Adobe Comp CC review: Adobe's mobile design strategy finds its center

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The Good Fast and fluid to use, Adobe Comp CC is a useful tool for experimenting and iterating layouts with assets generated from other Adobe apps.

The Bad It's missing some capabilities that would make it even more useful, such as a view for comparing different iterations side by side.

The Bottom Line Adobe Comp CC is a great mobile tool for designers immersed in the Creative Cloud ecosystem who want to prototype layouts on an iPad.

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8.0 Overall

I've missed Adobe Proto. One of the few useful apps Adobe released while it was still trying to figure out how to integrate desktop and mobile design, Proto provided guides and placeholder objects for mocking up Web designs. Comp CC does that for general projects, but more powerfully than Proto, thanks to four years of advancements in the technology.

Demoed last October as Project LayUp, Comp CC works in conjunction with the synced libraries feature to let you prototype designs using your own assets, which you can then upload as work-ready files to Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.

As the "CC" in the name implies, you need to subscribe to a Creative Cloud account to use it (US, UK and Australian prices and more details are available at those links). You can get it with the free subscription, however.

How it works

When you launch the app, you hit the "+" on the left to start a new Comp, and you're presented with a variety of Web, phone, tablet and print page-size presets. You can also specify custom sizes. Thankfully, you can always change the page size and aspect ratio afterwards.

Comp is based on the theory that you want to start as if the blank page is a napkin, using gestures to scribble predefined object types that are subsequently replaced with text and objects. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

You can start in one of two ways. If you prefer scribbling, you can use the built-in gestures to automatically generate predefined objects -- basic geometry and text objects, including image placeholders. Alternatively, you can just go to a view that lets you add all those objects as objects. Tapping the icon on the left jumps you between these two modes.

Options for inserting and formatting content include grabbing images from your device; buying assets from Adobe's Creative Cloud Market; Typekit fonts with automatic lorem ipsum; using colors and themes created via Adobe Color; incorporating selected types of media from among your Creative Cloud files; and using color themes, graphics and text styles (Typekit only!) that you've already added to libraries from within Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.

The interface for doing all this is fairly straightforward and similar to other Adobe apps. You can change size, color and opacity for everything; you can change typeface, letter- and line-spacing for text with paragraph alignment; and you can switch to underline and all caps with a single click. A slider controls the stacking order of the layers.

Rather than providing guides or grids, Adobe chose to use smart snapping and context-sensitive guides. While they work efficiently, I like a grid as well and that's on the product roadmap, according to the company. Resizing objects snap to the original aspect ratio (if you want) as well as 1:1, which are indicated with a dotted diagonal. Crop options are rectangular, circular (mask) and rounded rectangle. A copy option lets you apply colors or text styles to other elements.

A three-fingered scroll scrubs you back and forth through the history of changes, and the usual two-fingered left or right swipe handles undo and redo.

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