I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: When I started using an iPad Pro as my primary work computer in 2015, a colleague in our art department admired it and asked if it could run Photoshop. “Not the full-blown version,” I started to explain. “Then I can’t use it,” she said, already having lost interest.
Sometime next year, she–and others who use Photoshop to its fullest–should take another look at the iPad Pro. As reported earlier this year by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Nico Grant, Adobe is using its MAX conference, which kicks off today in Los Angeles, to provide a sneak peek at the first truly industrial-strength version of Photoshop for the iPad. Judging from a preview the company gave to the press, it looks impressive, with the sort of deep support for image tweaking and layers that have always defined Photoshop on Macs and Windows PCs. It also uses Sensei–Adobe’s umbrella term for the AI it’s building into its products–to do things such as automatically and instantly perform the sort of masking of an image that used to take hours of manual labor.
Rather than squeeze the classic Photoshop interface onto a tablet, this iPad version is a streamlined, touch-centric experience. Given that Photoshop’s interface has always been an albatross rather than an asset, that may well turn out to be an improvement.
In related news, Adobe is also previewing “Project Gemini,” a drawing app for iPad and other platforms. Also due in 2019, it works with Photoshop PSD files and supports both bitmapped and vector imagery, but is tuned for sketching with tools such as Apple’s Pencil.
I can’t wait to get my hands on these new apps, and I’m struck by the circuitous route Adobe took to get to them. Years ago, it offered an iPad (and iPhone) app called Photoshop Touch that never entered the same zip code as full-fledged Photoshop when it came to sophistication. In 2015, it declared that people didn’t want a kitchen-sink Photoshop on the iPad and concentrated on introducing “atomized” Photoshop apps for specific tasks such as masking. Now it’s come back to the kitchen-sink approach, but with something far more ambitious than Photoshop Touch ever was.
The world changed around Adobe as it was bobbing and weaving–the iPad Pro, which was built to run this new version of Photoshop, didn’t even exist until late 2015–but I really hope the company is done changing its mind about what its signature app should be on Apple’s tablet. If this new version lives up to its potential, it could be one of the most important iPad Pro apps released to date.