Adobe introduces Comp, its latest mobile app for iPad. The new app lets people sketch out layouts with images and type and sync or share them for further work. So far, it’s iPad only.
It has been kind of quiet on Adobe’s mobile front lately, but the company wants you to know mobile is critically important to Adobe’s vision for its creative tribes and there’s work going on in the labs at Adobe to expand the number of applications available. As a matter of fact, the latest member of the family has just arrived and it’s Adobe Comp. This new app joins: Illustrator Draw, Illustrator Line, Photoshop Sketch, Premiere Clip, Photoshop Mix, Shape CC, Brush CC, Color CC, and Lightroom mobile (for iPhone, iPad, and Android). With this new app, Adobe seems to continue its preference for an ecosystem built around the iPad for mobile.
Comp is dead simple; it was born that way. The app is designed to let people sketch out a layout for content such as a web page, an app interface, a brochure, whatever, with very little coming between the idea and the sketch. As Adobe Product Manager Will Eisley says, designers still sketch and then when they’re happy they have to do it all over again in an application. He says Comp was developed to be like grabbing a pencil and paper and sketching out an idea on a napkin except that you can take it further with type styles, color palettes, and images from your synced Adobe assets. And, once you’ve got something you’re happy with, you can take sync it back to InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop for further work and maybe more collaboration. Eisley says this is the first mobile app to link with Adobe Typekit so you can have access to all your Typekit fonts in Comp on the iPad.
In practice all this is swell and it works reasonably well but Adobe has a lot of faith in the syncing ability of its apps and the willingness of users to keep all those plates spinning in the air. In practice, it can be difficult to find all those supposedly sync’d assets. At least that’s the case over here within the farflung GraphicSpeak empire where we can never find anything. If content is sync’d, assets could be living in at least three or four syncing buckets. And Adobe itself has a few buckets such as folders in the Creative Cloud, work on Behance, photos in Lightroom Mobile, etc.
I also found that the promise of sync’d fonts was a teensy bit hollow. I managed to get one or two fonts to come along with coaxing, but it’s hardly immediate. Certainly, the rational response to this is to say to hell with it and fix it all after it syncs on the desktop. Luckily the process of syncing back to desktop apps is efficient. Just select the target application, Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop, and boom up it comes on the desktop.
This is an absolute first look, but what it looked like to me was that you’re going to want to have Comp set up with favourite fonts, and your commonly used assets ready in Creative Cloud, so everything is there for your sort-of spontaneous sketching. In other words, with use, you’ll get it working like you want it, and with upgrades Adobe will get it working more smoothly.
The tribes of Adobe
There are different constituencies at Adobe and so the lovely little apps that are popping up may be for the iPad or they may be for Android and now we’re seeing some touch apps for Windows. At the very least, it would be good if the company would have a policy of porting all the apps to all mobile platforms. Executives don’t say no, but they don’t enthusiastically promise ports either. The usual response is along the lines of “we’re looking in to that.”
I like Comp and I’m glad to have it. It’s the sort of tool I actually need but I also wish Adobe would work a little harder on improving the apps they have already released as well.
So let’s talk about Windows for a second. With the new Windows Surface Pro coming out there is a tablet that can do everything a PC can do and it has a nice, supported pen input. There are going to be quite a few people who feel they don’t really need to carry a PC and a tablet. Adobe has worked with Microsoft to improve Photoshop and Illustrator on Windows touch apps, so that’s another constituency. There could be a Comp on Windows 8 and you already would have your fonts and assets available because it would be your desktop.
Adobe has devoted most of its efforts so far in mobile on the iPad and they are serving a broad range of artists with that strategy but their end-to-end ambitions would be more effective with broader coverage of the possible platforms.