October 09, 2005

Psst–wanna see Photoshop 15?

Yeah, well, so do I. It doesn’t exist yet, of course (we just recently introduced version 9.0, a.k.a. CS2), and it won’t exist for many years. But what form will it take?

Software developers know how to do one thing really well: develop more software. We build features, and when we’re done, we build more. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Customers have far more good ideas than we have time or resources to support, and having to choose just a fraction to implement each cycle keeps us focused on those we think really matter.

But what’s the net result of a million good features? Yep–a million little pieces, all multiplying off one another. An app like Photoshop becomes a warren of commands that are available sometimes but not others, in ways that aren’t self-explanatory (e.g. you can’t start painting on a vector text layer, or create layers in 32-bit mode). And the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. At one point I counted 494 top-level menu items in Photoshop CS. In CS2 we’ve added roughly 60 more, and that’s not counting the new Adobe Bridge application.

So, back to the hypothetical Photoshop 15: at our present course and speed, we’d add at least 350 more menu commands. We’ll need to raise the minimum screen spec just to hold the menus! And then, you know, it’s wafer-thin mint time.

Incidentally, we’re all complicit in this–we (Adobe, or [insert other software vendor here]) and you. (If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in this stuff and have almost definitely requested new features.) We can add things, but we can never take them away. When we decided to stop maintaining the archaic, seldom-used 3D Transform filter, we made it optional content (not disabled, just moved). The tech support boards lit up with all kinds of complaints. And at MacWorld, a guy browbeat me for–no kidding–25 minutes about the shortcut for Brightness/Contrast changing–in version 4! Can you imagine if we tried to remove something significant?

What to do? What about making Photoshop customizable–“everything you need, nothing you don’t,” to borrow from the Nissan ad? In CS2 you can now turn menu items on and off, assign them colors, and switch among sets rapidly. It’s a step towards reducing complexity, but will anyone care? Do you? Does this capability help new users, or does it hide tools they’d otherwise stumble across?

We can also package functionality in task-oriented sets. Camera Raw is popular as much for the way it pulls together color-correction functions as for its underlying math. Of course, with popularity come feature requests, and we have to be wary of building Russian dolls (Photoshop gets huge, so we build CR, which then gets huge, so we nest something inside of it…).

What do you think? Do we just keep putting one foot ahead of the other, or is something more radical required? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Posted by John Nack at 6:00 PM on October 09, 2005


  • Manish — 8:57 PM on October 09, 2005

    How about letting users buy software (say CS2) in modules? In other words, every functionality should come as a plugin. CS2 has more than 500 unique features and most people don’t use more than 20% of them though everyone picks a different 20%. So you install or buy what you like and add something later as a plugin if needed.

  • Johnnie Manzari — 10:38 PM on October 09, 2005

    You’ll eventually start to spin more and more things out just because it will be easier to develop them that way. Camera Raw and Bridge are good examples. They started inside of Photoshop, and then graduated to stand on their own. I look forward to seeing more things do that.

  • tuf — 4:09 AM on October 10, 2005

    i really like Manish idea

  • matthew muller — 4:19 AM on October 10, 2005

    How about loading the shell, with a preset feature set, and then have the ability to load custom features, and here comes the tricky bit, without a restart. Also have some sort of feature map, where you could visuslly drag child menu items to different parents, and, customize the tools palette too, via drag and drop, all stored in a config file, nice and OO :)

  • cc — 4:51 AM on October 10, 2005

    I think that Adobe should look at what Microsoft is doing with Office 12…a completely redesigned GUI that does not take any features away and yet makes doing everything easier.

  • matthew muller — 4:51 AM on October 10, 2005

    oh and 1 more thing which would make it all super exciting, would be being able to skin the look and feel. WOW, or have a few presets.

  • Mak — 7:35 AM on October 10, 2005

    Being a web designer/developer, I frequently use Photoshop for my graphics editing work. And I find that most of the time, I focus on a specific set of features that Photoshop offers – and leave others relatively untouched. Different types of users – web designers, graphics artists, photography buffs, etc – will almost certainly have their own set of ‘frequently-used’ tools, so why not package Photoshop in different flavours by default? For example, you can make frequently-used photography-related tools more accessible in a special layout for digital photographers, etc. This can be one possible way to better organise Photoshop as it grows bigger with every new version.

  • Tetsuo — 9:28 AM on October 10, 2005

    The problem with componentizing everything is that version control becomes a pain. Say you want to upgrade Widget X to the latest release. But to do that, you may also need to update Dohickey Y and Thingy Z, because X need these to work. Oh, and the API has changed, so the upgrade is mandatory for the new release of X. Are you prepared to pay for that, even if you don’t use either Y or Z?

  • simon — 11:00 AM on October 10, 2005

    The one area of Photoshop that’s a bit overloaded even today is the filter menu. I know almost every tiny little bit of Photoshop but i still have to think about in which submenu a certain filter is located. I think you did this really right in After Effects where i can drill down and search for filters in a filter window.
    You guys should definitely check out Quicksilver for Mac OS X. It is not just a launcher. This is a totally amazing way to do tasks without thinking about in which folder of a subfolder the corresponding icon is located.
    Essentially you just hit a key combination (I use alt-space) and start typing whatever you want to do. The app “guesses” the most likely command and shows it visually. Alternatively you can also select other matches in a drop down menu.
    For example i type “pho” to start Photoshop, or “il” to start Illustrator. I type the beginning of any file name to find it and then maybe a Person’s initials to send the file to them via email. While i do this i can see the file icon or preview and then the face of the person i’m sending it to.
    Or i can type my sister’s name to find her, hit tab and type “call” to call her on my mobile.
    This works today for every application, all files and lots of database entries on my computer; in realtime. A few hundred menu items are not that much compared to that.
    It kind of works like a terminal shell. But it’s really fault-tolerant and much more visual. I guess i have never made any error while using this app, just because of the great visual feedback it provides. And because I am just typing what i think instead of looking for the right thing to click.
    See: “What is Quicksilver” and “A better OS X in just 10 Minutes”.
    Every time i scan through the filter menu to get to a filter as mundane as gaussian blur i find myself wanting to just type “blur” and have photoshop guess which command i mean.

  • nt — 5:26 PM on October 10, 2005

    ohh no!!- just not office 12 concepts.. pleeaase..
    actually i don’t see a big problem in growing program’s complexity – take a look on maya for instance: there are tons of menus/commands but by clever grouping it’s really usable (..although after shuffling and re-orderings in some versions they had to add ‘help>find a command’ menu :)
    add ‘shelf’ or something similar so each user could easily customize/store his favorite tools for faster access. let photoshop be pros tool – those who require base functions will use photoshop elements while some upgrade later after skills grow..
    what i hope- photoshop v15 (or even better – make it v10 ;) should approach more non-destructive compositing application workflow. like combined aftereffects and shake – let user make his work by building a network with ‘operators’ – each command could be grouped in menus/tools under particular parent folders (e.g. color correction, retouching, effects, etc.). then add convenient ‘search/find’ implementation combining filter search function in aftereffects and usability of quicksilver and other similar applications..
    non destructive workflow could very nicely integrate with current photoshop work flow. this just would be very strong improvement for future possibilities, without breaking today’s photoshop features and usage behaviors. ..umm i’m starting to change the topic into feature-request so better invite me on beta test for more on that ;p

  • John Nack — 1:46 PM on October 11, 2005

    Thanks for all the feedback. A couple of replies:
    It’s true that we could consider selling functionality as plug-ins. We’ve done this on occasion in the past (e.g. selling Camera Raw 1.0 and JPEG 2000 as a bundle for PS7), but we’ve been wary of fragmenting the app and causing version control issues. Photoshop is the industry standard, and a good part of its value comes from knowing that it can handle just about anything you throw its way. Offering too much flexibility to mix and match features reduces the likelihood of the app “just working.”
    Good points about Quicksilver. Desktop search (Spotlight, Google, etc.) is addictive, and being able to navigate Photoshop that way could be quite powerful.
    I’m all for more non-destructiveness & came up with the idea for Smart Objects, now part of CS2. For the first time in Photoshop you can non-destructively scale, rotate, and warp bitmaps, and you can preserve vector and raw data in its native form. This architecture has plenty of legs for future development. The one catch is that people can have a hard time understanding why it’s not possible to edit transformed pixels directly.

  • nt — 11:43 AM on October 13, 2005

    i’d say major drawback of smartobjects in current cs2 implementation is that to edit – it only opens into new window. ability to ‘edit in place’ like for example a feature in macromedia flash – would make smartobjects much more flexible and worthy.
    also- it’d be superb if a ‘rasterize’ like function on smartobject would allow to rasterize object’s layers without flattening – t.y. like extract or ungroup of smartobject with applying transformations but maintaining contents layers.
    and finally- isn’t it a time to make photoshop work more in subpixels preciseness – while it’s possible now to simulate this with transforming smartobjects – still is quite a trick and just a workaround compared to normal subpixel workflow..
    anyway thanks and keep good work! (just please- pay more attention to resources/hardware requirements – i can’t get why for instance bridge – an application with relatively simple functions takes 4-6secs to start and switching between windows/scrolling makes me think that last years hardware is already outdated :)

  • John Nack — 1:57 PM on October 13, 2005

    Having “edit in place” for Smart Objects would be very cool. It could function in the case of SO’s that are derived from regular Photoshop layers, but for some kinds of SO’s (those containing Illustrator artwork, or raw camera data, etc.) we’d still need to edit in a separate window. And being able to explode an SO into individual transformed layers would also be great.
    In any case, I’m delighted that people are responding to non-destructive editing in Photoshop. I worried that these capabilities might be too much for people to bother grokking, but it seems we’re off to a good start.
    I’ll ask around about subpixel editing.

  • nt — 4:41 PM on October 14, 2005

    i really like that openness adobe is starting to approach with blogs – whether this was a good example from macromedia or you just started on your own – thanks for sharing and communicating!
    as for ‘edit in place’ – while thinking more on that and how powerful this could be – i guess you’ll have lot of issues on implementation: e.g. let’s take simple _rotated_ SO and try to ‘edit in place’ – user should get layer palette updated to SO’s contents, like entering nested composition, while document view should still let user see also a contents outside of current SO, and then- even such a simple operation like moving one of SO’s layer _just_ vertically (like with shift pressed) would lead to complex problem like- that vertical movement, because of SO’s rotation in parent, is not simply vertical but with negative-rotation direction calculated.
    but because of pixel/bitmap foundation in the photoshop’ core – this is almost unreal to make it happen. so to do the job- subpixel core is a must and generally this would lead photoshop’ workflow and default document format even closer to vector/pdf concept..
    ..whooh- photoshop 15 gonna be very cool! ;)
    while on non-destructive editing – maybe i’m one of the few completely mad, but i prefer as much nondestructive way of working in photoshop as currently possible – e.g. while editing photos, improving colors, retouching – most of the time i make tons of new masked layers and adjustment layers, even creating new sets with other subsets inside just to add another mask, also grouping couple of layers to mask from a layer below and so on.. sometimes my layer palette looks like strange thumbnail viewer with lot of small black and white squares scattered around – and i like that and find it really flexible :)
    ..to mention here that- i miss an ability to have _multiple_ masks on the same layer – e.g. that second mask on the layer which already has a mask is only a ‘vector mask’. however it’d be very nice if photoshop would allow to add some more than only one normal bitmap mask to a layer and even- what about an additional function on multiple layer’s masks: to be able to set a mode for mask like ‘add’ or ‘subtract’, ‘intersect’ etc.? would be cool for nondestructive freaks (imagine simple use like- first mask just cuts needed layer contents while second- could be a gradient fading some).
    ..then- what about ‘instances’ of layers and/or masks – that’s like a simple copy but all the time maintaining similar contents between duplicates. i find rather often using same masks on few different layers and- while it’s not hard to load selection from first one and add mask to assign similar for another – if later i have to modify them- i edit one mask, then have to delete that second, load first selection and recreate second mask again..
    would be superb if with a simple shortcut and mouse drag user could _link/make instance_ of content freely between different layers and masks. add a visual color change for thumbnail border in layer palette to show related contents or smth..
    and while i’m on the way – may i ask on recent strategy of implementing new features into photoshop as _plugins_ – it’s driven by some motivation on better efficiency or just photoshop is showing it’s age and it’s harder to add functions to core package? for instance- vanishing point. very nice function but why not add it to all tools palette? let user have those 3d grids created on image (control visibility as extras with view>show), and make clone stamp/brush tools have a checkmark in options toggling between using perspective and working normally. i just find clumsy and normal workflow broken when working in those separate windows and having to completely finish everything before continuing (well.. it’s so destructive ;)
    one more trick for clone stamp – this should be simple: add another option to ‘sample all layers’ called ‘sample layers below’. e.g. because i like to retouch/clone into new layer – i often have ‘sample all layers’, but when working with some subtle photos – i find useful to add extreme brightness/contrast adjustment layer on top of image to better see noise and dust. but then- clone stamp with ‘sample all layers’ also clones with adjustments of that brightness/contrast layer.. :/
    ok, enough for today. sorry for such a long post :) ..and my english if it isn’t very clean- its not my native tongue..

  • eric — 9:32 AM on October 16, 2005

    What I think Adobe should be asking is how they could improve documentation of scripting in Photoshop. Javascript and Applescript. Automation of workflow is a significant piece of how I use Photoshop (which I’ve been using almost every day at work since May of ’92).
    The answer? Examples! Not just the dictionary for Applescript. But examples of how each function works, and how it’s actually written in a script. Simply a collection of scripts that we could open up and adapt to our own workflows would be good.
    Many of us know enough to get the basics going, but need help to build workflows that would do the kind of work which we don’t have to monitor as it happens!
    I’m all for new features and improving performance (please speed up Bridge!) but documentation (PDFs are fine, of course) on how to put such functionality to use would easily be very useful for those of us who have nearly everything in Photoshop we could possibly want or dream of.
    The RAW workflow improvements in CS2 have made me vastly more productive. I’m able to do a two-day shoot of some 700 16.7 megapixel RAW images and process them – including basic color correction – and sending out PDFs of 300-400 photos to art directors and graphic artists for review in a day or two.
    I’m also an editor, so I don’t have the luxury of only working on photos I shoot. Well, except when I’m out in the field shooting. I have books to produce! This kind of speed would have never before been possible for me. THANKS ADOBE!!!!!
    To be able to imrove my workflow, and to help others who aren’t as Photoshop savvy as I am, would be a big, big help for me.
    For example, automating metadata entry so that it prompts me for the description field of each individual image, but fills everything else automatically in batches (say the shoot’s location – which is the same for all photos, etc.) would be great.
    BTW, having Bridge not crash when doing multiple-field metadata entries would be cool too. :-P

  • James — 10:12 AM on October 17, 2005

    Componentizing is an interesting approach… but it brings up one aspect of this that drives me crazy: the interface differences that crop up with inconsistent functionality.
    With using some of the things that have come along, such as Camera Raw and eve Vanishing Point… existing tools, their icons, even the interface features they sported have become embedded in your psyche… and when a powerful new feature changes the way these work it can become maddening having to change a tried and true synaptic path you’ve managed to ingrain.
    I realize that consistency within an app, and between apps (a la CS2), is difficult to maintain. I realize many programmers are not users of the app, at least, not every piece of it, and may not realize how a change effects the way millions of users have grown to know. It’s probably safe to acknowledge that the marketplace drives more “new features, please” rather than “can this work the same as it did before, or over in InDesign, or in (fill in the blank)?” Whaddaya want, a new feature or a button that works the same across the board?
    But it kills me to run into areas within PS, or within the Suite, where a tool’s normal (previous) behavior has changed because something was added to it. “Added” behaviors are great, but changed behaviors where my preference A has now become the default B, and I have to unlearn the old way to accommodate the new mechanism for accessing a tool that used to be one step away… well, it gets irksome.
    Yah, guess I’m a bit anal about this topic. ;-)
    If there’s a way to provide specific input on the UI differences I see, within PS and the Suite, John, feel free to point me that way. Detailing how things work, along with suggestion for alternative mechanisms, can become tedious to describe. I don’t wish to waste Adobe’s time if that’s not much of an area of interest you all share, as I realize there are many other priorities in the mix. But I did wish to put in my vote for a more globally consistent awareness in UI functionality (beyond customizing the shortcuts… which is a *welcome* addition, I might add, and thank you for its inclusion).

  • Tim Madden — 6:47 PM on February 22, 2006

    I am a Fireworks user.
    1. Text Warp around objects PLEASE.
    2. Export a document report with colour names etc. to hand to a developer. (maybe overlayed on the layout with pixel sizes of things etc.)
    3. Import styles from a CSS file into the assets pallet, then maybe you would have a chance of generating CSS file from styles in a document?
    4. Don’t scrap Fireworks, if you’re thinking about it, just release it OPEN SOURCE so we can keep it going in the community!

  • Mattias — 7:44 AM on February 24, 2006

    I would love to see more of integration of hardware controllers. The new Logitech thing got me thinking about an old idea of having support for MIDI-controllers.
    Imagine if all adjustmentlayers and filters supported motorized faders. Especially the channel mixer. Balancing adjustments would become much faster and smarter easying up on the brain.

  • Scott Carmichael — 7:08 AM on February 25, 2006

    I would like to see a “user” release like AE 7 just had. Just spend one release fine tuning and making what you have faster and easier to use. A release where new features isn’t a priority, but making what you have better is! But then again the marketing people would probably hate that. Although I will say in the AE community v.7 has been getting more excitment that any rlease since v,3 imho.

  • John Nack — 7:51 AM on February 25, 2006

    Well, I would submit that every release aspires to be a “‘user’ release.” Whether it meets those criteria for any particular person is largely subjective. And while I’m glad to hear that people are digging the new interface–something we’re paying attention to for Photoshop as well–AE7 is pretty heavy on the new features, adding things like broad HDR support. In any case, the idea that we should pay close attention to nailing the fundamentals & cleaning up the details, rather than just layering in more Big New Things, is a good one.

  • George Penston — 9:42 AM on May 15, 2006

    Where I’d like to see Photoshop go in terms of simplifying the user experience to suit how I work with the application, is really where I see some of the new features heading.
    Consider the new way Keyboard Shortcuts & Menus tie into Photoshop’s Workspaces. If these features were also hooked into the Tools palette, you could imagine Photoshop changing workspace contexts to suit the way you were working with it at the time. I know I tend to work with entirely different parts of Photoshop depending on the media (Web vs. print) or the task at hand (creating imagery vs. touching up an image).
    Another hint towards this contextual editing is if you call up the new Animation palette in Photoshop. When you do, an additional row of frame tools and options pop-up in the Layers palette. When you close the Animation palette, they go away.
    So imagine this: You are working on creating imagery in Photoshop and select the Paintbrush tool. Behind the scenes, Photoshop intelligently changes workspace contexts so that more content creation commands are highlighted in the menus. Once you’re done creating your imagery, you decide you want to slice it up for the Web. You select the Slice tool in Photoshop and again the workspace switches context to present more web-centric features to the forefront for you. The menus would be highlighted and the relevant palettes would appear while less relevant would become less apparent or hide themselves all together. So ImageReady features could become completely integrated into Photoshop without overburdening its user experience.
    Sure, it’s not a slam dunk, I know. For one, you can’t go eliminating options from menus to users. Look at how Microsoft Office applications attempt to do this and end up just frustrating users. The adjustments to the user experience would have to be subtle and allow the user to quickly get back to their previous context. But I do think if Photoshop started to take a more task-based workspace context approach, it could start putting relevant tools and commands to the foreground and less relevant ones can fade to the back. Hints of this sort of thing show up in Lightroom. And yes, Kai Power Tools had hints of this as well, but did it so over the top that it was never well received.
    That’s my idea so far. It’s an interesting design challenge to face. How do you take such a mature application and optimize it so more people can use it in such a variety of ways? Built-in workspace contexts feels like the way to go to me, but yeah, it’ll take a lot of work to get it right.

  • Cecil — 2:39 PM on July 07, 2007

    I’d like to see the adobe bridge become an umbrella, a platform out of which you could open any number of consoles from different applications. for example, could bridge host an “abode project”, with a generic document window that could use elements from several programs at once? open the illustrator toolbar and attributes window, use the photoshop layer styles pallete with that same document, then open the flash timeline which uses the document window as a stage and allows frames for animation. then you could take advantage of all the power of illustrator and photoshop, but still have flash handle techniques like onionskinning, tweening,and programatic assignment, and basic vector manipulation. Then, each application becomes a set of components, you could save meta-projects under the bridge, which could manage linkage and placement, basic transitions between inter-app controls and develop a wide range of hypermedia content within within the entire suite.
    Layer styles, blending modes, and color spaces need to be consolidated across applications.
    for example, regardless of whether you want to apply a layerstyle to a vector or raster object in flash, fireworks, illustrator, or photoshop, it could just open up THE layer effects palette for the entire suite. This may seem cumbersome on processors or RAM intensive, but user settings could take care of that. you could have bridge regard various parts of the creative suite as active, listening, or disabled, and turn that setting into an aspect of a saved workspace.
    Then you could switch bridge workspaces that involve print production, web development, game design, image editing, etc. then you’re working with groups of consoles that you’ve pulled from each application. The save for web and devices dialogue could be expanded to include any export format: pdf, swf, html, xml, avi, bridge could save a .adbe file that remembers whether this contains video, flash animation, layer-effects, actionscript, font-themes, etc.

  • ? — 11:58 AM on December 01, 2007

    Could you please tell how to do the subpixel trick by “transforming smartobjects”? Thanks in advance!
    [I’m honestly not sure how to accomplish what you want. Maybe someone else will suggest a method. –J.]

  • Ben Lamfers — 3:26 PM on December 21, 2008

    Slowly I am navigating into Layer Styles, Content and now effect.
    Please tell me what is the actual difference between these three.
    Sure a Layer style creates a layer to perform a task. But so does content.
    It seems there are multiple ways of doing everything in Phoshop Elements 7.

  • nocturnal YL — 2:01 PM on March 26, 2011

    “We can add things, but we can never take them away.”

    Argh, tell this to the Flash team! Look at Flash Professional CS5! It’s got a lot of removed feature and it’s really inconvenient.

    [That’s what I mean: once you put something in, people get really pissed if you take it out. –J.]

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