We’ve all heard (at least those of us who are nerds) the oft-quoted line from the Spider-Man mythos, “With great power comes great responsibility.” When it comes to computer software, however, it should read: “With great power comes great complexity.” At Adobe Systems’ annual user conference, Adobe MAX, held in October at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, the company announced its commitment to make learning and using its software less complex, while giving up none of the power.
The ease-of-use initiative is just one of a series of upgrades to Adobe’s Creative Cloud software suite announced on October 18. They constitute the biggest upgrade since Creative Cloud was introduced five years ago.
Some of the enhancements, particularly to the Lightroom product, make it easy to work with your photos whether you’re in your office or preparing to skydive over the Grand Canyon. Other initiatives include a focus on storytelling, artificial intelligence, and teamwork.
New Ease of Use
Photoshop is the iconic Adobe product whose name has worked its way into the vernacular. The fact that even people who have never touched a computer (there may be a few of those left) understand the phrase, “Oh, that’s been Photoshopped,” pays tribute to its power and presence. What Photoshop has never been, however, is easy to use. Adobe is changing that.
Enhancements released during Adobe MAX focused on learning and automating tasks within the photo editing powerhouse.
Panels – sections of the computer screen containing information about images and procedures – have long been an essential part of Photoshop. Adobe has added a “Learn Panel” which is designed to help first-time users develop the foundational skills needed to become productive quickly. Tutorials, written instructions, and pop-up help have been added and enhanced. For instance, when you point at one of the many tools available, you can get animated help.
All tutorials have been localized into 26 languages.
The release also includes new features for experienced users such as a better way to manage brush presets and organize them into folders.
What’s Old is New Again
Adobe Lightroom has long been a standard desktop application professional and advanced amateur photographers use to organize and manage photos. Now it has moved to the cloud.
Adobe enhanced and renamed the desktop app Lightroom Classic, and titled the new cloud-based app Lightroom CC. I previewed the new Lightroom and was pleasantly surprised. Since I began taking photos on phones, I have never been satisfied with the tools for enhancing them. Lightroom CC changed that, and it allows you to automatically sync your photos from phone to cloud to desktop.
Three other 1.0 releases are Adobe XD CC for user interface design, Adobe Dimension CC for 2D to 3D compositing, and Character Animator CC for 2D animation.
I’ve been watching and trying out the betas of Character Animator for a couple of years. This is an amazing app that lets you interactively animate and record a character you have created in Photoshop or Illustrator. You point a camera and microphone at yourself, and the character mimics your actions down to the facial expression level. This allows, for instance, live interviews with animated characters.
Adobe launched a major initiative across all apps and platforms that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning: Adobe Sensei. Sensei helps you by learning your typical workflow and anticipating your needs. It can also save time when it comes to searching for images. For instance, if you have thousands of photos on disk with no keywords associated with them (as I do), you can still use Sensei to search for “dog.” It knows what dogs look like and can scan your images for photos with dogs in them.
It also accelerates finding fonts through Adobe Typekit. The user can select a sample of an unknown font, and Sensei will find one in Typekit that is close or identical to it.
Storytelling and Teamwork
Adobe believes that “everyone is a story teller” and that now the primary means of telling stories is with pictures and videos. It has optimized Creative Cloud to facilitate sharing seamlessly between the desktop and cloud. When you update media on one platform, the goal is to have it immediately available on all platforms.
This cloud-based sharing lets a user update media for coordination with co-creators, clients, or team leaders. Graphics designated as symbols – for example, a logo – can be updated in an application such as Illustrator CC. Then, when a project in Photoshop, InDesign, or After Effects containing that symbol opens, the user will see the updated symbol. If you or your team have used a symbol in hundreds or even thousands of designs, they are all updated, saving an immense amount of time.
During the five-day Adobe MAX conference, Adobe, its affiliated vendors, and members of the user community demonstrated new features, new hardware, and techniques to make the creative process faster, more intuitive, and more social. I’ll be covering the highlights of these over the next week to give you “great power” and help you be a creative superhero.