Adobe have used their annual Adobe MAX conference to announce a raft of new features for Creative Cloud users, which we can expect to join the Adobe lineup between now and the end of the year. The new improvements are designed to make it easier for creatives to deal with the new challenges presented by virtual and augmented reality, and the rise in demand for 3D content.
Adobe's latest updates are designed to promote collaboration, mobility, a 'cloud first' philosophy (in which work lives primarily in the cloud and is then edited on various devices but not housed on them), and machine learning, which constitutes extending the kind of intelligent technology that powers Photoshop's Context Aware tools into other apps.
Coming soon: Project Felix
Felix is intended to allow graphic designers to combine 2D and 3D assets to create their images without having to familiarise themselves with more complicated applications like After Effects.
The beta is going to be opened to paid Creative Cloud for teams members at the end of the year. Once you're on board, you'll be able to use Project Felix to develop photorealistic 3D images using a workflow that's specifically designed for people who aren't experienced 3D content creators.
Key features announced as part of the beta include a free library of models, materials and lights to help you get started straight away, realtime rendering so that you can view updates as you design, and machine learning features that include auto lighting and auto horizon positioning tools.
Based on user feedback so far, Adobe are already working to improve interoperability with Photoshop and Illustrator, make label/decal application easier, add GPU rendering support and more, so it's well worth keeping an eye out for the start of the beta.
Now in beta: Adobe Experience Design CC
The Experience Design (XD) beta continues apace, with over 50 features added since March. The app is designed to improve teamwork among workgroups who are prototyping apps and mobile content, and allows you to build and share prototypes, then collaborate and feed back on them in realtime. Adobe say it's now ready for everyday use on computers that are running macOS, so if you've been holding off on downloading XD until it became more stable, now's the time to get involved.
Major new additions include the arrival of Layers, a slightly modified version of the layers you know from Photoshop et al that makes it easier to navigate between artboards and work with elements on each. The idea is that Layers will speed up your XD workflow by allowing you to focus on just the elements you want to modify (the Layers panel contextually displays only the layers for the artboard that you select).
To navigate to the artboard you need, just double-click its icon and XD will automatically pan and zoom to that artboard, fitting it into the application window. Double-clicking on groups allows you to explore and navigate to nested elements. You can also reorder, rename, show/hide, export, make symbols and lock/unlock layers quickly and easily.
Another addition is Symbols, aka objects that you use throughout your design, and which are all dynamically updated if you edit once instance. All you need to do to create a Symbol is hit Cmd+K. For ease of organisation, all your Symbols are stored in their own library, and you can drag and drop them from there into your prototype.
Once everything is added, your peers will be able to comment on it in realtime, and preview changes on different devices as they are made.
The XD beta is currently available on macOS, iOS and Android platforms, with Windows 10 compatibility coming soon.
What's new in... desktop design apps
The biggest overall change is to your in-app searching capabilities. The new Universal Search in Photoshop not only lets you search all panels, menus, libraries and assets from a single pane (great for finding a command you've forgotten the location of), but includes a Visual Search component.
A bit like Google Images, Visual Search allows you to find an image that's almost right in a library or Adobe Stock, and then search specifically for images that are similar to that one. In a nice additional touch, you can add text descriptors to the image you've searched, so if we were to have found a particularly noble picture of our mascot, the zebra, but wanted it to be standing against a setting sun, we could search "[selected image] + sunset" to see pictures that feature similar zebras against the sunset, or ask for a zebra with water in the foreground and mountains behind. This will also work when searching for textures and shadows to add to 3D objects.
Both Photoshop and Illustrator are now going to include template libraries to help new users (or experienced users who are short on time) to get started on common document types. Additional templates will be available in Adobe Stock, and should you download one that you don't have the right fonts for, Typekit will automatically source and download them for you.
Photoshop also benefits from tighter SVG integration, an enhanced Properties Panel, and support for SVG fonts.
As well as templates, Illustrator is poised to receive font, text and glyph enhancements as a result of Adobe answering 81 common user requests in this update.
Dreamweaver is going to get a new, streamlined interface with a fast, flexible coding engine, but we haven't managed to get a peek yet we'll let you know more when we do.
What's new in... video apps
The emphasis here is on preparing video and animation workflows for the influx of 3D and virtual/augmented reality projects that are expected to hit the pipeline as everyone attempts to develop the next Pokemon Go.
A new 3D rendering engine in After Effects allows for the creation of extruded text and shape layers, and handles CPU rendering of 3D elements up to 20 times faster than the current version.
As part of their push to integrate more machine learning elements into Creative Cloud, Premiere Pro is getting a new auto-aware virtual reality feature that auto detects the kind of content you're creating, and a new Social Publishing Panel (released in beta at MAX) will optimise the publishing of content you create in Premiere Pro across multiple social channels, so you achieve maximum impact.
There were two other key beta trials launched at Adobe MAX: Team Projects and Character Animator. Character Animator is designed to improve the connection between Photoshop, Illustrator and video apps to speed up puppet creation and animation you might have seen it in action during The Simpsons' live episode or when a cartoon version of Donald Trump appeared on the The Late Show. By mapping characters' movement patterns onto an actor's features, Character Animator lets you see your animated creations walk and talk in realtime.
Team Projects allows Creative Cloud for teams and Creative Cloud for enterprise members to co-edit video files simultaneously in Premiere Pro, After Effects and Prelude, so multiple users can be working on the same frame at the same time, but all accessing it from different machines.
What's new in... mobile apps
The big news is that Photoshop Sketch, Comp and Photoshop Fix are now going to be available on Android. There have also been a number of workflow improvements, including automatic creation of mockups, universal copy/paste within and across documents (hooray!) and enhanced font support in Comp.
Photoshop Brush is also going to be supported in Sketch, and both Sketch and Draw are going to gain new layer blend modes.