as part of AIGA’s participation in an unconference room, i got to attend adobe max this year! it was a very interesting 3 days of sessions, presentations, exhibition floor walking, and poking around in the various lounges they set up for attendee enjoyment!
when i found out i’d be able to go, i took a look at the sessions to plan out my schedule. this is easily the biggest list of sessions & labs i’ve ever seen for a 3-day conference. there were often about 10 concurrent sessions per hour for the listening & overview track, and then maybe 7 or so concurrent labs for the education track, and 7 concurrent bring-your-own-laptop labs for hands-on training. the bulk of it was well outside my skill set, involving all levels of app development, widget programming, and very specific uses of different software for things i simply don’t do.
on the other hand, there were some really helpful sessions outlining new tools and ways to use them in CS5, how to design for ebooks and magazines on various mobile devices & readers, a profile of the options for custom fonts on web sites, and highlights of the best css3 styles to use now that are browser-supported. i picked my favorites, and spent any downtime i had in this super cool community lounge & retro game room to check in with the world periodically. on beanbags!
i usually upgrade with my clients, so i am still waiting to make the move to CS5 with them. however, as a veteran photoshop and indesign user, it’s just amazing to see how smart these programs have become.
for photoshop, everything seems to be related to a much more intelligent algorithm for pixel analysis. if you’re a photographer importing raw formats, there are significantly more elegant tools for dealing with noise and lens correction, even for phone photos with significant artifacting. if you bracket photos and want to merge the best elements with high dynamic range, there are auto correction tools for removing ghosts items left behind [with custom overrides for when you don’t like the default choices]. the refine edge feature for making difficult or semi-transparent selections has gotten super-smart too, allowing the user to refine a mask with simple brush strokes to indicate where photoshop should analyze pixels and include or delete data [think hair, pet fur, irregular skylines with trees–everything you’d spend hours on before]. again, with sharpening, rather than simply pulling a curve on pixel values, photoshop is looking at patterns in the photo to avoid blowing things out, or accentuating noise objects as the highlights are lightened. finally, the most exciting things are the healing brush and content aware fill. i watched 1-click corrections that were near-perfect, 1-swipe corrections over power lines that left very little cleanup behind, and removal of whole selected areas that matched around the selection’s edges while using relevant patterns in the photo to fill in a highly realistic way.
as for indesign, there are significant production workflow improvements that will help reduce time, especially for those of us who design books. some cool items included an auto grid feature, allowing the user to create a grid of regular [or irregular, with additional steps] boxes for placement in one step. there is now quick toggling between object and content selection by rolling over the center of an object, where a ring will appear, allowing the user to edit content, which is a lot less clicking! boxes now have live corner effects where you can edit corners without loading a menu, as well as edit selected corners, which is great for people like me who like a box with 1 rounded corner. special treats for book designers include the gap tool, which will allow you to size 2 items against each other while maintaining a set gap distance between them [this is critical for photos & caption boxes in book layouts], as well as the static & live caption option, where you can manage captions as metadata, style them upon import, and marry them to their images, so they move together throughout the document. this can prevent all kinds of manual errors in layout!
as for the other sessions, i got a great primer to the free & paid options for custom fonts on the web, as well as great css workaround tips for the differences in how browsers load them. designing for ebooks doesn’t seem to quite be there yet, despite indesign’s new epub export tool. other than running text, many ebook layouts still require workarounds and css edits to appear the way they do in layout, so it seems that will have to be addressed in CS6. however, magazines look downright exciting on the ipad, allowing for static content from the print version crossover to be enhanced by motion, video & animated content in the reader. gael towey‘s 20 year anniversary edition of martha stewart living premiered on the ipad, and the layout and user experience was impeccable. i was also really impressed with how many graphic styles are available and browser supported for css3, many of which i’ve had to workaround with static graphics in the past. finally, i made sure to hear von glitschka and justen ahrens presentation on working with non-profits that build community, and their experience in africa with living in abundance international. this was a very inspiring session, and it’s really too bad everyone was off learning to build widgets rather than learn how those apps can help improve life in developing countries.
some of the fun stuff on the exhibition floor included this 20 years of photoshop exhibit, which consisted of macs paired with each era-specific release of photoshop. this was really funny for me, i think i’ve used photoshop since the 2.0 release. aah! aside from the aforementioned game lounge, there was a nice adobe lounge with swanky couches and chairs with the best wifi proximity in the convention center. there were also a good selection of exhibitors, though most of them catered to the developer community that made up the majority of attendees. not least of all were the unconference rooms where AIGA, among others, were able to engage people about our own content.
the conference itself was very supportive. all the meals were included, and we were lavished with gifts, including a motorola droid 2, and a google tv, in addition to all kinds of swag. they didn’t waste the opportunity to educate as well as infomercialize, but they kept it as entertaining as possible. i will say this though, aside from the 20 years of photoshop and a selection of ipad demos during the sessions, the apple presence was incredibly downplayed [if you can ignore all the iphones and mac books the majority of attendees were carrying]. i understand the conflicts at hand, but i think adobe should be a little more accepting of where they don’t work together and continue to embrace the apple-using community that served as most of their customer base all these years.
all in all, i took away some great info and met some really nice people. i might have assumed a predominantly development community would be sightly antisocial, but everyone i sat with for lunch was into talking and they all attended on different tracks from different backgrounds. it was also easy to forget, coming from 5 miles away, that there was an international crowd here, but i was reminded at lunch when i’d talk to people from across the country, or overhear an italian conversation in the lounge, or mistake this really nice dutch guy for a former co-worker.
now the task at hand is showing my clients how much time they’ll save with an upgrade so i don’t have to save them backwards-compatible files!