February 07, 2014

I’ve Got My Ticket For the Long Way ‘Round…

From discovering Adobe my first week in college & sending away $10 for an ATM Light floppy disk, to teaching Photoshop in college & starting a Web design career, to joining the company itself in 2000, I’ve had a very special relationship with this place. It has enabled & enlivened my creativity on so many levels, from making beautiful images & animations to learning how to develop great products.

Our little sons were just asking the meaning of BIFURC8 (“Bifurcate”), as seen on our license plate. I explained that it’s about splitting into two pieces. If I could somehow bifurcate myself, I’d joyfully work at both Adobe & Google. Until we get that tech, though, I must step away.

It was real; it was fun; it was often real fun. I don’t want to get all Rutger Hauer, tears-in-the-rain on you (jeez, dramatic much?), so I’ll just say so long, and thanks for all the pixels. See you at my new digs, I hope.


PS—Quick housekeeping note: I’ve asked the blog admin to disable commenting site-wide soon, lest spam creep in, people feel their questions are being ignored, etc. I believe the rest of the blog will remain intact for the foreseeable future.

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The Blog Is Dead. Long Live the Blog!

(No, this isn’t quite my last post here. I think I’ve got one more left in me.)

I’m so pleased that many folks have asked that I keep blogging after leaving Adobe. I’ve therefore set up an embryonic new blog at—wait for it—jnack.com.


Yes, the design is a work in progress! (Tips & WordPress expertise are all most welcome.)

I plan to point out interesting news about Adobe products when I see news, useful tips, and so forth. (My primary interest has always been in creative people and the work they do, not to any particular company or product.) I won’t, of course, speak on Adobe behalf (not, technically, that I ever did) or disclose anything non-public.

And what about Google and its products? We shall see. Amazing as this sounds, I didn’t start blogging about Adobe until I’d worked here for more than 5 years. By then I clearly knew the lay of the land, knew what was okay to say & what wasn’t, etc. I’d never want to speak out of turn at the new shop, so I expect to take a pretty restrained approach for the foreseeable future.

Thus I can promise you an ongoing stream of the photography, videos, illustration, and other work that I find inspiring. If that’s up your alley, please join me at the new digs. (Here’s the RSS feed address.)

12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

A few of my favorite posts

Non-exhaustive, if perhaps exhausting, here’s a list of some posts that I think have held up:

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Come to ADIM 2014

If not for this man & this conference, I wouldn’t be here today.

Samurai Russ

In 2002 Adobe was poised to lay me off. I’d poured 12 hours per day for two years into LiveMotion, but it just wasn’t gonna succeed, and the project was canceled. We were given 30 days to find something new, and my attempts to create a role as Illustrator evangelist fell flat. Thus I’d resigned myself to leaving—but before I went, I figured, “Screw it, if these guys want to put me up in Monterey for a few days at the end [to demo at Russell Brown’s ADIM conference], why not? (And can I expense the kayaking?)”

I pulled out all the stops for what was to be my final demo, impressing Russell. Learning of my imminent demise, he reached out to the brass and said, “Really, we’re getting rid of this guy?” A day or two later on Friday—what was to be my very last day—as I sat in the Microsoft recruiting building I got a call from big cheese Bryan Lamkin saying, “How would you like to work on Photoshop? How about you come down here on Monday?” Three weeks later I’d flown back to Boston, packed up my cat & my crap, and leisurely driven across the country to start a new life in California.

Well, I can’t promise you that big a life change as a result of attending ADIM this year (March 9-12th in Boulder, CO), but I can promise you’ll have a ball & learn a ton:

Join art directors, designers, illustrators, photographers, and our own Russell Brown for ADIM14! You’ll learn advanced imaging techniques using the tools and services found in the Adobe Creative Cloud. This will be Russell’s final edition of the ADIM conference as he transforms into yet another creative character in the near future. If you’ve never been to an ADIM, then this is your final chance. It is not to be missed.

Register now to get $250 off and a one-year Creative Cloud membership.

Go forth & enjoy.

9:03 AM | Permalink | Comments [4]

You wanted Photoshop faster, more efficient? You got it.

What if all we did was make apps faster?” I asked a few weeks back. I’m pleased to say that the latest update to Photoshop CC makes the app faster in two notable ways:

  • Sharpen images 5 to 20 times faster.
  • Make PSDs far lighter weight.

In the first case, an absolutely fundamental capability of the app—sharpening images—has been accelerated thanks to OpenCL. 

For example, using a test image on a machine featuring an NVIDIA GTX480, processing time went from 11.297 seconds to 0.693 seconds. Using the same image with an ATI Radeon HD7950, processing time fell from 12.529s to 0.419s*.

In the second case, linked Smart Objects can make your PSDs much lighter weight—and therefore faster to open, save, and manipulate. I just did a quick test, creating a 10-layer PSD that I then inserted into two other PSDs—one linked, one embedded. The parent containing linked SOs is 4.7MB, whereas the one with embedded SOs is 9MB (2x the size). Personally I’d make link-vs.-embed decisions more according to workflow & collaboration preferences, but it’s nice to know there are size & performance savings to be had, too.

* The PS performance guys note, “Performance times will vary on machines based on both CPU and GPU performance. For OCL-enabled GPUs with +512MB of VRAM, the results are always faster than CPU. Summary: Discrete GPU configurations show average performance gains of 5X to 20X faster. Newer-generation integrated graphics (Intel 5000 series and higher, AMD’s Trinity APU series) with OCL support show gains of at least 2X.”

7:59 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

February 06, 2014

Think On My Sins: Configurator & the simplification of Adobe tools

I fought the sprawl & the sprawl won.

I always intended to do a long series on what I’ve learned from failures, yet this will be the second & final installment (a bit of a meta-failure). Well, take it for what it’s worth.

In my many years working on Photoshop, I was sort of obsessed with the app’s inexorable growth & complexity. For example, in “Psst–wanna see Photoshop 15?” (Oct. ’05) I talked about the rate at which menu items were getting added. Even if the team somehow found a way to *drop* 60-70 features per release (impossible), we’d only tread water in terms of complexity.

To make real progress, I proposed breaking Photoshop into task-based chunks (for example, showing only photography features when you’re working on photography). Thus you could really feel like the app was made just for you, and that it revealed exactly the right set of features (and tips) just when you needed them.

I didn’t trust Adobe, myself, or any top-down approach to get these chunks exactly right. Instead I proposed letting customers tune the app themselves, building their own workspaces which combined layouts, menu setups, and keyboard shortcuts. Critically, these workspaces could also include custom panels—layouts that you could Lego together to fit your exact needs.

Enter Adobe Configurator. It offered a simple set of building blocks, letting you mix together a custom panel from any combo of Photoshop tools & menu commands you’d like. I never expected most users to invest the time—maybe 1 in 100 would, I figured—but I hoped that a small number of thoughtful, motivated users (the sort I once was) would create & distribute stuff for everyone else.

So, what happened?

  • Configurator gained a couple hundred thousand downloads—pretty great for a nerdy utility posted to Adobe Labs.
  • Some authors like Vincent Versace created & distributed custom panels.
  • The Photoshop team make Configurator much more powerful & used it to create the Knowledge panel for CS5. When you’d click a particular workspace (e.g. 3D), you’d then get a grouping of relevant tools plus interactive How-To content. It was pretty damn cool, if I may say so.
  • Most people didn’t do much of anything, however.

What went wrong? What can we learn?

  • Sharing custom panels was far too hard. (I won’t describe all the onerous steps for packaging, decompressing, etc.)
  • The Knowledge panel didn’t ship in the box with CS5 (the whole 64-bit/Cocoa transition was dicey enough that we had to cut it at the last minute), and the team never included it later. People didn’t care about in-app help, at least to anything approaching the degreed I’d hoped.
  • In making Configurator support this sophisticated use case (i.e. “eating our own dog food”), it became complex & intimidating, when it should have erred on the side of simple on-boarding.
  • Ultimately, the whole problem reminds me of dogs chasing cars: What would they do if they caught one? That is, everyone likes to bitch that apps are too complicated, but when you give them the chance to streamline & reorganize the UI to their tastes, they don’t know what they’d do differently, or they just don’t care to bother.

Could things change? Perhaps:

  • The “settings sync” feature introduced in CC could morph into settings sharing, letting me make what’s mine yours & vice versa. (Example: I go see Michael Ninness teach “Photoshop for Web Design.” I type “ninness” into my copy of Photoshop, see Michael’s custom workspace (including Configurator-style custom panels that present tools with context), hit “ok,” and have it all on my system, period.
  • Adobe could create a Tumblr-simple publishing system for people to share their interactive how-to content, making it appear right within CC apps. (I naively thought that authors would see Configurator’s ability to include HTML views & immediately start populating them. I came to realize that traditional authors are used to writing a manuscript, sending it off, and receiving cash—no futzing with the mechanics of printing & distribution.)

Ultimately my whole obsession may have been a fool’s errand. You don’t turn an apple into an orange; you just make new oranges. Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.—maybe they just are what they are (the ultimate in power and control rather than approachability), and nothing will or should change that. Instead Adobe should build fresh new tools that complement, rather than seek to replace, these powerhouses.

At this point the future belongs to you & to the teams at Adobe. If this stuff is important to you, please let them know what you need & want, and why.

Thanks for reading,

10:25 PM | Permalink | Comments [15]

Check out the new issue of Adobe Inspire

Lots of good stuff: 

8:21 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

“Store, Tag, Create.” Organizing your photos with Lightroom 5

Check out this new eBook from photographer & asset management expert Peter Krogh:

Organizing Your Photos for Lightroom 5 brings clarity and simplicity to a sometimes confusing process. By stepping back to view all your photographs through Peter Krogh’s three step approach, you will be able to create and share your images knowing your collection rests on strong foundations.

This eBook is written for Adobe Lightroom 5 users, but the approach can apply to earlier versions. Whether you are a beginning user or a veteran user, all will gain insight, tips, and most important, assurance that your own photo library is well-organized for the future.


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I was… Major Mancandy

Did I put it all out there for Photoshop? Yes, from time to time I did. :-)

Scott Kelby posted a taste of the little Star Trek spoof/homage we filmed for Photoshop World a couple of years back. This is the one & only time in my life I’ve been dubbed “Major Mancandy”:


Update: RC Concepcion (er, “Warp”) found the video! My appearances are very brief, just after 3:20. (Man was I sick that day.)


1:42 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

February 05, 2014

“Ask Me About The Pen Tool”

Remember “The Girl With The Photoshop Tattoo?” Check out the commitment Edge Animate PM Sarah Hunt (@sarahwhatsup) made to her love of vectors & design:


Sarah writes,

Before joining Adobe I was a unicorn covering a broad span of disciplines related to design, code and animation. For years I weaved my way in and out of various design tools on a daily basis, and I’ve always had a strong affinity for Adobe design tools; I’m that person that has mnemonic throwpillows and slaps Photoshop stickers all over everything. Creating vector art with Illustrator has always been a meditative experience — I’m by no means an award-winning designer, but I’ve always felt in my element when creating digital art.

It was an interesting shift joining Adobe in that I’m no longer the designer. I’m the person helping influence tools people like me use every day. On the one hand, my job is AWESOME and I love it, though on the other I felt myself quickly disconnecting from my graphic design roots. This kinda bummed me out. I decided I wanted to brand myself as a reminder to keep in touch with my inner artist during the times I get caught up in the product development world.

Designing the tattoo was a quick process. When I thought of a symbol that represents design, the Fibonacci spiral was the first visual that came to mind — it captures both logic and beauty in a single picture. I also wanted to visualize the love I have for vector art as it’s consumed a significant part of my life. The curves of the spiral naturally lent themselves well to anchor points and bezier handles (which I meticulously designed to match the appropriate math of the curve) and topped it off with an 8-bit style pen tool. I couldn’t be happier with the result!

This reminds me of one of my first encounters with Adobe.

In 1999 I was an alpha tester for LiveMotion. PM Michael Ninness wrote me to say, “Hey, do you use the pen tool in Flash? If you think it’s important to have in LM, you might want to chime in on the prerelease forum.” I spoke up, and with surprising speed, a bunch of other testers immediately piped up as well. Little did I know that this was a big battle within the team, and that Michael had written to all of us individually, putting his finger ever so slightly on the scales of user feedback. He got his way, and when the team implemented the pen tool, he got them these commemorative shirts:

Pen Tool

[Big hat tip to LiveMotion Jedi Joe Bowden for still having the shirt after all these years!]

10:42 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

Great Photoshop team blogs you should follow

A number of folks have asked where they can find timely updates about Photoshop once this blog ends. Check out the following:

  • Get daily tips from Photoshop evangelist Julieanne Kost.
  • The Photoshop team blog features a mixture of product info & great profiles of artists (e.g. an interview with astronaut-photographer Chris Hadfield).
  • The Lightroom Journal features updates & occasional tips from the LR team.
  • PM & Customer Advocate Jeff Tranberry’s Digital Imaging Crawlspace promises “Adobe Digital Imaging tid-bits, served in a dirty ashtray.”

On Twitter you can follow Jeff Tranberry and PM Stephen Nielson, as well as UX designers Tim Riot and Bradee Evans.

9:10 PM | Permalink | Comments [6]

GI Jens: A photographer’s epic self-promotion

What’s with photography-loving German Northern European dudes named Jens making little dolls of themselves?

When I first started beta testing for Adobe, I remember hearing something from GoLive land about a “Jens doll” made to quasi-honor one of the engineers, photography enthusiast Jens C. Neffe. (Why do I remember this after 15 years, and not the location of my car keys?) Of course it popped back to mind when I saw this madness:



7:18 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

“Play games. Learn creative tools.”

Interested in gamification & Creative Cloud tools? Sign up for Adobe’s new Project Nimbus to learn about both:


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February 04, 2014

Okay, I admit it…

…I’m going to Google just to play with Legos :-) :

Here’s the direct link to the builder.

7:17 PM | Permalink | Comments [4]

OT: Electric cars that get you HOV lane access

Now that I’ll have a >2mi commute for the first time in a decade, I’m considering cars that qualify for single-occupant use of California’s carpool (HOV) lanes. In case you’re in the market, here are some quick impressions:

  • Chevy Volt. It was like driving a $40,000 bowl of oatmeal (and it seats just four). Its unique powertrain apparently sucks energy right out of my soul.*
  • Toyota Plug-In Prius: “It drives about like it looks,” a Prius-owning friend once told me. Yep. “Can I pass this right-lane car on the freeway?” I asked myself during the test drive. Nope. But at $31,000, the price is reasonable.
  • Toyota RAV4 EV: $50,000, and I couldn’t drive to SF and back without planning my trip around a recharge in the middle. Pass.
  • Nissan Leaf: Same range problem, but at $29,000, it’s much more reasonable. I haven’t driven it, but my friend seems happy with his.
  • Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid: Attractive, but $45,000 for a cloth-seat Accord? Cripes. (Also, on our 7mi test drive it somehow managed 16.7mpg. Soooo…)
  • Ford Fusion Plug-in Hybrid: Same as above, but $42k. Really? Didn’t bother to drive it.

…which of course brings us to that baddest of boys, the Tesla Model S. “Don’t drive it if you don’t want to buy it,” cautioned a Tesla-owning friend. He’s right: We tried it yesterday, and the power & smoothness are as terrific as you’d hope. Ay, but there—along with the (to me) eye-watering price—may lie the rub: It would make me want to drive a lot, when I really should try to use mass transit (specifically the Google bus).

Thus the smart call (ecologically, financially, and in terms of productivity) is likely to sit tight for now & to try the bus. Meanwhile we’ll keep enjoying the VW** TDI Sportwagen we bought last year. It’s fun to drive & gets 45mpg highway (but no HOV access). I just wish VW’s plug-in TDI CrossBlue (89 MPGe, seats six) were shipping today.

By the way, people here sometimes debate the wisdom of “Lexus lanes” that would let people pay extra to use carpool lanes. We are of course doing this already: pay a huge premium on an unremarkable car specifically for that privilege. It’s just a question of where we direct the funds—to private companies or to the government.

* I kept thinking of There’s Something About Mary: “You said she was a real spark plug!!” “No, I said…”

** I with other companies gave half the damn VW/Audi does about interior details. My little design shibboleth is the window controls: Give me one-touch down and up all around and you’re good; fail that & you show you don’t care. Tesla of course gets this right.

6:30 AM | Permalink | Comments [19]

February 03, 2014



Wow, guys—I can’t thank you enough for your incredibly kind & supportive words. I’m feeling all warm & emotional*, and blessed to have connected—even if just in small ways—with so many interesting folks. I’m trying not to let the well-wishing go to my head (I’m wary of going out like Yaphet Kotto in Live & Let Die. :-)), but if Google needs another Project Loon balloon, they can leverage my now-swollen cranium.

Joking aside, thank you. I’m feeling even luckier than usual, and that’s saying something.

*I finally had to teach my Mac spellchecker the word “verklempt,” I was using it so frequently.

11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments [12]

** Announcing a big change: I’m going to Google.

After nearly 14 terrific years at Adobe, it’s time for me to open a different chapter of my life, and next week I’ll be joining Google’s digital photography team.

I’m feeling a crazy mixture of emotions right now. Adobe has been & remains so dear to my heart—I mean, I’m literally made of Adobe icons, right? My wife (whom I met on a customer visit—of course I did!) works here, as do more great friends & colleagues than I’d have any business asking for. All around me I see exciting progress, and I’m dying for you to see what teams are cooking up.

So, why make this move?

Merlin Mann once asked me, “What do you want ten times more of?” I knew the answer: Impact. I’m so proud of the impact I’ve had at Adobe. From Smart Objects to Photoshop’s first-ever public beta* to countless little tweaks over the years (“I swear because I care!!”), I’m proud of that legacy. Now, though, I’ll get a chance to work on some new projects. It’s about doing something very different from, and I think complementary to**, the work I’ve done at Adobe.

So is this goodbye? Not at all. You’ll still be hearing from me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+***. It’s a small industry, so don’t get excited: you’re not rid of me yet. :-)

What about this blog? I hope to post through Friday, and I’ll try to wrap things up properly so you’ll know when it’s going quiet. (God, just typing that makes my screen go blurry…) The blog has been a labor of love (more than 4,200 posts & 33,000 comments over 8.5 years), and I find feedback & insights from readers invaluable in doing my job. Thank you so, so much for reading & often writing here.

Amazingly I have ~120 draft posts I’ve never quite gotten out the door, and while I won’t subject you to all of those, I’ll share what time permits. Beyond that, if you need anything or have any questions, please ask away. And I’m easy to reach outside of work: I’m my firstname.lastname@gmail.com.

I want to tell you—and I say this with all the sincerity in my body—thank you for giving me such an honor & privilege of making products for you for so long.


“‘Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.’—Goethe” I quoted back then, and I repeat it to myself now.

** Adobe & Google have enjoyed great collaboration for years, and I hope to take that even further. There’s so much we can all do to help photographers & storytellers of every sort.

*** I’m even giving thought to continuing a version of the blog via jnack.com. Once you put on these red shoes, you can’t stop dancing…

10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments [118]

The $9.99/mo. Photoshop Photography Program returns

I’m delighted to say that it’s back, and now anyone can get Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, and Behance ProSite hosting for just ten bucks a month:

For a limited time, you can join a special Creative Cloud plan. It includes access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, plus feature updates and upgrades as they are available, 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration, and a Behance ProSite. And it’s just US $9.99/month when you sign up for a one-year plan, but you need to join by March 31, 2014. Questions? See our FAQ and terms. [Notably: “This offer is available to anyone until March 31, 2014. There are no previous product ownership requirements.”]


10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

Artist as a giant human plotter

Heather Hansen covered her hands and feet on charcoal, transferring her body moves directly onto paper:

Emptied Gestures is an experiment in kinetic drawing. In this series I am exploring ways to download my movement directly onto paper, emptying gestures from one form to another.


[YouTube] [Via]

7:39 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

February 02, 2014

Ask Me Anything about photo manipulation

And by “me” I mean “someone far smarter & more seasoned in this discipline.”

Dr. Hany Farid “has been called the ‘father’ of digital image forensics by NOVA” & has partnered several times with Adobe. More recently he formed an imaging startup with my old boss, longtime Photoshop VP Kevin Connor. This Thursday at 4pm Eastern time he’ll participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything event.

[Update: Here’s the transcript of the session. Hany’s quite a witty dude.]

Incidentally, Kevin tells me that “At one point there were people coming to the Fourandsix site after searching for ‘Abraham Lincoln porn.’” And with that, these guys just won the internet.

Mic Drop

1:52 PM | Permalink | Comments [4]

GoPro mayhem, edited in Premiere Pro

(or, what my sons imagine themselves to be doing in their Cozy Coupe)

GoPro presents Ken Block’s 6th installment of his world famous Gymkhana series. This time, Ken looks to complete his ultimate Gymkhana GRID obstacle course on an abandoned airfield for his most elaborate stunt yet.

7:52 AM | Permalink | No Comments

February 01, 2014

Demo: Optimizing Photoshop Performance

It really depends on the kind of work you’re doing (e.g. huge, deep-bit-depth photos with relatively few layers vs. fairly low-res UI/Web designs featuring tons of layers). Here Bryan O’Neil Hughes shows some settings you can tweak:


8:51 AM | Permalink | No Comments

Call for entries: Adobe Youth Voices

The Adobe Youth Voices Awards are “a global challenge that invites youth to creatively express their vision for driving change in local communities, and to present potential solutions through visual storytelling.”

If you’re a young storyteller or know a good one, please check out the site & consider submitting work for consideration. Media must be submitted by April 18, 2014.

8:02 AM | Permalink | No Comments
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