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Microsoft and Adobe team up to make Photoshop way better for touchscreens

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Illustrator gets major new touch features too

Photoshop isn't the easiest app to use on a touchscreen, but Adobe is quickly beginning to change that. It officially began supporting touch gestures on Windows 8 today — including the ability to zoom, pan, and rotate — after starting to publicly test them early this year. But more important for the long run, Adobe is working on some interface changes that'll make the app designed for use with touch, rather than having touch support grafted onto it.

Adobe teased the first of those changes today by demonstrating an upcoming feature called Playground. It's a new, minimalist view inside of Photoshop that lets you scrub through all of the different layers in your file just by swiping your finger across it. Layers can even be picked up and moved around in this view. "When we started to explore touch, we knew that we would have to radically shift the user interface," Adobe's presenter said at an event in Los Angeles.

Adobe and Microsoft demonstrate a new Photoshop mode designed for touch

Touch features are coming to Illustrator today too, and the experience there is already much more powerful. Adobe and Microsoft even put together a video (top) showing what that looks like. "See what happens when you pull off the keyboard," Surface chief Panos Panay writes in a blog post. "There is a transformational new experience here." It's not too dissimilar to the work Microsoft is doing in Windows 10 for touch.

These changes aren't coming straight from Adobe though: they're part of what it says is a growing partnership with Microsoft. "There is renewed energy in terms of the partnership," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said while onstage at the event. What Adobe is beginning to do for the Surface Pro 3 — and Windows 8 tablets in general — is tailoring the experience in a highly specific way, much like you might see apps do for the iPad. This is where Microsoft's strength in supporting touchscreen desktop apps comes in: Adobe can still offer the full version of Photoshop, and it can enable what are often quite useful interactions through the new hardware.

Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen spoke to a strong partnership between their companies, though they did so in vague terms for now. Both Adobe and Microsoft are putting strong focuses on cloud services, and their hardware and software complement each other in obvious and growing ways. Microsoft is even giving all Adobe Max attendees a free Surface Pro 3, highlighting a particularly close partnership. Ultimately, Nadella says that what the two companies demonstrated today is just meant to "get the journey started in terms of what the next-generation of hardware / software combination can be."