The trouble with Adobe

September 21, 2008

I can’t remember a time when any one of Adobe’s Mac applications had an interface that felt like it truly belonged on my Mac. I don’t recall the problems being as pronounced in the pre-Mac OS X days, but there were always — at best — annoying quirks to be found. At worst, using their software made me feel like punching my computer screen.

But then Adobe brought their suite of applications to Mac OS X, and things got even worse. And ever since, they’ve spent each successive release screwing up their user experience with remarkable consistency. It’s to the point that the thought of punching my screen isn’t even enough. I want to reach into my Mac and beat the living snot out of every piece of the Adobe Creative Suite 3 I can find.

And, predictably, if the Fireworks CS4 beta is an indicator of what’s going to happen to the rest of the suite, Adobe obviously still doesn’t get it. Sadly, if a company has spent this many decades in the business and continues to utterly fail in this respect, it may be safe to bet they never will get it either.

Because when it comes down to it, I don’t need a window whose title bar is lacking a title and has instead been cluttered with a bunch of toolbar icons and a “mode” pop-up menu. In fact, I don’t even want a bunch of confusing interface “modes” to choose from. I don’t particularly care about throwing the palettes and everything else into one gigantic tabbed window. All of that is nothing more than extraneous fluff that’s detracting attention and resources away from what really needs to be fixed.

It is especially ironic that John Nack cites Panic’s Coda as an example of a single window application, because Panic would never ship something this utterly tasteless (not even as an internal beta, much less a public one). If you’re looking to Panic for inspiration, emulate their attention to detail. The suite’s problem isn’t that it needs a revolutionary new interface concept. Quite the opposite, in fact. The focus needs to be on the little things, because they all add up to one big mess of inconsistency and annoyance.

Perhaps Adobe needs to acquire some semblance of taste before worrying about tabbed windows and monkeying with title bars.