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Adobe's open-source Generator turns Photoshop CC layers into assets

A new JavaScript-based platform provides code-level access to individual layers in a PSD file. Plus, some stability improvements and tool enhancements for Photoshop CC.

Though most folks think of Photoshop as a flexible image-editing program only, there's a lot going on under the hood. Now Adobe's exposing some of its PSD power with Adobe Generator, an open-source JavaScript-library-based platform (here it is!) for extending the integration between Photoshop CC and other applications to deliver real-time access to Photoshop-based assets. This means that any application talking to the Generator API can access and manipulate individual Photoshop layers and layer groups.

As a proof of concept, Adobe's delivering two plug-ins. The first automatically generates saved assets out of Photoshop based on layer names; for example, if you name the layer with a JPG extension, it autosaves as a JPEG file every time you update it. Using some prefixes and suffixes in the name, you can also set scaling and compression. The other plug-in connects with Adobe's Edge Reflow CSS designer, which provides live links to the assets you incorporate. It brings over all text as editable, uses relative positioning, and coverts shape layers to HTML/CSS. You enable Generator on a document-by-document basis, and that status is saved with the PSD file.

This is actually one of the more interesting non-imaging-related technological developments to come out of Adobe, and being open-source it should really gain some traction. Even in its initial release it has the potential to remove one of the biggest pain points for using Photoshop for mockups.

Every file is just a database of structured and unstructured information; every PSD file is essentially a visual database of text, images, and video. Generator has the potential to externally index and manipulate all the data within all your PSD files, for a true seamless, nonproprietary asset-management system. And it's quite likely that Adobe will be using the API itself (if it isn't already) to extend the layer manipulation of PSD files online in Create Cloud.

Of course, successfully using Generator will require carefully structured, hierarchically layered PSD files.

In addition to Generator, Adobe also rolls out a host of bug fixes and stability improvements, as well as some tool updates for Photoshop CC. These include 32-bit color support for 24 filters, new controls in the Color Range tool, support for more languages on Behance, read-only support for PSDX (Photoshop Touch) files, better selection controls for paths, and some isolation mode interface updates.

Generator support and these updates will roll out through Creative Cloud as version 14.1 of Photoshop CC. And in case you missed it last week, Adobe announced a Photoshop-plus-Lightroom CC subscription for $9.99 a month.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 11