Adobe Embraces Touch With Six New Apps

Adobe plans to release six applications designed to be used exclusively on touch-based devices, including apps to execute creative tasks such as photo editing and Web page design, the company announced Monday.

Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer for Adobe, announced and demonstrated the Adobe Touch Apps series at the company's Max conference, being held this week in Los Angeles.

All the apps address different needs in the realm of digital content creation, allowing users to work on their creations in ways that they could only do before via desktop applications, or by hand.

Touch is the "next giant leap in human-computer interaction," Lynch said, comparing the interface, now used on tablets and phones, to the previous major changes in the way people worked with computers, such as the introduction of the mouse and the keyboard.

"Before computers, people were using paint brushes, scissors, pencils. You were able to directly interact with the work you were creating," Lynch said. "The era of mice and keyboards abstracted you from the work you were creating -- you had to think abstractly about how you were creating it. Now with touch, you are coming back to physical interaction of creating the media directly, and removing that layer of abstraction."

"This will be a big, big empowering thing for all of us," Lynch said. "We are embracing this move. This is the first time in 20 years we are rethinking our creative tooling."

Perhaps the most significant release for many people will be Adobe Photoshop Touch, a version of Adobe Photoshop designed for touch capability. Many of Photoshop's key editing features are enabled with this software. Users can apply filters to an image, or combine them with other images, or extract individual elements from an image. The tool menu has been redesigned so that one tool can be called directly from another tool, which saves space on the palette.

The software also offers a three-dimensional view of an image. This feature can be handy for images with multiple layers, where the designer overlays multiple elements together in a single image. When the image is flipped on its side, each layer of the image is shown as a separate level. It also is handy in managing multiple images in a single view.

Another touch-based app with a potentially wide audience is Adobe Proto, which provides Web developers a workspace for developing wireframes, or prototypes, of websites and Web-based mobile applications.

Using Proto, Lynch demonstrated how, using only his finger in a series of gestures, he could sketch out all the major sections of a Web page. From these drawings, the application will recognize basic features such as navigation bars, headers, menu lists and other common Web page elements. The software can then convert the wireframe into HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) and JavaScript code, which then can be edited in more detail in Adobe Dreamweaver or other Web editing tools.

The remaining apps address other aspects of the creative process: Adobe Collage provides a workspace for users to create virtual idea boards, into which they can add images and annotations. Adobe Debut acts as presentation software for Adobe Creative Suite files, which could be handy in presentations and meetings.

Adobe Ideas is a vector-based drawing tool, one that can accept input from a finger or a pen. Because the lines being drawn are vector-based, rather than pixel-based, they will appear solid, regardless of the display resolution. Adobe Kuler is a virtual color book of color swatches, one that will allow multiple users to peruse and discuss different colors. The colors can be exported to Adobe Creative Suite projects.

All six apps will be closely tied in with Adobe's cloud service, due in early 2012, which will allow users to share content across different devices and users.

The apps will initially be available for Android tablets in November, at an introductory price of US$9.99 each. Adobe will announce availability of Apple iOS-based devices early in 2012. No word was given for when, or if, Windows 8 versions will be available.

Early customers will be given access to a beta version of the Adobe Cloud, for storing and sharing content. Each application also works with Adobe Carousel, a service for sharing photos across different platforms.

Perhaps to help implement these apps, Adobe also announced at Max that it is acquiring Nitobi, a company that offers open-source software, called PhoneGap, for building apps that run across multiple platforms, using HTML5.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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