Adobe CC2015 – A Quick Look at What’s New

Back in 2012, Adobe launched its Creative Cloud subscription service, one of its main benefits to users was automatic updates notifying any and all creatives of their vast new products — gone were the days of massive and expensive new version rollouts. While Adobe has scattered updates throughout the years, their presentation of more significant releases hasn’t been random. These predominant releases often coincide with other events or announcements, providing Adobe a strong stance in the tech business world and, perhaps to help bolster the adoption to their three-year-old Creative Cloud subscription-based product from those Creative Suite 6 hold-outs. Subscriptions grew by 639 thousand in the 2nd quarter which just ended, to more than 4.6 million subscribers – a 38% growth. It would seem that the last of the Creative Suite 6 holdouts are now pretty much converted to CC.
So now that we’ve established that Adobe’s reimagined business model to a subscription-based product for their suite of applications has been – shall we say – somewhat successful, let’s discuss how those products are improving. With Creative Cloud 2015 there has been an introduction of a new product – Adobe Stock. We’ll begin there —

ADOBE STOCK

In January 2015 Adobe acquired Fotolia, one of the better so-called “microstock” royalty-free photography sites. Adobe has always thought of Creative Cloud as a platform to connect those creating and consuming products and services. It began with the introduction of the Behance-driven Creative Market and now continues with Fotolia now being transformed into Adobe Stock. Although I have not used Fotolia as extensively as iStock or ShutterStock, I knew it to be a decent service, so the question is today, what value can Adobe add? According to David Wadhwani of Adobe, “Eighty-five percent of customers who purchase stock images use Adobe creative tools. The deep integration with our latest Creative Cloud desktop apps, including Photoshop and InDesign, makes buying and using stock photos incredibly easy. At the same time, our customers – the best photographers and designers on the planet – will have the opportunity to contribute millions of new photos and images to Adobe Stock.” So there it is – ease of use for creatives who are already immersed in the Creative Cloud products along with the fact those same users can help to curate what Adobe hopes to be the preeminent stock resource in this decade.
That grand vision makes sense — as we cross our fingers that those same photographers and illustrators will be properly compensated, of course. It does remain true, however, that the ease in which a designer interacts with this new Adobe Stock product is truly that, easy. Within Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and After Effects, a simple click within the Libraries panel allows designer to browse online and access more than 40 million royalty free photos, illustrations and graphics to be used immediately in any design comp.
The interaction within – let’s say Photoshop – is intuitive and simplistic. With the Libraries panel opened, you can either selection the drop down menu in the upper right and select “Search Adobe Stock” or just navigate to the bottom of the panel and click on the new Adobe Stock icon – a simple box with capital “S” and lowercase “t”. Once selected, your preferred browser will open to the Adobe Stock site. The direct web address to this site is, stock.adobe.com. [SIDE NOTE: I’ve found a curious issue – although it might simply be my specific setup on my laptop – but when I select to search for a stock image, Safari opens as a 1/3 width browser, allowing me to still view my Photoshop document, however the site doesn’t appear to reduce to a mobile-friendly layout. Specifically, I have to scroll left and right as well as up and down to see all images I’ve searched.] Moving forward – once you have an image you’d like, you may either buy it or save a watermarked preview to your desktop or to a specific Creative Cloud Library, thus making is easily accessible from most any Adobe application.
There are actually several nice user interaction abilities which makes Adobe Stock truly an integrated feature you may want to use. For instance, even if you don’t already have a library created where you’d like to store your images, Adobe allows you to do so directly from the Save Preview feature. In addition once you’ve established which library you’d like your first image to be placed, that library will always be selected until you choose otherwise, making for a very efficient interaction. A designer can also edit the preview image at will, confident those edits will be automatically applied to the purchased version once that decision has been made. Now that is an innovative idea!
Creative Cloud members can save up to 40 percent on images when they purchase an annual plan. Pricing for Creative Cloud individual and team customers is $9.99 for a single image – decent, but not spectacular; $29.99 per month (regular $49.99) for 10 images monthly; and $199 per month for 750 images monthly. And if they go for the 10-images-per-month plan they can “roll over” unused images for up to a year – that’s 120 images – which is also something unique to the industry. In all, quite attractive. How Adobe will control rights-managed content remains unanswered as there has been no mention of this option. Perhaps it won’t even go there, leaving the high end to such providers as Getty Images and redefining the so-called micro-stock space. One key note, the stock price of competitor Shutterstock dropped 5% on the announcement of Adobe Stock, so it will be interesting to see how Adobe Stock affects the royalty-free content industry.

PHOTOSHOP CC 2015

These major releases typically include significant new Photoshop functionality but this time proved to be an exception. We’ll start with the program’s Extract Assets option, first introduced in October 2014. The idea is that users can easily export one or more images per selected layer, a great idea that initially didn’t see see widespread adoption. Now dubbed Export Options, this makes it easy to export selected layers and artboards, or whole documents, with or without previewing the images for export. Just select layers or artboards and right click to get the layers context menu, then click on ‘Quick Export as PNG’ or ‘Export As…’ It’s worth noting that this newly improved Export feature is taking the place of “Save for Web” which no longer exists under the File menu. It would seem that quite a few improvements have been made behind the scenes, turning such features as Export into very useful options. 

The Addition of Artboards

The idea here is that you can design cross-device user experiences in a single Photoshop document and quickly preview them on a device — think of it as creating multiple size designs – for example, desktop, tablet and mobile – within a single document. Get real-time previews of these designs on multiple iOS devices with the new Device Preview feature in Photoshop and the Adobe Preview CC mobile app. Changes you make in Photoshop CC are displayed in Preview CC in real time. You can reliably connect multiple iOS devices to Photoshop using USB or over Wi-Fi to view your design solution right on the proper device while making adjustments on the fly.
If you have a document with artboards, Device Preview attempts to show you the correct artboard by matching the size and position of the artboard with the size of the connected device. You can also use the navigation bar to preview a specific artboard on the device or swipe through artboards that have matching widths.
Related to this is a preview of Design Space, described as being “aimed at becoming a modern design experience inside Photoshop streamlined for the requirements of web, UX and mobile app designers.” I’ve taken a look at the Design Space Preview — it’s interesting in that the tool bar is now moved to the right side immediately next to the windows area, which has all been greatly reduced in functionality. The tool bar shows only the move tool (with a different icon), the rectangle and elipse tools, the pen tool and last but not least, the type tool. The windows are gone and it’s their place is a single vertical area running top to bottom of your screen, with a very minimal design – no boxes, just icons and lines barely separating such features as layers, styles and align. Adobe says this is specific for web, UX and mobile users, however I can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing the glimpse of a new interface for Photoshop…

Dehaze

The MAX event last October previewed a dehaze feature which is now available in Photoshop and Lightroom as well. Created to eliminate fog and haze from photos, including underwater shots, Haze can also be added to images, for those seeking artistic effects for startlingly clear images.
Layer Styles
The Layer Style dialog now lets you apply multiple effects—strokes, inner shadows, color overlays, gradient overlays, drop shadows, etc—to a single layer style. The UI of the Layer Style dialog box also comes with a lightened and slighted augmented layout, with several, but not all styles, allow more than one instance to be applied to a single layer style. Again all these selection will become separate effects within that selected layer allowing for additional adjustments later, such as changing the effects stacking order.
In effect, that’s Photoshop CC2015. Not a vast change, but from what I can see, the future looks promising, if not interesting for Photoshop and it’s UI. If additional under the hood power and improvements persist, there’s no telling what the next big update might have in store.

CreativeSync

This would seem to be simply a branding initiative. The ability to sync creative assets such as files, photos, fonts, vector graphics, brushes, colors, settings and metadata across desktop, web and mobile apps has been around for some time. But now there’s a name for it. CreativeSync.  Certainly, for anyone who appreciates the ability to begin a project on an iPad and seemlessly continuing on a desktop will see the efficiencies available for this newly named CreativeSync feature.
 

ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR CC 2015 

Adobe claims Illustrator is now 10 times faster and 10 times more precise than CS6 — although that means little to those of us already using the CC versions there are still performance enhancement. Zoom magnification increases by 10x, meaning previously you were able to magnify to 6400%, now you are able to zoom up to 64,000%! Along with the performance enhancements inside Illustrator’s GPU, zooming and panning is more fluid allowing for more precise abilities, translating to a more efficient workflow. More interesting graphics-wise is a preview version of a new Chart tool, which allows designers to create custom charts and share them via CC Libraries. However, it is a preview version, so Adobe has yet to allow all functions to be fully realized. Other than this, even Illustrator’s Help menu – which typically would have a “What’s New” selection when a major update comes along, does not. So it looks as though Illustrators improvement, by and large, are mainly behind the scenes.

 INDESIGN CC 2015

As with Illustrator, InDesign’s main update will effect under the hood performance , however, with this 2015 release InDesign offers a technology preview of what Adobe is calling Publish Online. This new feature allows you to publish any InDesign document online or share it on Facebook or as a stand along URL. The HTML version of your document will work on all modern desktop or tablet browsers, providing a beautiful and simple online experience. The online document will also keep all it’s interactive features included in the InDesign document, such as video, audio and animation. As with any preview release, this feature is not production ready, exercise discretion when using it for critical work.

MOBILE APPS

When it comes to Adobe’s mobile apps there are many to choose from, providing a wide range of on-the-go abilities. After neglecting Android for years, Adobe suddenly unleashed a flood of new apps into the Google Play store. So now, no mater what platform your mobile world is planted, Apple or Android, the Adobe mobile apps are yours for the taking!
This past week, Android fans can now download Photoshop Mix, Brush CC, Color CC, and Shape CC — all of which already existed on iOS for some time. The reason for the delayed Android launch is potentially a bit complicated. Adobe’s explanation for ignoring the platform has been lacking, however the company did issue somewhat of an apology for letting its Android apps sit stagnant over the past several years. I’ve heard speculation that Apple’s design-centric audience and small variety of devices played a role in Adobe’s decision to prioritize iOS. In simple terms, it was a more efficient and focused platform to work with and made the development of these apps much easier.
If you have yet to jump into Adobe’s mobile apps, I suggest you take the time, download a few apps that interest you, and take them for a test drive. Among the creative mobile apps available there are just over a dozen apps of real interest for creatives like us. Most are well worth your time to explore how they could benefit your work flow & creative needs, while others simply have potential as another tool. I plan to detail several of my favorite Adobe mobile apps in a future podcast  but for now, I will focus on one impressive app to help you narrow the beginning of your introduction into the mobile world of Adobe.
Let’s briefly discuss my current favorite, Adobe’s Comp, which is quite an amazing and intuitive app that simply allows you to begin creating in a more sketch orientated fashion while allowing you the ability to move forward to your choice of desktop apps. From there you can finalize most any design without interruption or loss of work, translating all you created in Adobe Comp directly to full fledged Adobe applications.
Let’s dig a bit deeper as to the base functionality of this app. To understand it’s functionality you need to know that this is the perfect app to use when you are on the go, don’t have time or a place to whip out your laptop, but you’d like to get an idea or concept down on paper – the digital paper of the iPad, that is. When launching the app you simply need to select the plus sign to create a new page, doing so will provide you with a Choose a Format screen presenting 13 predetermined format sizes such as iPhone 5, iPad landscape, letter, tabloid, or even standard web page sizes. You of course are able to customize your size if needed and name that new size for easy reference for a later time. Once a format or page size has been selected, the page will present itself with 5 menu icons at the top right and a draw icon within a gray tab on the left edge. Select this icon to be placed in the drawing mode, where you can easily draw shapes, headlines or even body copy blocks in mere seconds. Adobe has created sixteen different drawing gestures to create everything you might need to begin and create a very effective comp. ( I should note, once in the drawing mode,  3 of the 5 menus icons have now changed to a simple circle with a question mark within, allowing you easy access to the drawing gestures guide. )
If you need a circle, simple draw a circle with your finger. Once completed, Adobe Comp understands you’d like a circle and changes your circle you drew into a perfect, vector image. You can also create a image frame to contain a photo or illustration by simply drawing an X in the approximate size and proportions that you wish. To place rounded corners on that image frame, simply draw a box with an X in the middle and add one small circle bisecting the bottom right corner. An image frame with perfect rounded corners is created which in the edit mode you can place an image within. The simplicity and intuitive nature of these gestures makes this app a pleasure to work with while providing you with nearly endless possibilities to create your comp quickly and easily.
For me, the feature that impresses me the most is the text features. And let me be specific, it’s not just the way you create text, but the editing features as well. To create a headline, draw a box and place a dot just outside it’s bottom right hand corner. You’re done, and a headline pops up! For text, either draw a serious of horizontal lines with a dot at the bottom right corner or draw a box with horizontal lines to create a paragraph. Now for the detail fun – select the purple tab with the X on the left edge where the draw icon was and you will be taken to the edit mode. Within the edit mode you are now able to select text boxes, reposition them in your layout, change text color, font, size, alignment, opacity, layer position or resize the text box itself. When resizing a text box larger, more text is magically added to this field, while just past the right edge of the text box there is an elegant vertical slider which allows you to easily increase or decrease the font size. 
Adobe has created a mobile product that is clean, concise and powerful all at once. Even a mundane task as undo has been simplified to two finger swipe to the left. A three finger swipe left provides you the ability to step back through your process, seeing your design choices take shape in real time. 
I’ve saved the best for last and it’s a big one. With Adobe’s cloud features growing stronger in every iteration, we now see that the image library found in Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign also connects with Adobe’s mobile apps. Such apps as Adobe Sketch and Adobe Shape utilize Adobe’s connect cloud to populate the image library in all three desktop applications with your creations created within these apps. With Adobe Comp, it should be no surprise that this feature hold proud and true, allowing you to export your comp to InDesign, Photoshop or Illustrator where you can continue your design exactly where you left off in Adobe Comp. All images, shapes and text are editable within these applications as you have come to know and love. It’s truly a seamless integration from the mobile to the desktop space, allowing any designer to easily and effectively solidify a concept and immediately and without loss of effort, continue the comp to a full, client-worthy end result without missing a beat.

CONCLUSION

So, we have the big Adobe applications fresh off an sufficient update with powerful additions and updates worthy of the version name change, Adobe CC2015. Coinciding with it’s desktop applications Adobe has finally walked into the world of Android and provided the same efficiencies and innovation the iOS platform has been experiencing for some time. Considering the mobile space, how prevalent and powerful it is and needs to be in our everyday world, Adobe has stepped up and committed to providing us designers with a well rounded and very useful range of apps.

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