I’ve become busier than expected and, as a result, I haven’t been able to fit in the time to do the third episode in this series as a video. Instead, what I’ve done is written it up as a regular blog post so just keep reading to get my final observations and conclusions. (If you missed the videos here are links: part 1 or part 2.)
Photoshop Touch File Format Limitations
If you import a layered PSD file into Photoshop Touch what you get is a merged-down version of the file. That’s disappointing because in some cases it might be nice to have the flexibility provided by having the image content separated into its various layers. But I can see the problems that would arise in trying to handle layered files. There are many different kinds of layers that can be included in a PSD file from adjustment layers to clipping masks to Smart Objects to third-party plug-ins. It would clearly be impossible for Photoshop Touch to support all the different types of layers. Adobe might have chosen to have Photoshop Touch simply ignore unrecognized layer types but even that poses a problem. First, if your image doesn’t look right what good is it? Second, PSD files can have hundreds of layers. Just trying to download such a large file could choke your network connection and Photoshop Touch. And, you have to ask what would be the scenario for needing layered PSD support? I could imagine a situation in a meeting where you might want to make some quick changes to the layers from your tablet. But beyond that sort of thing, if you already have a layered PSD file chances are that you’d want to make any further changes with the desktop version of Photoshop anyway.
No TIF Support
A more serious problem is that Photoshop Touch cannot import TIF files from the Creative Cloud. There’s really no good reason why this couldn’t be supported. The Creative Cloud could do the necessary conversion to provide the image to Photoshop Touch in a generic format like PNG. Now, you could potentially have the same problems with layers in TIF files as you do with PSD files. But, of course, the same solution would apply.
No RAW File Support
You also cannot use RAW files such as Nikon’s NEF files or Adobe’s own DNG format in Photoshop Touch. That’s unfortunate because one use case I could imagine is uploading files to the Creative Cloud while on a trip and then using your tablet to make some minimal edits and post to Facebook. Even compact cameras like the Nikon J1 and V1 are capable of outputting RAW files. You could make the argument that you need a laptop to upload the files to the cloud so if you have a laptop you probably have the full version of Photoshop and it would be easier to make your edits there. But there are cases where you might have 15 minutes in a hotel lobby or half an hour in an airport, for example, where you could pull out your tablet and make some quick edits. Or maybe you’re in an impromptu meeting with a colleague or a client. In these kinds of scenario you’re less likely to want to pull out your laptop. Or maybe you just don’t have your laptop with you.
You can’t even view RAW files within PS Touch. All you can see is a grayed-out thumbnail. Given that previews are rendered on the server there is no technical reason why you couldn’t be allowed to view them. In fact, Creative Cloud already does this to allow you to view them in a browser. So, they could very easily extend that to PS Touch.
You can, of course, go to your mobile browser on your tablet to view your RAW files. But that’s a separate operation. And it can take several minutes to get logged into the Creative Cloud from your mobile browser especially if you have a long username and a difficult password like I do. But you’re already logged in automatically from Photoshop Touch and you’re right there browsing your photos. Why not let us look at our RAW files?
User Interface Quirks
I was disappointed to discover that there is no portrait mode editing in Photoshop Touch. When you rotate the tablet it stays in landscape orientation. End of story.
Within Photoshop Touch there doesn’t seem to be any straightforward way of forcing a resync with the Creative Cloud. It does sync automatically when you start the app but if someone changes the content on your Creative Cloud the need to resync can arise. The workaround I’ve found is to turn syncing off and then back on. That does work but it seems like there ought to be an obvious button to click for that purpose instead. On the flip side, a nice thing is that whenever you finish editing files in Photoshop Touch the changes are reflected immediately in your browser window when logged into the Creative Cloud.
Another minor annoyance is that some settings dialogs, like the Refine Edge and fx dialogs, slide up to appear at the bottom of the screen obscuring part of the image in the process. These dialogs cannot be moved so they can potentially be a problem when adjusting the settings. If you need to see a part of the image that is blocked by the dialog you’re out of luck. So far, this hasn’t actually been a problem for me in my editing. However, the dialogs do cover as much as about 13% of the image so the potential for a conflict is definitely there. A simple solution would be to allow repositioning the dialog.
When saving a project Photoshop Touch doesn’t ask you to provide a filename. It automatically saves as Untitled (or Untitled 2, 3, etc.). You can rename the project after saving is complete but this is an extra step.
For many operations Photoshop Touch uses a verb-object grammar. In other words, you choose the action first and then the object on which you want to perform the action. In most file managers it’s the opposite. For example, in the Finder or Windows Explorer you would select a file, copy it, navigate to the destination folder and then paste. Or you would drag and drop it. Not in PS Touch. Here’s the sequence of operations:
- Tap the folder icon on the toolbar and select the Move Projects menu item.
- Tap the project to be moved.
- Tap OK. (It says “Project(s) to be moved already resides in this directory.” This is another oddity. Of course, it does. Why are you telling me this?)
- Tap the folder you want to move to.
- Tap Move.
So, the process is backwards from the way most of us are using to doing things and, as far as I can tell, there is no way to avoid the odd warning message in step 3.
Exporting Photos from Photoshop Touch
Currently, there are four possible destinations for photos that you’ve edited on PS Touch:
- Your tablet’s gallery
- The Creative Cloud
Photoshop Touch projects are automatically saved to the Creative Cloud as you exit editing mode so that’s not really exporting, strictly speaking. And, if you don’t have an internet connection at the time of exiting the project is saved locally to your tablet and uploaded later when you do have a connection. (There’s no clue where Photoshop Touch caches your projects but it doesn’t seem there is any real need for the user to worry about this.)
If you want to share files using any of the other three methods listed above the process is pretty simple. But if you want to share anywhere else, like say, Instagram, flickr, Google +, or 500px you’re on your own. Another question in my mind is why there is no connection to Revel, Adobe’s photo sharing cloud service.
Creative Cloud Shortcomings
The biggest problem I see with the Creative Cloud is its lack of integration with the desktop apps. Right now, downloading and uploading are separate steps that you must perform within your web browser. There’s no way to browse directly from Bridge or Lightroom. Similarly, there’s no way to open or save files directly from Photoshop (desktop version). For it to be truly convenient (and for Adobe to induce people to upgrade to higher storage capacities) this kind of capability needs to be offered.
Adobe may already be planning something like this. On the Creative Cloud Team blog in May, 2012 they announced something called the Creative Cloud Connection which they describe as a “desktop client.” The specific features and functionality of this software are vague though so we’ll have to wait and see what they actually deliver.
At this point, I’m still trying to figure out Adobe’s target audience for Photoshop Touch. There’s a whole lot of photo editing power here. In fact, there’s more power in Photoshop Touch than there was in Photoshop V1 on the desktop! But the limitations in file formats and getting files into and out of Photoshop Touch can be inconvenient. To avoid the need for a laptop in the field you might be able to connect your Android tablet to a card reader via USB. But, as far as I know, the iPad doesn’t support USB connections so most tablet users will still need a laptop. Given these difficulties it’s hard to see how professional photographers will get a lot of use out of Photoshop Touch. You pretty much have to have a laptop with you when on location or on the road anyway. So, why wouldn’t you just use the desktop version of Photoshop to do your edits?
And if you’re a casual photographer who wants to edit photos from your phone the complication of needing to email photos to yourself one or two at a time is a real problem. If you’re an Android user the Instant Upload feature can help a lot. But you still have limited sharing options. You can export to your Android Gallery and then share from there. But every additional step that is needed on a portable device just makes it that much less likely that you will bother.
So, I’m unclear who will be using Photoshop Touch in this initial incarnation and what kind of a workflow will be most convenient. Still, for $9.99 you’re getting a tremendous amount of image editing power so it’s hard to go wrong. And, I suspect that Adobe is already considering some of these issues. The blog post I mentioned above alludes to some issues related to those I’ve raised here. So, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see streamlined workflows coming in a future version of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you are incorporating Photoshop Touch into your workflow. How do you use Photoshop Touch?