Replacing Adobe Touch Apps
Wait. Adobe’s Touch Apps Are Dead? Why Didn’t I Hear About This?
Over the holidays Adobe quietly killed the majority of mobile creative professional products in its Adobe Touch Apps line. If you haven’t heard about it until now, well, that’s no surprise. The announcement was whispered in a corner after most of us had gone home.
On December 20th Adobe Proto, Adobe Collage, Adobe Debut, and the Android versions of Adobe Ideas and Adobe Kuler (there never was an iOS version of Kuler), were silently removed from the iOS App Store and the Google Play App Store, as well as from the applications list on CreativeCloud.com, the site from which Creative Cloud subscribers learn about and access their Adobe products. The only notice Adobe gave about the termination, or “End of Life” (“EOL”), of the Touch Apps was a short post to the Creative Cloud Team’s blog, again, on December 20th, the Friday before Christmas and the last day of work before all of Adobe shut down for its two-week holiday break.
Almost no one knew about the EOL of the Touch Apps because of the manner of the announcement until yours truly wrote “An Open Letter to Adobe about the Premature End of Adobe Touch Apps.” That letter broke the news to the general creative community and sparked a critical discussion among Adobe customers, Adobe partners, and internally to Adobe as well. Adobe publicly responded (sort of) in an addendum to the original blog post, social media exploded into discourse, and other Adobe partners and evangelists blogged (and podcasted) in support of the points raised in my letter and subsequent discussions.
Public and private talks continue, circling around two overarching points: the fact of the Adobe Touch Apps being terminated after so short a time on the market and the more serious issue of the lack of communication from Adobe regarding the Touch Apps EOL.
CreativePro.com will leave it to Adobe and its community of partners to figure out the second point. Instead, we want to help the consumers of Adobe Touch Apps, those designers (and Adobe partners) who, with arms raised and open, stare exasperatedly in the direction of Adobe HQ asking: now what?
What’s Dead? What’s Alive? What Did The Apps Do?
The good news is that nearly all the functionality of the Adobe Touch Apps—those discontinued as well as those still alive—can be found in other mobile apps. Before we get into the actual replacements, however, we need to define exactly which apps we’re talking about.
Adobe makes a number of apps and technologies for mobile devices in a few product lines. Some, like Adobe Content Viewer, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Edge Inspect are merely viewing or proofing tools for other Adobe technologies and desktop-based products. These are all still alive.
Then there are the Photoshop companions, iOS mobile apps that, while they may have some utility apart from Photoshop itself, are built specifically to augment the use of Photoshop CS5 on the desktop. Whether these are still usable with Photoshop CS6 I don’t know; I haven’t found a reason to try, and the App Store descriptions only reference CS5. The Photoshop mobile companions are:
In the Adobe Touch Apps product line are the apps that were terminated as well as two that were not. Although platform parity was Adobe’s goal for the Touch Apps, making the same products available on iOS and Android, some apps began on Android and never made it to iOS, and vice versa, while the oldest Touch App, Adobe Ideas, which enjoyed two years on Android and only arrived on iPad and iPhone in 2012, has been discontinued for the Android platform but remains for the moment on iOS. The Adobe Touch Apps line is (was?) as of this writing the following apps. Note that the links for discontinued apps will take you to their Adobe.com product pages as they existed on December 8th, 2012, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
Except as noted above, the Adobe Touch Apps are dead. If you already own them, you can keep them. Adobe will not, however, release any updates or fixes to them. Thus, it’s very possible that any future operating system update from Apple or Google could cause the Touch Apps to stop working. If you relied on the integration between the Touch Apps and desktop applications—for instance, Adobe Proto’s connection to Dreamweaver—that integration may die even sooner because, if the Touch Apps are dead, Adobe isn’t likely to include the connection code in future updates to the desktop applications.
If you hadn’t yet purchased the Touch Apps, which averaged $9.99, but were planning to, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Adobe didn’t just stop updating and developing them, it pulled the apps from the markets so that no one new could get ahold of them. For those who already owned them, that makes the Adobe Touch Apps something of a digital collector’s item, not that anyone expects you to seal your iPad in a display case.
Enough about what we’ve lost. Let’s look at how to replace those discontinued apps. Heck, let’s look at alternatives for all the Adobe Touch Apps, even the ones that are still alive for now.
Replacing Photoshop Touch
Photoshop Touch is still available for sale on both iOS and Android for $9.99. It’s a great mobile image editor, but it’s not the only great image editor. In fact, other apps boast even more functionality while mirroring or exceeding Photoshop Touch’s killer features, features like PSD native support for use in the desktop Photoshop, multiple layers, adjustment layers, and more. What follows are my recommendations as Photoshop Touch replacements. If you disagree with my choices, there are plenty of other options for all mobile platforms.
iPad: Filterstorm Pro ($14.99)
Replacing Adobe Ideas
Although discontinued on Android, Adobe Ideas ($9.99) is still available for iOS. Even if iPad or iPhone is the platform on which you want vector drawing, take a look at the iOS alternative. Adobe Ideas is a great first-generation mobile drawing application, but it’s not the most advanced, most powerful, or most intuitive currently available. I’m quite excited to see how it evolves in future versions—which is why I plunked down my ten bucks. For now, Paper and SketchBook Pro offer glimpses into what could be the future of Adobe Ideas.
If freeform painting and drawing is more important to you, you can’t beat FiftyThree’s Paper (iOS Only), 2012 App of the Year. However, if you need a fully vector mobile drawing app with Illustrator- and Photoshop-support and more power and features than many desktop applications, take a look at AutoDesk’s SketchBook Pro. Be sure to also look at AutoDesk’s other drawing products like the free, lighter versions SketchBook Express and SketchBook Mobile, and SketchBook Ink, a pen & ink-inspired line art painting app.
Android: SketchBook Pro for Tablets ($4.99)
(Not) Replacing Adobe Debut
The idea behind Adobe Debut was that designers would save their native documents to folders synched into the cloud with Adobe’s Creative Cloud Files service, then present those designs via Adobe Debut running on in iPad to clients. Then designers (or their clients) would use Adobe Debut’s basic drawing tools to markup designs on a layer atop the native files. Aside from the same factors that limited the other Adobe Touch Apps’ adoption, Adobe Debut also suffered futility because the file synching component of Creative Cloud, which enabled native Creative Suite file to be transmitted to Adobe Debut, didn’t appear in the Fall of 2012, just a few months before the EOL of the Touch Apps. Even when the file synching component did appear, Adobe only offered 2 GB of file storage space—an amount easily exceeded by only a few Photoshop or Illustrator files or by a single InDesign document with its linked assets. Ultimately, Adobe Debut, while a good idea, never stood a chance. It only functioned for a few of months, and then only while cut off at the knees.
Creatives still need a way to present designs to clients during meetings. The tried-and-true ways involve laptops—an increasingly clunky and out-of-fashion option—or by exporting designs to PDF and showing PDFs on a tablet—something that natively allows markup but requires prior planning and extra steps. Alas, there aren’t any direct replacements to Adobe Debut. None of the other apps on iOS or Android, at the time of this writing, display native Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop documents—well, there are many photo editors that will open PSDs, but none that do all three. Marking up is easily accomplished with a handful of PDF or image editors, and could be the way to go if you save all your Illustrator files in PDF form already or work exclusively with raster images. Users of InDesign will be forced to export to PDF, which means that, in a meeting, there will be no spontaneous tablet demo and markup of a layout that hadn’t been previously exported.
Replacing Adobe Collage
Adobe Collage offered a convenient way to build inspirational or project moodboards or collections of images, text, drawings, videos, Web clippings, and Google and Flickr images. Moodboards are a staple of fashion design, but are also used by creatives in a multitude of disciplines. Once created a moodboard could be synced to Creative Cloud for sharing or access on other devices. Like Adobe Debut, Adobe Collage was neutered by the late release of the desktop Creative Cloud Files synchronization component and the small storage space allotment.
Replacing Adobe Collage isn’t difficult—it need not even involve an app! Content collection and moodboard or collage creation Web services abound. Although you’d need to create original drawings in another app (perhaps one of the replacements for Adobe Ideas), those images as well as everything else Adobe Collage was able to clip and compile can be just as easily saved with any modern "curation" Web service such as Jux, PearlTrees, FFFFound, Clipboard, or Evernote. If it’s the ability to actually manipulate and arrange the items in the moodboard or collage that appeals you, those Web services won’t help; you’ll need to get one of the many available iOS or Android apps. Below are two such apps that offer almost feature-for-feature replacement of Adobe Debut.
iPad: Moodboard ($9.99)
iPad: Pic Collage (Free)
Android: Handy Note ($0.99)
Replacing Adobe Proto
Of the discontinued Adobe Touch Apps, the greatest public outcry has been about Adobe Proto. It found early integration into the workflows of Web and mobile UI designers who are themselves typically early adopters of tablets. Fortunately, there are replacements for Adobe Proto available. While no other wireframing app offers direct Dreamweaver integration, that may not be a bad thing; many designers felt excluded from Adobe Proto because of its restriction to Dreamweaver. The apps I recommend below save in the more widely used Balsamic BMML prototyping file format, which can then be exported to HTML or XML code that may be used in Dreamweaver or any code editor.
iPad: iMockups ($6.99)
Android: Mockups.me Wireframes ($19.99)
Replacing Adobe Kuler
The Adobe Kuler app was just a way to get the Flash-based Kuler Web service onto iOS. Kuler (the Web service) is a community-driven swatch and palette creation system with the social features of sharing and favoriting. Adobe Kuler (the app) focused a little less on social interaction, making it more appealing to many than the Kuler Web service. Using sliders in several different color models as well as a touch-based color wheel Adobe Kuler enabled creatives to quickly select and refine colors in a five-swatch palette. That palette could then be shared or saved in Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) format for use in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Fireworks, or Dreamweaver on the desktop.
Of all the defunct Adobe Touch Apps Adobe Kuler is the easiest to replace. Even the ability to create color palettes in ASE and Adobe Color File (ACO) formats is available in competing applications, most of which can also match another killer Adobe Kuler feature: sampling colors directly from a photograph. Iro is my top recommendation iOS replacement for Adobe Kuler, but Palettes and Onyx are also excellent iOS apps, though Onyx lacks the ability to sample colors from a photo.
iPad: Onyx ($0.99)
iPad: Palettes ($3.99)
Android: Real Colors Pro ($3.99)
Android: SwatchMaticPRO ($0.99)
And there you have it, viable replacements for all the Adobe Touch Apps (except Adobe Debut). Which is your favorite? Know of a good Adobe Debut replacement? Tell us in the comments below.