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Adobe's got Photoshop running in Chrome

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Here's how it works

Using Photoshop usually requires lugging a typically cumbersome, expensive computer around, and changing that experience has been the dream of many creatives for years. As we found out back in September, it's a problem that Adobe has been actively working with Google to solve. The two companies have been working together for almost two years to bring Photoshop to the browser, and they finally have a working version called Photoshop Streaming that they're letting educational institutions apply to test over the next six months. Yesterday, I got a look at it in action when Adobe's director of engineering, Kirk Gould, remotely ran me through a brief demo of the program.

Adobe will test it for about six months in the education sector

The way it works is pretty simple. The application is downloaded via the Chrome Web Store, and when you open it up you're actually connecting to a server which is running the desktop version of Photoshop CC 2014. The UI of the desktop version is captured as a video and sent to your browser, where javascript relays your actions back to the server, completing the interactive loop. It's not much different from how a virtual machine setup works, but it means that the application could be run in the browser on any computer — even on Chromebooks. Adobe essentially wants to let you stream a pound-for-pound copy of Photoshop, and Gould said the company is about 90-percent there.

Adobe Photoshop Chrome

It does, however, have its limits. Right now, Photoshop Streaming works exclusively with files hosted on Google Drive, but Gould said Adobe hopes to add the ability to work with other cloud storage services down the road. There are core functions that don't work in the program at the moment, such as printing, or processes that require a GPU like Photoshop's 3D functions. Otherwise, everything from making layer masks to using the Camera Raw editor works, though it was difficult to judge the amount of lag over the screen sharing software. Gould was able to quickly open a 30mb PSD file and make some quick edits to it.

Adobe will use the trial period to build out functionality and troubleshoot the overall experience from the feedback it gets. Many educational institutions are full of people working with low-end hardware — which is what Adobe wants to optimize the program for. Gould says that once Adobe feels comfortable with the experience it will open up the trial to a broader audience and — someday — a commercial release.