On the Upcoming Photoshop for iPad

Mark Gurman and Nico Grant, reporting for Bloomberg, “Photoshop for iPad Nearing Launch With Some Key Features Missing”:1

“Feature-wise, it feels like a beefed-up cloud-based version of their existing iPad apps and not ‘real Photoshop’ as advertised,” said someone beta-testing the software, who declined to be named talking about an unreleased app. “I understand it is based on desktop Photoshop code, but it doesn’t feel like it right now.” Other testers have called the app “rudimentary” and said, in its current state, it is inferior to other apps like Procreate and Affinity on the iPad.

Scott Belsky, chief product officer of Adobe’s Creative Cloud division, granted Bloomberg an interview for the story, and it’s worth reading.

From what I gather, the mistake Adobe made was not precisely setting expectations for the initial release of Photoshop for iPad. When Adobe described it as “real” Photoshop, what a lot of people heard was “full” Photoshop, and that was never the plan. Some of this expectation-setting is attributable to Bloomberg, which described the project as “the full version of its Photoshop app” as far back as July last year.

Photoshop for iPad is real because it is using the same code base that’s been running on the desktop for decades. That’s an amazing technical accomplishment. Photoshop for iPad is not full — and the initial release was never planned to be — because it only exposes a subset of features from the desktop version.

But because Photoshop for iPad is built on the real Photoshop core, on day one it will provide complete roundtrip compatibility with PSD files exchanged with the desktop versions of Photoshop. It also means that as Adobe begins adding features to the iPad app after version 1, almost all of the work to be done is about designing and implementing the UI, because the core rendering and functionality is already there. I’m not suggesting that UI work is easy or quick (it’s neither), but the biggest and most important work getting Photoshop for iPad out the door is at the foundational level. It’s a foundation meant to last for a decade or more.

What I’ve heard, from multiple reliable sources, is that Adobe is genuinely all-in on Photoshop for iPad. They view it as a serious, top-shelf project for creative professionals. The team of engineers working on it has grown significantly from a year ago, and they have plans to add features iteratively on an aggressive schedule. It’s reasonable to be disappointed that it isn’t further along feature-count-wise, but anyone who cares about Photoshop for iPad as a long-term product should be very excited about its foundation, direction, and the attention Adobe is paying to the fine details of a touch-first Photoshop UI.

Photoshop for iPad is not a “port” (like Photoshop for Windows was, back in the day). It’s a rethinking of the app for modern UI surfaces.