Saturday, June 21, 2014

When I Think About You I Touch My…Screen

Given that I won’t be buying one (and I didn’t win one in a recent giveaway, dammit), for me, the most interesting aspect of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 announcement last month was the appearance by someone from Adobe showing off an upcoming version of Photoshop featuring some touch-related enhancements to the venerable image-editing program.
This week, Adobe Creative Cloud Subscribers (like me) were presented with the option of downloading Adobe Photoshop CC 2014, which delivers those enhancements.
…once you figure out how to enable them, anyway.
I had hoped that when I installed in on my Surface Pro 2 it would recognize that touch was available and right off the bat it would be optimized for touch.
Nope.  Doing some digging online revealed that you have to navigate to Edit>Preferences>Experimental Features, check the box for “Use Touch Gestures (Windows only),” close Photoshop, and open it again.
There’s also an option to scale up the interface (more on that in a bit) to make it more finger-friendly, and something related to 3D printing, but I don’t have a 3D printer, so that part was irrelevant for me.
The touch features work pretty much how you would expect them to:  you can pan and zoom and rotate the canvas.
That may not seem like much, but considering that previous versions lacked even those capabilities, it’s a marked – and welcome – improvement.
I’m especially glad to see the ability to rotate the canvas freely by placing two fingers on the screen and turning them in the direction you want to rotate the canvas, as it’s a feature that’s available in Manga Studio that I utilize frequently.
However, I do have some quibbles with Adobe’s implementation.  In Manga Studio there are options for performing the same function via on-screen menu buttons if you’re not working on a touch-enabled screen, including a button for restoring the canvas – or paper, as it’s called in MS – to its original orientation.
No such buttons exist in Photoshop CC 2014, at least as far as I’ve been able to determine.  Also, it was not immediately apparent that there was a way to snap the canvas back into the original orientation (attempting to do so via touch requires more precision than I’m able to manage), but I did find that clicking on the Crop tool will cause it to snap back.
It is possible to rotate the canvas through menu options, but it’s less efficient than the approach that MS takes, which provides a wider larger selection of set increments and a slighter to allow you to rotate in arbitrary increments.  The buttons in MS rotate by 15 degree increments, whereas Ps gives you the option of 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise, and an “Arbitrary” option which presents you with another menu for choosing the increments.
The other quibble I have is that in order to pan you have to use two fingers – in MS, you only need one – which wouldn’t be a problem except that it’s very easy to accidentally rotate the canvas, or to zoom in or out.
As for the scaling, the new Ps allows you to scale up the UI by 200%.  That does make things more finger-friendly, but it seems like a bit much.  125-150% might work a little better, though the optimal solution would be to allow you to choose from several options.
Of course, it’s clear that, based on their presence at Microsoft’s launch event, that Adobe is thinking primarily in terms of higher-resolution displays.  I have no doubt that the 200% scaling works very well with the Surface Pro 3’s 2,160 x 1,440 resolution.
Stepping outside of the limitations with the Adobe product, I’ll mention again that Windows 8.1 could benefit from either more built-in gestures, or the ability to create custom gestures, as while using Photoshop CC 2014 with the UI scaled up I found myself wishing that there were an easy way to quickly clear some of the clutter that the enlarged UI brings with it, freeing up more screen real estate for the canvas.
There is a mechanism for that in Ps itself; hitting the Tab key will show/hide all tool palettes and menus, but that’s of little use if you’re using your Surface device in tablet mode without the keyboard cover attached.  Granted, you could invoke the on-screen keyboard, hit Tab, then close the keyboard, but that’s more effort than is necessary considering that they’re could be a gesture – say, a three-finger tap – that could serve to mimic hitting the Tab key.
Similarly, there could be gestures to perform other commands, such as Copy and Paste, Undo, and Redo.
Windows does have a feature called “Flicks,” which allow you to perform navigation and editing tasks via pen (not touch) gestures, but so far I’ve found them to be rather inadequate for use in any sort of drawing or image-editing software.
On a positive side, palm rejection works extremely well in Ps, primarily because Ps won’t allow you to use anything bout the pen (or mouse) for drawing and editing tasks on the canvas, at least, not that I’ve found.  So, unlike MS (or Sketchbook Express/Pro) there’s never a danger of errant lines showing up on your work should the built-in palm rejection experience any sort of hiccup, or should you place your palm on the canvas while the pen is too far from the screen to register.
Overall, it’s a positive step from Adobe, and I’m willing to cut them a lot of slack given that the touch support it still labeled “experimental.”
There have been some other enhancements to Photoshop as part of the update, but so far I haven’t really managed to delve into them, as the support for touch was the one that I was most interested in trying.

1 comment:

Merlin T Wizard said...

You just want to user Tony-Stark-level gestures. Technological leaps required to do it aside, I was always amazed at how responsive and interpretive his UIs were. Imagine how long it would take to program something like that.