Adobe Copies, Innovates and Drags Its Heels Simultaneously

7 October 2015 #Thoughts

I’ve been using Adobe software long enough to remember when they weren’t the enemy. Quark was for their overpriced, under featured and infrequently updated but all conquering QuarkXPress product.

Along came Adobe with InDesign. An upstart of a product from an established developer. I started with InDesign 2, released in 2002 (The latest release InDesign CC2015 is version 11). It was incredibly slow and kinda buggy but it offered so many more functions than QuarkXPress. Most impressive of all was a functioning ‘Undo’ command.

Of course InDesign wasn’t Adobe’s first product but it was a major one which disrupted a market leader and fitted in nicely alongside their Photoshop and Illustrator programs.

Over time though they gained a monopoly on desktop publishing software. Having killed Quark they irritated many users by continuing to release updates that slowed performance while adding few features. The good guy either became bad or just lazy (or both).

I have been an Adobe CC subscriber since it became a subscription platform so I have no issues with their decision to switch away from the purchasing model. But that subscription contains access to a suite of Applications far wider than I personally need.

On a daily basis I use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. They’re all mature software tools; but I don’t love using any of them. They’re utilitarian and staid. Functional without being exciting. From a different era that has no buzz.

If you’ll pardon me for mixing metaphors, Adobe is now an 800 pound gorilla that seems to throw new software at a wall to see what will stick. With good reason too. The empire is being threatened by upstarts that are creating new programs to deal with new design problems. All while Adobe dragged its heels.

There’s more software tools in my Adobe CC subscription than I know what to do with. Installing them is such a drawn out process that I don’t want to grab any of them just to ‘tinker’. Contrast this to a tool like Sketch which I bought on a lark, downloaded in minutes and was using right away.

This week they’ve unveiled Project Comet. If you want to use shorthand it’s easy to say Adobe just released their version of Sketch. But it seemingly does a little more than that. It’s both an interface design — and experience design — tool.

It seems clear that there are parts of Adobe that are free of the years of baggage that is attached to programs like Photoshop. They get to work on great stuff like this.

But there’s either an outdated attitude or an inability to be agile that lingers throughout the company. Present in decisions like not making the Adobe MAX keynote available to watch unless you’ve got Flash installed.

Must install Flash




It would be really neat if Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator could get the ‘Project Comet’ treatment and be re-done from the top. There’s an emphasis on software tools now to be lightweight, high performance and extendable that just isn’t present in these programs. You couldn’t call them ‘outdated’ because they still achieve the function they were built to do, but they certainly feel that way.

I understand that’s an incredibly easy thing to want and an almost impossibly difficult thing to do but I can dream can’t I?

Adobe is in an curious spot now as a company that simultaneously innovates on its own, copies other software and drags its heels in strange ways.