Adobe debuts Comp CC for iPad, Facebook Messenger gets third-party hooks …

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adobe Comp CC review: Quickly sketch out InDesign drafts on an iPad.

Adobe’s renewed push into mobile has produced a veritable fleet of slick iOS apps aimed at creative artists, but has thus far neglected designers who rely upon traditional page layout software. The last time we saw Comp CC, the newest tool in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, it was called LayUp, and creator Khoi Vinh had just demoed it at Adobe MAX 2014.Over the past few years, Adobe has been making a concerted effort to build apps that could eventually become as important for creation and design on mobile as apps like Photoshop and Premiere have become on the desktop.Adobe is breaking the legacy of drawing objects with pencil and paper and then finalizing it on a tablet or computer using advanced graphic software with the newly launched app announced for the iPad.

As part of that effort, it ended up speaking with designer Khoi Vinh, known for overhauling The New York Times’ website during the late 2000s, and using his input to create an iPad app for quickly throwing together layouts, be it for a website or a flier. Instead of being chained to the desktop while roughing out an initial draft, designers can now create more freely from nearly anywhere using only an iPad, safe in the knowledge the work they’ve done so far will actually be part of the final project. Comp CC (as in Creative Cloud—the surname of most of Adobe’s applications these days) lets designers draw on the tablet with some key assists and assets, and then continue working on the ideas in the more powerful desktop applications, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop CC. As Adobe principal product manager Will Eisley told me last week, the company believes that creatives now look at mobile as an extension of their creative workflow. The app that was announced today gives developers access to the several features and colors stored in the Adobe creative profile and the CC or Creative Cloud libraries.

Comp CC launches today, and it hews closely to the vision Vinh laid out for LayUp. “There’s a brainstorming stage for every designer,” says Vinh, who came up with the idea over a year ago when Adobe VP Scott Belsky sought his ideas for new digital tools. “But I think there’s an unmet need, because pen and paper have been the tools of choice. Those items can then be filled in more substantially with TypeKit font previews, graphics from Photoshop, Illustrator, Photoshop Sketch, or Illustrator Draw, and anything captured via Shape CC or Color CC. While previous offerings have focused on creating individual elements for Photoshop or Illustrator users, Comp CC brings all of that disparate content together to create layouts for mobile, web, or print. With touch devices there’s this opportunity to get the best of both worlds, and to work as quickly as you could on paper, and be as disposable as paper.” With Comp, Adobe wants to augment its role in the designer’s workflow.

This isn’t quite a stripped-down version of Adobe InDesign CC, although the company has done an exceptional job of keeping things nimble while retaining core tools designers depend on. Significantly, each file has an infinite version history — within Comp users can scrub back and forward and export from any stage during a wireframe’s creation. To get started, choose from a variety of preset layout sizes for the most common web, page, or iOS devices, or create your own custom dimensions from scratch. At the end, they should have something that resembles a usable rough draft, which can be imported into Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign for further work.

The new functionality lets users send GIFs, photos, and videos to Messenger contacts via third-party software, and likewise reply to messages without switching apps. For now, projects are limited to a single page, and you’ll want to keep a conversion wheel handy, because points are the only measurement supported. Layouts are automatically saved to a user’s Creative Cloud account when closed, and Adobe includes a fully editable sample comp from each layout category to demonstrate what the app is capable of. (While you need a Creative Cloud account to use Comp CC, you don’t need to be a paying Creative Cloud subscriber.

Rather than selecting “circle” or “square” or “text,” you just draw a circle or a square or a couple of lines, and Comp CC fills them in with proper placeholders. But to open files from the desktop apps on the iPad, you do need a paid subscription.) In Editing mode, Comp CC enables designers to dummy up designs using stock placeholders for image frames, text, lines, and shapes.

Comp CC was previewed in a sneak peek at Adobe’s MAX conference last fall under the code name “Project LayUp.” The app performs some processing in the cloud, so users will need a live Internet connection while using it. As with pretty much everything coming out of Adobe lately, Comp CC also requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and it is available starting today on the iTunes App Store. Earlier this month Google announced that it was breaking up Google+ into separate Photos and Streams products — the service’s messaging aspect is already in the dominion of the Hangouts app for iOS, Android, and the web. Using technology first demoed at last year’s Adobe MAX conference, the app automatically converts finger doodles into clean vector objects right before your eyes.

Vinh said that he told Adobe he wanted to be able to start his design process on an iPad. “I’m a big fan of these devices,” he said. “They’re so powerful, so comfortable. Once you have the basics down, the app then lets you switch between this drawing mode and an editing mode that makes it easier to move these frames, shapes and text placeholders around the page. While in Drawing mode, a squiggle drawn over existing elements erases them instead. (A Trash button is also available in Editing mode.) Two- and three-finger gestures can be used to undo or redo one or more steps, and there’s even a combination for adding a block of placeholder text (draw three horizontal lines, followed by a dot).

While basic shapes require minimal effort, I found myself frequently consulting the in-app cheat sheet when drawing image placeholders, which require more complicated gestures. Every interaction was built with speed in mind. “Why would we need to tap on a menu item to generate a circle,” Vinh said when we first saw the app. “Why wouldn’t we draw it?” Everything created in Comp can be quickly exported to other Adobe apps and finished on a desktop. The iPad still sits in a weird place between being powerful enough to assist “real work” and being used too casually to generate “real work.” Comp CC seems to play to that middle ground: it’s powerful, as tablet apps now can be, but it remains straightforward and focused on moving quickly, without total precision. No layout app would be complete without text formatting options, and Adobe Comp CC solves this problem brilliantly by reaching into Creative Cloud’s vast library of Typekit fonts.

That’s still here, of course, but Comp has a more explicit gesture vocabulary, so a designer can learn a shorthand that allows adding details like rounded corners. One thing missing is a way to preview cloud fonts already available in an account prior to downloading them first, but Typekit offers a more pleasant selection experience anyway, making it a breeze to search for and add new typefaces from there. The team didn’t want to see how much of Photoshop and InDesign they could squeeze in, he told me, but instead focus on the basic things you want to specify when you ideate. You won’t find all of InDesign CC’s rich text editing tools here, but the included paragraph indentation, line and letter spacing, and type styles more than get the job done.

Once the team identified the problem, Adobe set him up with a prototype and quickly landed on what Eisley called a “quick and dirty prototype.” Then, Adobe user-tested this first idea over the course of the summer. It’s hardly glamorous, but provides the seamlessness that is key to making a mobile experience work—and Adobe is committed to making it work. “Connected creativity, or the notion of creative profile library,” says Adobe VP Will Eisley, “That’s really the core of what the Adobe vision is.” In this way, Adobe offers a new perspective on the iPad’s value proposition, which has been murky since its debut five years ago. Eisley and Vinh know this—Vinh even wrote about it on his blog Subtraction last year—and remain undeterred. “The idea is that it lets you do what you do on paper,” Vinh says. “Setting up a specific dimension for the workspace, I think that’s really hard to do on a big phone.

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