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Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 drizzles Android apps, Photoshop artboards, photo dehazing and more

The company's annual rollout of big features and small tweaks includes some whizzy capabilities as usual, and finally, mobile apps for Android phones.

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Illustrator's useful artboards come to Photoshop Adobe

Although Creative Cloud gets rolling updates, Adobe still does "big" splashes at least once a year, as well as at its Adobe Max conference in October, folding in some of the features released in the months prior as "new."

I wasn't able to get access in advance to the updated apps and applications this year, so I'll follow up with some more evaluative comments once I finish downloading gigabytes of software and attempt to migrate my settings completely to the new versions. The enhancements to the video tools were announced at NAB in April, but the new versions have just become available with the rest of CC 2015; I'll update that story as well. And I'll be updating my Lightroom review with comments about the new dehaze filter -- it will be in Lightroom CC but not in Lightroom 6, at least for now -- plus the new curve, vignetting and color/black and white adjustment tools in the Lightroom mobile apps.

With many releases, Adobe includes "previews" of services or features. Adobe distinguishes previews, which it defines as "releasing publicly before they're 100 percent complete" from betas, which are "features that are complete but not fully tested." According to the company, "They give Creative Cloud members an opportunity to trial the functionality and give feedback to the development team who use it to further shape the development of the features."

I think this is hair-splitting, and a distinction that's more for Adobe's internal use than users'; if a feature is in a product, we don't differentiate expectations between fully baked and not-quite-baked. And even with fully out-of-the-oven features, users still provide feedback to the team which uses it to further shape the development of the features.

Creative Cloud-wide updates

  • CreativeSync.This isn't new: Adobe is just branding its underlying cloud technology.
  • Linked assets in libraries. Not all the applications even have library support yet -- Dreamweaver, for instance -- but Adobe's finally adding linked assets. Basically, if you make a change to an asset denoted as linked, it syncs the update in all the places it's embedded. Simple concept, but exceptionally important, especially if aspects of a project's design are farmed out to different people or teams.
  • Performance improvements. Adobe updated its Mercury Engine, delivering interface speed improvements in Illustrator and faster processing for Photoshop's healing-related tools (plus the previously announced improvements in the video applications.). I have to laugh, though; the performance claims use four-generations-old CS6 as its basis of comparison. I guess they're targeted at the CS6 holdouts.
  • Adobe Stock. The company morphs its Fotolia acquisition into a stock house with extra benefits for Creative Cloud subscribers. Stephen Shankland's all over this development.
  • New mobile apps and Android phone support. Though the new Hue app (formerly Project Candy) only works with the video applications, it plus Brush, Shape, Color and Photoshop Mix get Android phone versions. Huzzah! No Android tablets, though: Adobe says it hasn't really gotten a lot of requests for it. If you want your tablet apps, pop over to the forums and tell Adobe. There's also a new Adobe Preview CC app (iOS only) for previewing apps and mobile Web designs. Some of the apps got stability updates and new features, which I cover in Adobe's Creative Cloud mobile apps: What you need to know

Photoshop

The updates in this version cater mostly to Web and app designers, though there are some improvements to frequently used tools as well. It doesn't address some of my personal peeves, like the inability to sync the New Document presets, even though they all reside in a single directory. And Bridge doesn't get any updates with this release despite its creakiness -- it's now two generations behind -- though Adobe says we should stay tuned on that.

  • Artboards. If you've never used them in Illustrator, these are basically custom-defined areas in which you place content, providing the appearance of multiple pages on a single layer. In Illustrator, at least, they don't actually contain content; they're just bounding boxes for which the application understands to include assets within its borders for operations like printing, exporting and so on. For instance, it can print artboards individually, even though they all reside on the same layer. In Photoshop, Adobe has created a special layer type which it autocreates when you add an artboard and it keeps them in a subgroup on your layers palette. Depending on the implementation, they could be great or frustrating. They demo well, though.
  • Photoshop Design Space. This is an embedded Web browser workspace built using HTML5, CSS and Javascript that serves as a feature-reduced isolation mode for designing Web interfaces.
  • Export. Adobe says it's streamlined the export and asset-extraction options.
  • Filter updates. A new Dehaze filter within Adobe Camera Raw does exactly what it says; you can also add haze. In the blur gallery you can now add noise back to decrease the artificial-looking separation between the focused and blurred areas in a noisy image.
  • Content-aware move refinement. This tool, which allows you to move image selections and have it intelligently fill the empty spot, now lets you scale and rotate the selection before committing it to the new location. If you use the content-aware move a lot, this improvement is invaluable.

Illustrator

  • Autosave. Automatic document recovery after crash finally rolls out to Illustrator. 'Bout time.
  • New chart-creation interface. Another preview feature, the new Chart allows you to use your own chart types and designs in place of the presets. This sounds interesting for frequent chart creators, and hopefully will result in more real infographics as opposed to simply illustrations with numbers and charts, which actually makes it more difficult to decipher. (This is an epic infographic. Ironically, this is not.)
  • Zoom an order of magnitude more. No more 6,400 percent limit; now you can zoom to 64,000 percent.

InDesign

  • Place images in table cells. I'm not a big InDesign user, but I was surprised you couldn't do this already.
  • Publish online. Another "preview" feature, this lets you one-click publish an InDesign publication as what sounds like a standard HTML/CSS file to an Adobe-hosted URL.
  • Paragraph shading. Once again, I can't believe this feature didn't exist before. I hope it now does paragraph borders, too; Adobe didn't mention it.

Dreamweaver

  • Streamlined responsive design. This is literally what Adobe says about this feature: "Rapidly build and layout production-ready websites that dynamically adapt to fit various screen sizes, making responsive design a part of your everyday workflow." Describing these updates will have to wait until I see the software.
  • Device preview. Real-time preview and interaction of how the site will look in a mobile browser . It's not clear whether this is on-device, like Edge Inspect CC, or simulating in a desktop browser, or if it's using the new Adobe Preview app mentioned earlier.
  • PSD batch export. Its PSD extraction tool can now extract assets in multiple resolutions.
  • Code editing. Improved code completion, built-in validation and some mystery "site management".

Flash Pro

The HTML5 sprite-sheet export and timeline audio-splitting updates actually rolled out back in February. In this version, Adobe brings back a revamped version of the Bone tool (which connects symbols for inverse-kinematic motion) that was deprecated before Flash went CC and the ability to import H.2.64 video as a guide layer on the timeline.

Muse

  • TypeKit support. Actually, this is just Adobe finally adding Typekit fonts on this Web-design application's font menu.
  • Expanded widget selection. More add-ons for shopping carts, blog hosts and interface assets. In addition, it adds radio buttons and checkboxes as options for contact forms.

My take

Stay tuned.