Apr 4, 2005

Interview: John Nack–Photoshop Product Manager

Interview: John Nack

So John, how’s life as a Photoshop Product Manager?

Hey Jeff. Life is good, thanks! Announcing a new version is easily the most exciting time to be on the team.

BTW, can you tell us your –EXACT– title?

My title is “Product Manager, Adobe Photoshop.”

One of the big new features of Photoshop CS2 is Adobe Bridge, can you tell us why you guys decided to rip the File Browser out of Photoshop and make it a stand-alone application?

It’s a good question, and there are a couple of reasons. First, we’d gotten a lot of requests from people using Illustrator, InDesign, and GoLive for a File Browser that would work for them. Rather than duplicate the Photoshop browser several times, we opted to re-write it from scratch to be more powerful and extensible.

Second, making Bridge into its own executable opens some new workflow possibilities. In CS, if you start batch processing images in Photoshop, you’re locked out of the browser, and if the browser is busy building an image cache, Photoshop can get bogged down. In CS2, by contrast, you can use Bridge to kick off a batch in Photoshop, then switch back to Bridge and keep working while Photoshop churns away.

So, there are two versions of Bridge? The one that ships with the full CS2 Suite and the one that ships with Photoshop CS2, what are the primary differences?

When you buy the Creative Suite, you get two extra features in Bridge. One is Bridge Center, which is kind of a dashboard for the Suite (showing recently used files, up-to-date tips and tricks, etc.). The other is the Creative Suite Color Settings dialog box, which lets you synchronize color management settings across the Suite.

One of the new features of Bridge is the Slide Show, I know that one was kinda snuck in by Arno Gourdol, can you tell us how Arno did that?

Heh–Arno is one of those passionate engineers who won’t take no for an answer, so he came in one weekend and wrote Slide Show pretty much from scratch. One of the great things about working on tools for digital photography is that a lot of the team is shooting and editing in their spare time. Slide Show is a tool Arno really wanted for his personal work, so he came in and made it happen.

One of the new configurations available in Bridge is the Film Strip mode, was that specially designed for photographers?

Yep–exactly. We saw that a lot of people were configuring the CS File Browser to have a really large Preview pane plus a strip of thumbnails. But creating a workspace to get to this mode quickly wasn’t particularly obvious, and when things were set up in this mode you couldn’t see or edit metadata, browse to other folders, etc. So we designed Filmstrip mode to do what photographers were already doing, but more easily and without the trade-offs.

The big news for photographers is the tight integration of Camera Raw 3.0 and Bridge and Photoshop, can you tell us how that came about? Did Thomas Knoll, the primary engineer on Camera Raw have a lot of feedback? Did your photographer beta testers?

I think that would be a bit of an understatement!

Photoshop users, and particularly the folks on the alpha and beta, are *very* passionate and very vocal, so there was no shortage of real-world feedback for us to help shape this release. And Thomas is a pretty accomplished shooter, so a lot of changes he made were in response to his experiences using CS.

Negotiating the transition from an embedded File Browser to a stand-alone Bridge took a lot of effort and some trial and error. We wanted to preserve the best of what CS offered (the built-in integration) while offering some new workflow possibilities. We wouldn’t have nearly the spit and polish we do now without some welcome prodding from the folks in the field who rely on these tools to make a living.

Camera Raw 3 is a new breed of plug-in. It’s used by both Bridge and Photoshop CS2–even at the same time. What are the primary differences with Camera Raw being hosted by Bridge vs. Photoshop CS2?

The interface is pretty much identical whether you hit Cmd-O (to open images in Camera Raw in Photoshop) or Cmd-R (to open them in Camera Raw in Bridge). So, why did we offer two paths? The main difference is that when using Camera Raw within Bridge, the plug-in can keep batch processing in the background while you continue to work in Photoshop or Bridge.

So, if you’re expecting to edit and convert images without opening all or most of them in Photoshop, using Camera Raw within Bridge makes sense. If you’re planning to open the files in Photoshop, however, hitting Cmd-O/Ctrl-O is the most obvious and efficient way to go.

You mention batch processing, there’s a new command within Bridge called Image Processor, where did that come from?

Last time around, Russell Brown noticed a lot of people creating very complex actions for converting files (especially raw images) into other formats. This process could trip folks up, so he commissioned Tom Ruark in Photoshop engineering to write the very popular “Dr. Brown’s Image Processor.” The new Image Processor built into Bridge and CS2 builds on what Russell and Tom started, making it easy to convert images and perform common tasks (scaling them down, etc.).

Under the Tools menu, you have a variety of functions for the various Suite applications, what’s under the hood there?

There’s a ton of power in the Creative Suite applications, but most people aren’t a master of every app. Being able to hand off images from the File Browser to Photoshop automation tools proved really popular, so we wanted to extend that power to the whole Suite. The idea is to let every app do what it does best. So while you can still hand off images to Photoshop to build a contact sheet, you can build an even better contact sheet by handing off images to InDesign. We think this cross-application automation is a pretty exciting area for the future.

You mention automation, since Bridge is basically a new ground up application, how extensible is Bridge?

Bridge is highly extensible via cross-platform JavaScript. Scripting can be used to do things as simple as adding a menu item, all the way up to implementing a service like Adobe Stock Photos.

Is there an SDK for 3rd parties for building scripting additions to Bridge?

Yes, we have some pretty extensive documentation, and for the first time we’re shipping a script writing and debugging application for all the Suite apps.

The star method of ranking seems to be ideal for photographers and photo editors, how did that evolve? Did the testers have some useful feedback on that?

Definitely. We experimented with a bunch of different ideas (ranking, flagging, etc.), but it was our testers like Seth Resnick who pointed out that in the real world, photographers are used to doing a first pass through of files, marking some with a tic or plus mark, then going back through those files, adding a second mark, etc. Therefore we came up with a way to apply up to five stars to each image. Martin Evening made the helpful suggestion that we include keys that would add or remove stars from files, so we have those as well.

The rumor has it that Arno put in a key command for Bridge to hide all the file names and other distracting clutter in the main view of Bridge to satisfy one particular guy, who was that guy?

Well, he’s this very shy, retiring guy… No, not really: it was you, Jeff. :-)

The command unofficially known as “Hide the Crap” now lets you bounce between seeing just images & seeing the images with associated data (ratings, labels, names, date shot, etc.). Cmd-T/Ctrl-T hides the crap!

Since Bridge ships with the entire Creative Suite 2, it’s not just for photographers any more, how can designers and art directors make use of it?

As you’d expect, Bridge now supports the range of formats used across the Creative Suite, letting you preview Illustrator and InDesign files, page through multi-page PDFs, etc. The metadata pane reveals info that the apps capture automatically (for example, InDesign now records a list of fonts and colors used in each file). And one really interesting feature is Compact Mode, which can float above any application. You can toggle any Bridge window into Compact mode, which effectively turns it into a palette for the Creative Suite. You can then drag and drop files into your design apps.

You mentioned the Compact Mode, which is basically turning the Bridge Window into a floating palette, how does that work?

You can hit a little icon in any Bridge window to toggle from normal to Compact mode and back again, or you can hit Cmd-Enter on the keyboard.

Can you set the Compact Mode to behave like a regular window?

Sure; there’s a preference for floating/non-floating behavior in the little flyout menu.

Compact Mode actually has two modes, the regular and the super tiny mode, how did you guys come up with that?

User feedback was overwhelming on this point: Compact Mode is great, but only if I can make it appear, then get out of my way quickly. So we came up with Ultra-Compact Mode, which lets you make floating windows tiny, then pop them open easily.

As a beta tester, I saw all the iterations that Bridge took over the various builds. How do you feel Adobe Bridge version 1.0 stacks up?

Hey, I’m biased, you know? But I’m very proud of the work we’ve done this cycle. The team rebuilt two versions’ worth of Photoshop File Browser features from scratch, expanding and refining pretty much every area along the way, while building a highly scriptable, extensible platform for the future. I think the integration between Bridge and Camera Raw alone represents a huge leap forward.

You’ve referred to the Bridge engineers as the “Bridge Builders”. How was it working with the Bridge engineering team? How about the alpha and beta testers?

It’s been a real pleasure. The hours are long for everybody concerned, but we couldn’t be more fortunate with the combination of passionate developers and equally passionate customers. I think it’s a pretty unique combination.

In May, users will be getting their hands on Adobe Bridge, but you guys are already looking forward. Where do you see Bridge going from it’s 1.0 release?

You tell us!

Seriously, we’re all ears when it comes to feedback on the future direction of this technology. The number of assets (especially photographs) keeps exploding, so providing tools for finding the right files and spending time smartly is key. In broad terms, we’ll keep working to refine the tools for rapidly previewing, rating, sorting, and processing files, whether they be raw images or other formats.

The biggest challenge may be that once Bridge gets out there, people will start using it in so many ways and workflows that we’ll have more good ideas than we know what to do with. I’m confident, though, that our customers will keep guiding us in the right direction. We’re off to a great start.

John Nack, AKA Tiny Elvis first suggested starting a dedicated Photoshop news blog. At the time, I thought it was silly, but John turned out to be right. Over the months of development it became clear that the time was right because right from within the new Adobe Bridge (the full CS2 Suite version) you’ll be able to get RSS newsfeeds live. Pretty cool! And John, thanks for the suggestion dooode!

Comments are closed.