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All-Seeing Interactive is a tiny web design and software company based in London, UK.

Friday 14 May 2010

Goodbye, Photoshop?

Dear Adobe,

As you are probably aware from your records, I downloaded the Photoshop CS5 trial last week. Maybe your customer database flagged up that I skipped CS4 and am still using CS3. Had you got to thinking about it, perhaps you would have (correctly) surmised that the ‘high cost of doing business in Europe’ and the not entirely positive reaction to the UI changes you introduced in CS4 contributed to this decision. Possibly, you were thinking that CS5 would be the perfect opportunity to listen to feedback from users, and to make changes to woo back some of those who stuck with older versions.

In my head I think I always assumed I’d buy the CS5 upgrade, so you didn’t really need to sell it to me. It’s not as if Photoshop CS3 is without its problems (crashes, lockups in Save for Web, a UI that seemed to be a step backwards from CS2 etc). So yes, CS5 was the perfect opportunity to make Photoshop shine brightly again.

I don’t know what went wrong.

I don’t have a bullet-pointed list of things you should fix.

I don’t have any concept of the complexity involved in building software on this scale for two very different platforms.

I don’t have any understanding of the economic factors involved in making decisions about when and what to ship.

I don’t know anything about how difficult it must have been to merge with a competitor whose products couldn’t have felt more different from your own.

I can’t conceive the difficulties involved in building a monolithic piece of software that tries to be all things to all people, for users that probably each use only 5% of the features, and where every user uses a different 5% of those features.

I can’t even begin to understand all the perspiration and genius that goes into features that look like magic.

All I do know is that a product I’ve been using since version 2.5 no longer feels like home.

A tool that (albiet some years ago) used to feel like the best designed Mac application now feels like a slightly awkward port from another platform. All the features I used to love are still there, and doubtless lots of new ones that I might love given time. But the joy that comes from an interface that gets out of your way, that behaves as you expect, that is beautiful and functional and crystal-clear, that seems to be missing.

There are lots of other places to read users’ gripes about the new Adobe we’ve come to know over the last few years, so I’ll just highlight one thing:

If you have CS5, open the Adobe Help application, and then ponder the fact that the software company whose name is most synonymous with visual design was responsible for...this.

It’s not working, but I think it’s me, not you.

Very probably, the Windows version of Photoshop CS5 is a work of art. And, no doubt, there are lots of users who absolutely love the UI changes that arrived in CS4 and CS5. And for many people, features like the new painting brushes are probably reason enough to upgrade.

Maybe I’m just annoyed because Photoshop has unexpectedly quit again (yes, I’m back on CS3), and on this occasion I was dumb enough not to save earlier on.

Maybe it’s just that Photoshop is actually far more than I need these days. I still use Photoshop practically every day, but visual design is not as big a component of my work as has been in the past. I haven’t yet looked seriously at the new breed of (much simpler) visual design tools like Acorn and Pixelmator, perhaps I should. Or perhaps I'll put up with the occasional crash and just continue using CS3 until it stops working. After all, I’ve certainly paid for it over the years.

Mostly, I think I’m just disappointed that the company that once had my sincerest admiration has lost it, and I don’t think there’s any way back.

Posted by Ben @ 6:08 PM