While Adobe first announced its Touch Apps suite at MAX 2011 earlier this year, the Android version of the apps are finally rolling out today. Each app retails for $9.99, requires Android 3.1 or later, and at least an 8.9-inch screen. And no, it won't run on the Kindle Fire. The iOS versions of the apps, aside from the currently available Adobe Ideas, are slated to land in the first quarter of 2012. We got some hands-on time with the apps recently, and tried out Adobe's tablet-focused version of Photoshop, Kuler, and more. Are the Touch Apps the ultimate creative Android suite? Read on!
Adobe Ideas is first up to get Android compatibility. Straightforward in function, it works as a vector-based sketchpad, offering some color and pen sizes, multiple undo, and the ability to use different layers and pinch to zoom for detail work. It's simple in concept, but elegant in execution, and it's actually our favorite of the bunch. It takes advantage of the tablet experience, and isn't constrained by trying to adapt desktop concepts onto a touch-device.
Adobe claims Photoshop Touch is the "essence of Photoshop compositing," and not Photoshop proper. Regular users of the desktop app will recognize some of the basic UI ideas in tablet form, but it's a far cry from CS5. Where Photoshop is known for its non-destructive editing, Photoshop Touch edits affect the original image file, so you'll need to be careful with major edits. You'll find other limits as well: a max 1600x1600 pixel image size, a maximum of 16 layers, import support only for JPG and PNG files, and the app exports source files in the proprietary PSDX format (only compatible with CS5 on the desktop). Yes, you can export JPG files, but you won't be able to send full-res PSD files to users of CS3 or 4. On the plus side, Photoshop packs a set of built-in fonts. In the coming months, following Adobe's recent purchase of TypeKit, Photoshop Touch will get access to fonts streaming from Adobe's servers. Unfortunately, when you save your files and re-open on the desktop, the fonts will be rasterized, not live text.
The Kuler app, long popular on the web for building and adjusting color palettes, lets you create and save color swatches, but isn't well integrated into the rest of the Touch App family. While you can create color mixes, source Kuler combinations from photographs, or browse user creations, there's no clear use case for the app. Kuler's always been most useful used in tandem with other apps and services, and it loses much of its appeal as a stand-alone app.
Proto, Adobe's wireframing tool, is built primarily for quickly sketching up functional designs. The app lets you draw out grids, buttons, link, text, and even additional pages, which can be saved as a clickable, interactive WebKit preview. Adobe integrated some interesting gestures, so drawing a triangle drops a video onto the page, a rectangle will snap to the grid, x's create an image placeholder, and a squiggly line creates dummy text.
Rounding up the group are Collage and Debut. Collage is essentially a digital moodboard for working with images and text. While a tablet-based moodboard is an interesting idea in concept, the execution leaves a lot to be desired with iOS and Android's file management (more on that later). For note taking and presentation, Adobe's Debut lets users import PDFs, Illustrator, and Photoshop files, which can then be marked up, annotated, and presented.
The range of utility for each app ranges broadly, so, for example, the $9.99 price of Kuler seems a bit pricey for what's been a free web-based tool for years. With any of these app purchases, Adobe offers a free 20GB Creative Cloud account for syncing your files across devices, but it does essentially lock you into Adobe's file management system. Yes, many of these apps lets you grab photos saved on your Android device, Creative Cloud, your camera, Google Search or Facebook, but file management is mostly a frustrating experience on both iOS and Android. Modern tablets and phones are great for consuming content; many of the activities involving file transfer or editing are still clunky at best, and Adobe hasn't quite solved it either. Simply, you're not going to be grabbing colors, images, source files, or clips from the web Minority Report-style in these apps, which may be why the simplicity of Adobe Ideas makes it among the best of the batch.