathering the UI in a bunch of blinky banner ads; rather, it’s about giving people an easy way to connect, tune, & extend their work environments.  The AIR-based Configurator app is just one way to build these UI elements–one that lets you Lego-together functionality without writing code, then easily share the output.  The tool isn’t ready to take a bow yet, but it’s coming along really nicely & I’m looking forward to showing what it can do.


[Related/previous: Future Photoshop UI changes]

11:24 AM | Permalink | Comments [7]

July 06, 2008

Phil Clevenger on the Lightroom UI

Lightroom marketing manager/former Combat Photojournalist Frederick Johnson has posted an informative 12-minute interview with Phil Clevenger, Lightroom interface designer/KPT veteran.  Phil talks about the challenges of starting with a blank slate & establishing an interaction language; the pros and cons of modality; Lightroom’s unique model for applying parametric local corrections; and much more.  I fount it well worth a look.


(Tangentially: Both Frederick and Phil show up among Kelly Castro’s portraits (aka Project Make Mild-Mannered Software Peeps Look Hardass), now featured on the Adobe Design Center.)

10:22 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

June 02, 2008

Some thoughts about platform consistency

[Note: I’m motivated to write the following as I’m hearing increasing speculation about future Adobe UI changes based on what’s appeared in screenshots, the Fireworks beta, etc.  That topic deserves its own post, and I’ll work on publishing one in the next couple of days.  Until then I won’t be tackling any of those specific issues/questions.]


I had a rather eye-opening experience the other day.  I over heard an Adobe employee using Photoshop exclaim, “No way… they overloaded Cmd-H!”  In other words, he was surprised that pressing Cmd-H didn’t hide the application.  He was obviously A) a Mac user, B) relatively unfamiliar with Photoshop, and C) assuming that Photoshop had made a decision to go against Mac OS conventions.


Er, no. :-)


The actual history is that Photoshop has used the Cmd-H shortcut since something close to the dawn of time (at least as far back as 1993, when I started using the app) to hide/show the current selection (the “marching ants” that go around a selection).  This convention (like essentially all PS shortcuts) is consistent between Mac and Windows, and it’s worked the same way in Illustrator for a similarly long time.


When Apple introduced OS X, they decided to implement some new conventions for shortcuts.  Notably, Cmd-H hides apps; Cmd-M minimizes docs to the Dock; and Cmd-~ (technically Cmd-`) cycles among open documents.  Over time the OS has appropriated more and more shortcuts that have been used by Photoshop (F9-F12 were for actions, Cmd-Space/Cmd-Opt-Space was for zooming, etc.).


This puts us in a tough position.  On the one hand, I totally appreciate Apple’s efforts to drive consistency across the platform.  On the other, we have to tread very carefully around keyboard shortcut changes.  Pros’ fingers dance over Adobe apps like musicians’ on instruments.  When certain things have worked a certain way for 10 or 15 years across multiple Adobe apps, you don’t just toss out those conventions and all the associated muscle memory.


My colleague’s comment reminded me, though, that new users don’t know or care about the history here.  For them, it just looks like Adobe is blowing off useful, consistent shortcuts, going its own way for no reason.


So, what do we do?  “Let me customize shortcuts,” you might say–but of course we do already (and have for years), and that doesn’t affect the default experience.  No matter what we do–change or sit tight–someone is going to be P.O.’d.


I think we have to take things case-by-case.  As it happens, I expect we’ll change Photoshop to use Cmd-~ to cycle among document windows.  PS already supports the Windows-standard Ctrl-Tab for this function on both platforms, and by honoring both conventions we can offer cross-platform consistency.  This move will undoubtedly frustrate people who rely on Cmd-~ for displaying the composite channel, but we’ll do our best to ease the pain.  Remapping Cmd-H and Cmd-M are a progressively tougher sell for me, given the importance of selections & Curves in PS.  Note, however, that on the Mac by default Photoshop assigns Cmd-Ctrl-H to hiding & Cmd-Ctrl-M to minimizing–i.e. the standard conventions + the Ctrl key.


I mention all this in order to shed some light on the tricky issues we face with the Photoshop & other Adobe tools.  No one I know here views OS conventions as unimportant; on the contrary, they’re always among the first issues considered.  It’s just that we have to weigh them against possible disruptions to user habits and workflows, and against the user benefits of consistency between applications and platforms.

[PS–I know people are eager to hear more & to discuss the application frame idea, etc. As I say, I plan to post plenty of detail shortly. (In other words, please don’t fill the comments with tons of questions/rants just yet. :-)) More to come… –J.]

1:17 AM | Permalink | Comments [48]

May 16, 2008

Flash-based multitouch coolness

Christian Moore & the folks at the NUI Group have created Lux, an open-source framework for creating multitouch-savvy applications.  Check out the video demo & a short interview with Christian on how they’ve used Flash to prototype a very cool implementation.  I’d love to see it updated to take advantage of the GPU hardware acceleration in the upcoming Flash Player 10 (just posted in preview form on Adobe Labs).  Oh, and how about this running in a Smart Object on the Photoshop canvas?  (Hey, I’m just thinking aloud, not dropping any near-term.) [Via Jerry Harris]


Interesting related bits:

  • Gizmodo features a short recent interview with Jeff Han, the guy whose multitouch work really lit a fire under the whole area two years ago.
  • Macworld’s Dan Frakes provides a video tour of MultiClutch, a free utility for extending the multitouch features in the latest MacBook Pro & MacBook Air notebooks.  (I was bummed to discover that my wife’s brand new MacBook doesn’t offer the same support.  She’s just happy to have two-finger scrolling, something missing from her deceased PowerBook.)
  • I need to pull together a category for multitouch; in the meantime, past interesting bits are here.
2:00 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

April 21, 2008

Wiimote Hacks + Photoshop

Photographer* Mike Hill passed along a link to crafty hacker Johnny Lee’s hacks to enable, among other things, whiteboarding on the cheap in Photoshop, thanks to a modified Nintendo Wii controller.  PS is shown only in passing, but it’s still fun to see.

This of course makes me think of the Flash-based, Wiimote-powered multi-user painting system created by BLITZ Agency for Adobe MAX last year (details).  It may sound frivolous, but I still like to get my little wheels turning about how to cross-pollinate this kind of Web-flavored coolness with our desktop apps.  I still want creation experiences that can feel more like this, and less like poking sliders and knobs.

* and creepily faithful Michael McDonald imitator

10:05 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

February 27, 2008

Leather + multitouch = foxy

Ooh, now that’s nice: student Nedzad Mujcinovic has crafted “Livre,” a concept for a leather-wrapped, multitouch-aware electronic book.  Check out the photos as well as the overview.  Could a large e-ink screen, organic materials, gesture-based navigation, and a minimum of button clutter change the game and make e-books widespread?  It would be fun to find out. [Via]

In other cool device news:

  • Small format:
    • Like sketching ideas on cocktail napkins, but wish they were more expensive and susceptible to water damage?  Then perhaps you’d like the Napkin PC.  Naw, the concept is cooler than that–especially if you could combine multiple Napkin PCs into a single work area. [Via Jana Sedivy]
    • Inchworm brings sketching and painting to the Nintendo DS.  It was created by Bob Sabiston, the developer of the “Rotoshop” software used to create Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. [Via Greg Geisler]
    • Nokia envisions a future full of shape-shifting phones; peep the video for their Morph concept.
  • Multitouch:
  • CNET reports on startup company CeeLite (note: not the singer from Gnarls Barkley) creating flexible sheets of light, useful for wrapping on buses, poles, and other objects.
  • Researchers at Stanford have revealed details on their plenoptic camera work.
  • Alienware offers a cool, curved display for widescreen gaming.  I wonder how well it would work for design & photo editing.
  • Art Lebedev’s Photoshop-savvy Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard (mentioned previously) has started shipping.  You can see it being set up, or you can watch the droll Art himself work his geek-fu on a real live girl. :-)  [Via Jesse Zibble]
8:47 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

February 01, 2008

Terrible UI o’ the day

Ah, Vegas: It’s like the whole town just coughs into your mouth.  Everything about this place makes me feel dirty, strung-out, and used.

I mention it because just now I was impressed to find a Coke machine that featured a credit card swipe-strip for payment.  Kind of convenient, I thought–though of course it means that the prices have been jacked out of the range of the small bills you’re likely to be carrying.

Speaking of price… It’s displayed only intermittently, when the words “Coca-Cola” aren’t crawling by.  (I’m sure that text is very helpful to the people confused about the nature of this giant red machine that sells only Coca-Cola.)  Terrible info presentation, but whatever, I’m thirsty.

Swipe, pause… card authorized, press soda button.  Wait several seconds… nothing.  Did it hear me?  I press again.  Wait… [rumble] Coke arrives.  And then another.  And then a third.  Suddenly I’ve paid nearly eight bucks for 60oz. of sugar water–about 10x more than I actually wanted.

Genius!  I’m serious, actually: by tossing out the most basic interface principle of providing prompt user feedback, these guys just tripled their income.  How many times a day must this happen, and who’s going to spend time sweating these guys for $5?  The house wins again.

PS–I know that in posting this little bit of whining I’m really unleashing the power of the blog, so to speak.  Maybe the anti-consumer UI beatings that happen in Vegas should, in fact, stay in Vegas.

4:54 PM | Permalink | Comments [9]

January 16, 2008

Video: Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac in depth

Adobe’s Terry White has created a 45-minute video podcast offering a "‘First Look’ At Photoshop Elements 6 for the Macintosh."  Check it out to see the new interface & new tools in action.  And if you happen to be at Macworld this week, drop by the Adobe booth to see it in person.  (I’ll be lurking a bit this afternoon.)  [Via]

11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

November 13, 2007

Your interface blows (literally)

While we’re waiting for Photoshop to connect with Martian ocular implants, researchers have been busy building crafty new interface tech.  Photoshop engineer John Peterson writes, "Some folks at the Georgia Institute of Technology have
found a way to do cursor control/selection by blowing on the
screen. The amazing part is it needs no extra hardware, they just
use the microphone already built in to your laptop."  Check out the video, as well as the team’s research paper (PDF).

Apparently others have had the same idea.  Photoshop UI designer Julie Meridian reports, "The Nintendo DS has a built-in microphone and does something similar for
games, like WarioWare Touched! where the goals are things like blowing
up balloons, flying a kite, etc."  And we’ve joked about enabling blowing on natural media simulations in order to do things like moving or drying ink.

Elsewhere on the New UI front, Bryan Hughes points out that all new Volkswagens are due to get touch screens.  If I ever upgrade my Jetta (damn 1.8 mi commute making that unlikely), maybe I can look forward to doing an iPhone style pinch to zoom in on a map–as I zoom into a ravine.

6:20 PM | Permalink | Comments [4]

November 09, 2007

Clarification on “Johnny Cash”

Ooh, I’ve been Slashdotted.  I wondered why the blog had gotten more visitors before 7AM than it usually gets all day.  Thanks for all the comments.

I need to clarify a couple of things.  A commenter on the Slashdot story said, “Well, Adobe just told you themselves that the Photoshop UI sucks.”  Er, no.  Two things:

  1. “Adobe” didn’t say anything; I said something (see disclaimer about these opinions being my own, etc.).  Yes, I sometimes get lazy and conflate myself with the team/product/company, but I’m really just the Simple Unfrozen Caveman Web Designer they happened to hire to work on Photoshop.  But more importantly…
  2. I didn’t say that the Photoshop UI sucks.  I said that it’s not good enough (which is to say, it’s never “good enough”).  If the UI sucked, I somehow doubt that millions of people would rely on it every day for mission-critical work.  And, incidentally, every time we survey customers, we find that the number reporting themselves “satisfied” or “very satisfied” comes in above 90%.

It’s my job to be somewhat hard on the product, pushing like mad to eke out every improvement possible.  Without dissatisfaction, why change?  I hate the idea that “good enough is good enough,” that we can and should just putter around the edges.  To remain groundbreaking, Photoshop has to mess with success.

Okay, second part: I don’t want people to be disappointed if the next Photoshop interface doesn’t look like some Martian voodoo lovechild driven by foot pedals & ocular implants.  Yes, we’re working (as we have been) to open the door to some really nice improvements, but change takes time.  I believe we can deliver a better experience without breaking the interface people already know & like.  Just don’t be mad if the next version of PS doesn’t cook you breakfast.  (That’s for CS5. ;-))

8:53 AM | Permalink | Comments [19]

November 07, 2007

Leopard: Quicksilver for the rest of us?

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come
back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that when you get to a certain number of objects, search trumps categorization, and as I’ve detailed previously, a number of Adobe apps (InDesign, After Effects, Illustrator) feature built-in methods for searching the interface (applying commands, finding help).  We haven’t quite gotten to the point of rolling out a unified, cross-product way to drive the applications via search, however.

To meet the need, many Mac power users dig Quicksilver–a powerful little utility that enables searching, app launching, car-waxing, and more.  Try as I might, though, I’ve never gotten into QS.  It’s not that it doesn’t do enough; it’s that it can do so much, and I get totally bewildered by setting a 747 cockpit’s worth of switches.

That’s why I’m intrigued by Leopard’s Spotlight-style searching of application menus (a weirdly unheralded feature, I think).  As you type, related terms pop up, and as you arrow through the list of results, Leopard highlights the results.  Here’s an animated screenshot of the feature running in Photoshop.

I’ve found that by assigning a global keyboard shortcut ("Cmd-?") to Help->Search via system preferences, I can now drive any Mac app’s menus via the keyboard.  That’s pretty powerful: instead of having to memorize (or assign) lots of keyboard shortcuts, or having to hunt and peck through rarely-used apps’ menus, it’s now possible just to hit Cmd-?, then start typing.

Yes, I know that Quicksilver can do much more, and there’s all kinds of room to improve on the Leopard feature.  That said, the latter’s simplicity makes it really appealing.  I’ll be curious to see how much I (and others) end up using it day-to-day. [Update: Apparently I’m not alone: I see in the notes of this podcast that Leo Laporte has ditched Quicksilver in favor of Leopard menu search.]

* Side note: I love that it’s now possible to browse Safari’s history via the search feature.  I’ve been using search in Safari 2, but the new UI exposes the capability much more readily.  On a further side note, apparently the extension Safari Stand will bring Cover Flow viewing to your history.

11:32 PM | Permalink | Comments [10]

November 05, 2007

Photoshop, as seen through Johnny Cash

In One Piece At a Time*, Johnny Cash tells the story of building a Cadillac from 20 years’ worth of evolving, mismatched parts.  I’ve gotta say, I know the feeling.

Photoshop has been accreting power & users for the better part of two decades.  The once-little app has proven almost endlessly adaptable to new needs and workflows, but all that morphing has a price.  In many cases we’ve traded simplicity for power, and not all the pieces look like part of a cohesive whole.  In fact, I sometimes joke that looking at some parts of the app is like counting the rings in a tree: you can gauge when certain features arrived by the dimensions & style of the dialog.  (Cue old-timey prospector voice: "Oh, Lighting Effects–you can see the scorch marks from the great fire of ’43…")

This isn’t exactly a news flash–far from it.  So, the question is, What exactly are we gonna do about it?  No one wants to work with–or work on–some shambling, bloated monster of a program.

The good news is that we’ve been plotting the solutions for a number of years, chipping away at the problem.  Good stuff comes to the surface in bits and pieces, but we haven’t quite turned the corner–yet.  A few thoughts:

  • We must make Photoshop "everything you need, nothing you don’t."   Presenting the same user experience to a photographer as we do to a radiologist, as to a Web designer, as to a prepress guy, is kind of absurd.  The new ability for users to choose between Photoshop & Photoshop Extended helps somewhat, but it’s just one step.
  • With this goal in mind, we must make Photoshop dramatically more configurable.  We’ve been chipping away for several cycles, enabling first workspaces, then customizable menus & shortcuts.  We need to be much bolder, though, and I’ve been dropping totally unsubtle hints about this for ages.
  • I don’t expect most users to customize the app–nor should they have to do so.  Rather, I expect the power users–authors and experts, you and I–to tune the app to taste, then share our knowledge.  Let people solve their own problems, then share the solutions.
  • With the power of customizability, we can present solutions via task-oriented workspaces.  Today if a user walks up to Photoshop and says, "What do I do?," the app kind of shrugs, stubs out a cigarette, and says, "I dunno–you tell me."  That’s not real cool, and we can do better.
  • By leading people to best practices, we can start deprecating (and later removing) outmoded functionality. ("A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left
    to add, but when there is nothing left to take away," said Antoine de Saint-Exupery.)  
  • Meanwhile we’ll put energy into simply polishing what’s already present.  (Refine Edge is a good example from CS3.)

So, why am I telling you all this, and why do I think it’s worth reading?  I’m saying it because although we can’t (and probably shouldn’t) turn the whole battleship (or Caddy, if you like) on a dime, we get the need, and we’re on the case.  We’ve been toiling away beneath the surface, setting the groundwork for change.  There are no magic bullets, but I feel that for the first time in my 5+ years working on this team, we’re within striking distance of some big things–and everyone reading this will play a role in making things better. Just thought you should know. :-)

In the meantime, as we fight for each little gain, I’m reminded of a quote from Edmund Burke: "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."

[Update: I’ve posted some clarifications & responses here.]

*Lyrics, plus Johnny in a kind of Benny Hill-esque video for the song.  Thanks to our friend George Reis for drawing the comparison.

12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments [102]

October 19, 2007

Wicked-cool Wii+Flash-powered hologram-thing

The crew at BLITZ Agency created an amazing interactive video installation for Adobe MAX, using non-traditional input devices to let people paint collaboratively.  As they describe it on their blog:

"Adobe Creativity Conducted" Interactive Wall Experience features a holographic-like projection system on which you can paint images and designs using a Nintendo Wii remote control. This full screen Flash application runs in HD resolution, and was premiered during the primary Adobe party of the MAX 07 Conference in Chicago. The experience ran uninterrupted for the duration of the party (4 hours), and received nonstop foot traffic resulting in 68 artistic creations submitted as images to a Flickr account.

Chek out the video of the system in action, and see some of the creations on Flickr.

I can’t tell you how much stuff like this trips my trigger.  I love the way the project makes drawing and painting a full-body 3D experience, and I love the way the SWF interface synthesizes great-looking art playfully.  One question, though: Why can’t I do anything like this in Photoshop or Illustrator?  What if we could crack open these apps and let people leverage the power of the Flash?  Hmm…  Erik Natzke has an idea of what that might look like (totally fake, unfortunately, at least for now).

Trying, as ever, to cross the streams,


5:58 PM | Permalink | Comments [26]

October 13, 2007

Multitouch, holograms, & other next-gen I/O

4:43 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

October 08, 2007

TiltViewer: 3D Flash interface to Flickr

Felix Turner, creator of the all kinds of clean, lovely Flash photo displays (e.g. the Flickr Related Tag Browser, SimpleViewer, and PostcardViewer) returns with TiltViewer, an experimental interface that presents photos from Flickr’s "Interestingness" stream.  Clicking the icon on any image makes it possible to flip it over, see notes, and jump to the corresponding Flickr page (which I did for this groovy shot).  For details of the project, check out Felix’s blog.  For another great way to peruse Flickr, check out PicLens.

10:22 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

July 24, 2007

KYPSKBSC: Know Your Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

Let your fingers do the rocking:

9:53 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

July 13, 2007

Interactive Adobe video wall comes to NYC

According to an article in today’s NYT,

Adobe will unveil an interactive wall of projected animation [see video] this morning in Union Square, along the 14th Street side of the Virgin Megastore. As pedestrians walk past the wall, infrared sensors will lock on to the person closest to the wall, who will then be able to control a projected slider button at the bottom of the wall. As the selected pedestrian continues walking and moves the slider along, the wall will start displaying colorful animation and playing music, effects that will grow or recede at the pace that the person advances or retreats.

Measuring 95 square feet, and created by Goodby Silverstein working with animators at Brand New School and video peeps Obscura Digital,
the wall is meant to offer “a single and multiuser experience simultaneously.”  Gizmodo wants to see multitouch interactivity added to the project, saying “Sure, you’d probably wind up with more than a few obscene renderings, but it’s New York, people can handle it.”  (Yes, but could Adobe Corporate*? ;-))

I hope to get photos and videos from the unveiling to share.  If you know of any, please pass ’em along. [Update: Gothamist has posted a bit more info.]

*Then again, Bruce is from Brooklyn, so I imagine him remaining unfazed.

12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

July 03, 2007

Multitouch, real & imagined

  • MIT’s Technology Review features multi-touch UI pioneer Jeff Han in a new video.  He talks about ways these screens can get around the "thin straw" of keyboard mouse input; the potential for better storyboarding applications; and more.
  • Mark Coleran has carved out what seems to be a pretty cool gig, designing computer interfaces shown in movies.  His design for a table in The Island resembles the Microsoft Surface concept. [Via]  Mark’s work reminds me of the time we visited the set of one of the CSI shows and met the folks responsible for those Director-powered graphics–you know, the ones that convince average viewers that computers can read The Iliad reflected off the head of a pin.  Thanks a lot for that, guys. ;-)
  • Meanwhile the interface of the iPhone I picked up on Saturday remains a completely imaginary one: thanks to AT&T, I can’t activate the damn thing with my corporate cell number, which means I can’t get past the welcome screen.  Note to self: the whole sequence of
    1. Get all excited, buy lovely, seductive gizmo
    2. Figure out whether said gizmo can actually be used with phone number, work email, etc.

    should actually be reversed.  Gah. This would be that bleeding edge I’ve heard so much about. (It does feel great in one’s hand, however. ;-P)

8:45 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

June 23, 2007

A great quote on software

As I’ve been thinking about the future of user interfaces, I stopped by the Web site of noted UI designer Bill Buxton.  There I saw this remark:

A Personal Mantra: Ultimately, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the products that we design are the "things" that we sell, rather than the individual, social and cultural experience that they engender, and the value and impact that they have. Design that ignores this is not worthy of the name.

Right on, sir.  I tell anyone who’ll listen (and many who won’t) about the "Photoshop Nation," the power of connecting people, and the importance of giving a damn and getting things right.

A small number multiplied by a big number is still a big number, and some little improvement* may help only a small percentage of users, but that works out to a large number of people.  The social impact of doing so can be significant.  (It all reminds me of Steve Jobs equating boot time improvements to lives saved.)  It’s about not blocking the light.

Bonus quote, apropos of stirring things up on occasion: "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on
the unthinking." –John Maynard Keynes

* I was pleased to hear a photographer named Brian Price comment this week on the ProDIG list that "[F]or me the clone ‘Ignore Adjustment Layers’ option in CS3 is worth the
upgrade price in itself"–a comment echoed by others.  It’s one of those tweaks that shows up rarely, if ever, in marketing materials, reviews, etc., but that can have a real impact.

12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

June 20, 2007

Multitouch: $2 or $10,000?

The folks at Medallia claim to have devised a multitouch user input device using two dollars’ worth of dye and Ziploc bags.  Hmm–interesting clip, but doesn’t it seem they’ve pretty much mashed up a couple seconds of new footage (producing colored blobs) with chunks of other people’s demos (the chess demo from Tactiva, etc.)?  Beyond the technology, I’m struck by the number of comments below the video that boil down to "hah hah u pwned those fat-cats lolz!!"  Man are there some credulous people in the world. [Via Tom Attix]

Speaking of pwning Microsoft, however, this parody of the recently-announced, $10,000-a-pop Surface project is pretty damn funny.  I can’t wait to get tanked with my friends, using a device the size of a small car. [Via]

11:49 PM | Permalink | Comments [6]

June 19, 2007

Slick search-driven Flash UI

Given that discovering the graphical UI (specifically, MacPaint) was a life-changing event for me, it’s a little funny that I find myself so interested in search as a UI tool.  But as we’ve said many times now, categorization goes only so far.  Once you get beyond a certain number of things (pictures, emails, menu items, etc.), you need some form of type-to-find.

Photoshop UI designer Andrew Lin points out the site for design firm S-W-H, which features a slick, easy-to-use search function (including auto-complete).  Coupled with the blazing fast transition animations*, it gives you a sense of flying through a large body of work.  Bonus: Typing “foo” (and lots of other things) treats you to the sounds of people excitedly going off in Dutch.

For a counterpoint, check out the frankly terrible interface for HBO’s John From Cincinnati site (too bad, as I’m digging the new show’s tripped-out profane-cowboy-meets-longboard lingo).  The site loads by promising a carousel of content, but it then immediately hides said content, making you guess about search terms (kind of hard if you’re new to the show, eh?).

Tangentially related bits:

  • Inquisitor beautifully integrates predictive searching into Safari.  Trust me, you want this (just like PicLens… and Saft).
  • Apropos of time lapses (see recent), Andrew made quite a number during his tenure with a certain fruit company.  Hypnotic, but burning cars & tail lights make me remember why I traded commutes on 280 for a 10-minute bike ride.

* With animation effects in general I’m reminded of a quote  from Alan Cooper: “No matter how beautiful, no matter how cool your interface, it would be better if there were less of it.” A little goes a very long way.

PS–If you know of other cool, powerful search UIs (Flash or otherwise), please share ’em.

11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments [5]

April 06, 2007

Command lines: Back to the future?

With the mouse turning 40, and with the number of photos, emails, and other documents ever growing, do we need a new kind of user interface?  Do we need, maybe–dun dun duunnh–a return to the command line?

That’s part of what usability expert Don Norman thinks.  He notes that search engines, both on the Web and on the desktop, now support commands (e.g. "define:photography" in Google), and that computer interfaces are now enhanced by, rather than dependent upon, typing in specific commands. If a command isn’t valid, modern search implementations fall back gracefully to basic searching.

This is something we’ve been discussing for quite a while at Adobe. What if, instead of hunting through menus ("Hmm, is commenting under Edit, or Format, or…?"), or having to memorize the keyboard shortcut for each command, you could simply start typing & getting a list of matching commands? The CS3 generation of tools makes some moves in this direction:

  • After Effects has offered searching for filters (as it has for a while);
  • Illustrator CS3 includes a new, Flash-based "knowhow" panel that can search the Web for info related to the current tool;
  • InDesign CS2 introduced a "Quick Apply" capability.  In CS2 it could apply styles (here’s a demo), and in CS3 it can invoke menu items as well.  InDesign PM Chad Siegel explains:

    "In CS3 we expanded Quick Apply to optionally include all menu items and commands within the application as well as scripts. Once the item is displayed, it can be either applied or invoked simply by selecting it from the list. [See a quick demo, under "Productivity Enhancements"]

    "That’s a lot of information that could be displayed so we also provide the ability to limit your search to certain classes of items (e.g. Paragraph Styles and/or Character Styles only). We also added shortcut codes which display within the UI that can be added as a prefix to limit the scope of individual searches. For example, p: is used to limit the search to paragraph styles and m: to limit to menu commands, etc. So users can type m:print and see any command in the list that included those characters. It also searches the characters that customers enter from both left to right and right to left, giving preference to exact matches at the top of the list.

    "Finally, it also displays the location of the commands so that folks can find it more easily within the UI. For example m:print shows File>Print in the list.

So, what about Photoshop?  The app doesn’t presently feature built-in support for something like Quick Apply, but it’s an intriguing possibility for the future.  I’m hoping we see some developments here soon (not from Adobe, so I’m not sure how much I can say just yet).  On the Mac there’s also Quicksilver, the darling of power users.  I’ve found a beginner’s guide; some tips for searching menus; and Merlin Mann’s podcast on the subject… but damn if I’ve yet had the patience to configure my copy (it’s death by options).  I may get there yet.

In any case, I think we’ll see plenty of interesting app-searching developments in the future.

6:35 PM | Permalink | Comments [9]

March 15, 2007

Multi-touch photo editing demo

I don’t have much context for this video, but I’m passing it along as it’s an interesting demo of image editing using a multi-touch screen.  The pie menus look useful (is that a Healing Brush icon I see?), though to compete against a keyboard and mouse, I think it would need to be much faster and more fluid.

Sidenote: I like imagining that the choice of bloopy, electro-spacey music may not just be a video editing choice, and that it’s actually emitted by the multi-touch monitors themselves (see also the Jeff Han origin of the genre).  "Hey man, cool screen, but why does it keep playing the pseudo-Moby?"

10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments [9]

March 12, 2007

Sound in AE + Flash; rethinking UI; more on Design Center

The Adobe Design Center unfurls a swath of new content:

New Dialog Box:

New Gallery:

New Tutorials:

And don’t forget to check out the Adobe links on del.icio.us. Info on how to contribute links is here.  [Via]

11:50 AM | Permalink | No Comments

February 20, 2007

Lightroom Podcast #28: Phil Clevenger, Grace Kim and Mark Hamburg

"I think pretty much any software has a personality," says Mark Hamburg, "but a lot of times it’s something that one sort of stumbles into, and people don’t think about that as part of the design process. When I started the project, I wanted to do something that was more visually interesting, for example, than Photoshop, and tried some directions in that regard. And I did bad KPT imitations."

Mark sat down with Lightroom UI designer Phil Clevenger, user researcher Grace Kim, and photography evangelist George Jardine on Dec. 11th.  George writes,

In this podcast, we take a retrospective look at the entire design process of Shadowland, and how personality played a role in the final look and feel of the software. Phil discusses the efforts that went into designing Shadowland to help keep your photography the focus of attention, and visually more important on the screen than the user interface.

"I think the exercise really brought to light people’s implicit assumptions about what they thought the Shadowland personality was, or should be. Things that were kind of hard to articulate, but people just had them as working assumptions." – Grace Kim

"While people in different parts of the country may have different notions of what sleek or stylish may mean, I think everybody knows what butter is." – Phil "Butter" Clevenger

The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under "1211 Podcast – Phil Clevenger, Grace Kim and Mark Hamburg"). It’ll also be available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for "Lightroom" in iTunes.

4:35 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

January 26, 2007

Interviews with Photoshop founders

  • The blog since1968.com features an interesting interview with Mark Hamburg (photo), founder and engineering manager of the new Photoshop Lightroom product (not to mention a driving force behind Photoshop itself for more than a decade).  In it Mark discusses the gestation of the product, some of the concepts behind its user interface, reasons they abandoned things like a free-form light table, and more.  I’m looking forward to part 2 of the interview, due to be posted soon on the site.  [For more on the history of Lightroom development, check out Jeff Schewe’s behind-the-scenes overview.  For more interviews with Mark, check out some of the Lightroom podcasts.]
  • CNET has been featuring some of the creative forces at ILM this week, highlighting the work of John Knoll (who co-wrote Photoshop with his older brother Thomas).   Now they’ve posted a 4-minute video in which John discusses those early days.  [For more info, photos, and clips from ILM’s Pirates work, see the mini-site they created. For more on the Knoll brothers & the creation of Photoshop, check out this piece on PhotoshopNews.]

Side note: I love that Hal Hickel, now an effects whiz at ILM, saved the rejection letter he received when, at age 12 in 1978, he proposed a sequel to Star Wars.  It reminds me of the note I got from LEGO 20 years ago, when I proposed camouflage bricks–a notion they rejected as being too war-like.  Yeah, and now they make a Lego Death Star… ;-)

Also, speaking of that “small moon,” how brilliant is this video, re-enacting the Star Wars Death Star battle using ony disembodied hands? [Via]

8:15 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

January 18, 2007

Multi-touch UI: New video & interview

Jefferson Han is the NYU researcher whose research into multi-touch interfaces–and accompanying super-cool video–exploded onto the Web this time last year.   He’s been on many folks’ brains since last week, when Apple demoed multi-touch features on the forthcoming iPhone.  Now Fast Company has posted a feature on Jeff, along with an new video.  The profile is just a tad breathless ("The scope of the projects he’s involved in is a testament to the sheer wattage of his brain" makes me think there’s a Trapper Keeper with "I [Heart] JH!!!" on it), but it’s fun to learn about a very bright dude with a huge passion for just getting it done.  (Hey, how many 12-year-olds build a laser?)

3:37 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

January 05, 2007

Lightroom Podcast #25: Mark Hamburg & Phil Clevenger

“We started from a supposition of content being king, and we wanted to move the interface out of the way of the content. And that was a real rallying point when we all found a model for the UI, where we could dedicate up to 95% of the screen to image content and have the UI politely get out of the way, or be invoked as needed.” So says Phil Clevenger,
user interface designer on Lightroom. George Jardine chatted recently with Phil & engineering manager Mark Hamburg:

Phil and Mark sit down with George to talk about Phil’s role on the team and the user interface that he’s designed for Lightroom. The conversation quickly begins to wander and turn (as these conversations frequently do take on a life of their own…) to some of the broader questions surrounding Lightroom, and ends up touching on the core story and original vision for the project. This podcast also includes a description by Mark of some of his original thinking behind Lightroom’s modular design.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under "1127 Podcast – Phil Clevenger and Mark Hamburg"). It’s also be available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for "Lightroom" in iTunes.

4:51 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 03, 2006

Photoshop & Macs: The new shuffleboard?

This week C|NET published findings from MetaFacts indicating that "nearly half of Mac owners are 55 and older–almost double the share for average home PC users."  Apple disputes this claim, though I’d take it as a compliment that my tools can be used by a generation not raised by Grand Theft Auto. 

As it happens, the registered base* of Photoshop customers has skewed older in recent years, due to the exploding popularity of digital photography.  The same folks who in previous generations might’ve sprung for a home darkroom now tend to buy a really nice digital SLR, computer, and the best software to go with it.  These trends prompted my colleague Ashley to quip, "Photoshop & Macs: The new shuffleboard?"

This demographic trend has some practical implications. Most obviously, we need to make a user interface that’s easy to navigate with older eyes.  Given the 20- and 30-something demographics of many visual designers, this isn’t always easy to remember, but we’re working on it.  The emergence of scalable, resolution-independent will be essential here, and in the meantime Photoshop CS2 added the ability to adjust the font size of the interface (a small thing, literally, but a step in the right direction).

*Note: This of course way undercounts all the five-finger-discounting little l33t-speak haxxor-kiddies. (“im in ur base, stealin ur ‘Shop…”)

7:22 AM | Permalink | Comments [10]

October 19, 2006

Photoshop shortcut o’ the day

Heh–you know you’re working on a mature application when you start running out of keyboard shortcut combos.  Earlier today we were discussing shortcuts that would work for something that’s in development.  We settled on a four-key combo (one of those Shift-Opt-Cmd-Letter deals), which let to this exchange:

  • Bryan O’Neil Hughes: "Ugh, it beats no shortcut at all…but it isn’t too far removed from just
    banging one’s head against the keyboard."
  • Joe Ault: "BangHeadAgainstKeyboard is already taken, but I think
    Ctrl-Shift-BangHeadAgainstKeyboard is available…"

We will henceforth work on a forehead-USB interface. ;-)

2:15 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

August 04, 2006

Next-gen, multi-touch interfaces

NYU researcher Jefferson Han, creator of a much-blogged large format, multi-touch flat screen interface (see original demo), spoke at this year’s TED Conference in Monterey. In this brief but inspiring video, he talks about the technology’s potential to enable next-generation interfaces that disappear, doing “the right thing” with a minimum of effort. (It’s at times like this that I wish Adobe made hardware!) [Via Mattias Jonsson]
Incidentally, it appears they’re using this morphing technology, or something close to it–well worth a look in its own right. (The server MIME types seem wrong, so to view the very cool video, you may have to download it and change the extension to .MP4.)
[Update: For a non-traditional interface that truly sucks (literally), check out this video from the Yahoo! Design Expo.]

12:11 PM | Permalink | No Comments

June 26, 2006

Bumpin’ 3D desktop interface

BumpTop brings some fresh thinking to the 20+ year old metaphor of desktop organization. Check out this video to see how it combines 3D, physics, pie menus, and pen savvy to improve file handling.
Cool as it is, however, I was struck by what Merlin Mann has already written up: namely, that the future belongs to file management based on searching. It just isn’t possible for a traditional file system metaphor, no matter how slick, to keep pace with an explosion of data. We see this again and again:

  • Google cruised past Yahoo (i.e. Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle) when categorization couldn’t scale.
  • Smart folders (i.e. saved searches) in email take over when you can’t keep switching among your zillion mailboxes.
  • Desktop-level searching like Spotlight, Google Desktop Search, and Vista’s built-in engine become essential when your number of files overwhelms your ability to categorize them meaningfully.

Maybe, then, the future belongs to slick, forward-thinking UIs that rest atop great search plumbing. This, I think, is where Adobe could make a difference. Why not enable developers to create powerful, lightweight interfaces as they do in Flash (e.g. Felix Turner’s Flickr Related Tag Browser) and use those on the desktop in tools like Bridge? Flickr has thrived by becoming skinnable in interesting ways. There’s no reason that local file management should be less innovative.
For more info on BumpTop, see also the personal site of researcher Bill Buxton. [Thanks to Joel Bryant of Wacom for the link.]

9:39 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

May 14, 2006

Get lean. Stay hungry.


“The old Jetta was trim and compact, with chunky good proportions. The new one — 5.7 inches longer — is so big and amorphous they should have called it Jetta the Hutt. Every manufacturer engages in this incremental generation-to-generation size creep, and if it keeps up, eventually Shriners will drive 1996 Buick Roadmasters and we’ll laugh at their comical little cars from the observation decks of our Subaru Imprezas. Somebody, stop the madness.”
The NY Times auto section*

The same could be said about a lot of modern software, of course, and a decent backlash is underway. Throw a dead cat & you’ll hit some manifesto or other talking about how features don’t matter, shouldn’t be added, etc.**
Why is that? A few things come to mind:

  • Packing in tons of features makes software take forever to load, and/or makes it run slowly and consume tons of resources. Therefore everyone is penalized by stuff they’ll never use.
  • The existence of unused features makes it harder to get at the small percentage you actually care about. Locating the right command is like finding a needle in a stack of needles.
  • Being presented with a wall of options (especially if the previous set wasn’t well understood) makes people feel inadequate. The percentage anyone comprehends grows smaller as the app grows more vast.
  • New features give the impression of a neverending, ever longer learning curve. Rather than make things simpler, they risk adding confusion and redundancy, fatiguing the people they’re supposed to help.

If this is all true, then aren’t the critics right? Yes–if it’s true. But what if it weren’t? What if:

  • New software booted up faster than its predecessor on the same machine?
  • It ran faster, felt smoother, and produced better results, without requiring any additional learning from users?
  • The interface could grow simpler, more focused, more relevant to your needs (and your needs only)?

In short, if you could take away the pain that comes with a large and growing feature set, yet keep its benefits, would it cool the critics out? Would we then have permission (or blessings, even) to add whole new levels of power and capability?
As you might guess, we’re thinking about these issues all the time. In my view we need to define a fairly rigorous “Contract with the Customer” to ensure that before we move on to adding new layers of richness, we do the hard work of addressing the problems mentioned above.
We need your permission to take Photoshop in new directions, to add features that will blow people’s heads clean off. And to earn that permission, we need to show that we’re nailing the fundamentals. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, but I think we’re on the right track.
* VW can always take solace in having possibly the coolest parking structure ever. Oh, and once again, a fistful of great ads.
** To me, though, these critiques ring a little hollow–not unlike the great Onion article, “Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others.” That is, to some extent the critics are saying, Don’t add anything for anyone except me, that I personally don’t need right now.

10:40 PM | Permalink | Comments [12]

April 04, 2006

Marching Ants, Hamm’s Beer, & Photoshop

MacPaint changed my life, period. I’d fooled with the primitive tools on Apple ][‘s and a PCjr., but MacPaint was a whole new animal. At a friend’s birthday party in 1984, I laid eyes on their new Mac & dumped my usual “plays well with others” schtick like a hot rock. This machine was the stuff, and the other kids weren’t gonna get close until I’d rocked out with MacPaint’s cool features (drawing a prison just so I could paintbucket the walls with the brick pattern). I’ve been hooked ever since.
But who knew that the “marching ants” animation that denotes a selection in Photoshop and other applications comes from the Land of Sky-Blue Waters? According to Folklore.org, MacPaint author & Mac UI pioneer Bill Atkinson was inspired by a Hamm’s Beer sign. Groovy. [Via the PhotoshopNews history of the Photoshop toolbar]
On a related note, in covering Apple’s 30th anniversary, c|net shows an early ancestor to MacPaint. (Seems like rounded rectangles–always popular, overused in every era–have always been with us). And if you just can’t get enough of people waxing Apple’s car, check out frog design’s shout-out [update: link now MIA], as well as Engadget’s review of good, bad, and ugly Apple products from the last 30 years. (Hey, I kind of liked the Network Server! It had a certain ED-209 charm to it…) [Via]

6:46 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

February 10, 2006

Two-hand touch

While working as a designer, I found that the bigger my monitor, the more greasy-fingered art directors inevitably wanted to touch it, to show that they wanted something put *right there*. Soon, however, touching a monitor may be less a party foul & far more useful. Check out this video demonstrating research into two-handed touch screen interfaces. Pretty ridiculously cool, eh?

It reminds me a bit of the Tactiva device shown last year. Plenty of hurdles (size, cost, hands blocking artwork, parallax interfering with small adjustments, greasy fingers, etc.) would need to be jumped to make these approaches mainstream, but it’s gotta happen, right? Just yesterday a 3D artist was talking to us about wanting to paint with one hand while using the other to dial exposure & intensity up and down in high-dynamic range images. It’s just too natural not to happen. And the sooner these devices move towards ubiquity, the sooner we can start taking advantage of them in Photoshop and other tools (requiring plenty of UI re-thinking & engineering, but potentially very worthwhile).
[Thanks to Colin Smith for the link.]

[Update: Similar approaches are being taken to fields as diverse as jazz and warfare. Thanks to Tom Attix for the links.]

11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

October 12, 2005

Burrowing through large sets of images

The Mini USA site features a clever, immersive Roof Studio that enables you to browse various roof designs and upload your own [link via Kaliber10000]. The zooming interface and ability to see items with matching metadata remind me of Airtight Interactive’s related tag browser for Flickr. Working on Adobe Bridge, I find these interfaces motivating. As image collections grow larger, we need to find more powerful ways to cruise through them (ways to form queries & visualize the results). As always, we’d like to hear your thoughts.

10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments [5]
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