In any case, enough with that -- let's dive into the apps, shall we? Alongside these two devices, Adobe is introducing three new iPad apps that are "Ink and Slide aware": Photoshop Mix, Sketch and Line. First, Adobe Sketch will be the option for free-form drawing with Ink and Slide. The app pipes in access to color palettes via Kuler, stored images, copy/paste clipboard (labeled Cloud Clipboard) and the ability to both browse for inspiration and publish to Behance -- all with the help of Creative Cloud. The drawing toolkit here includes graphite pencil, pen, markers and an eraser. If you're not into splurging for the Ink and Slide, a feature labeled Touch Slide is built in for getting those straight lines without the hardware. You could use your finger, for example, or benefit from neater marks when you're only toting Ink along on your commute.
Adobe Line, meanwhile, enables precise drafting-style drawing for those looking to keep things tidy. There's also a grid view for creating sketches with accurate perspective -- something perhaps a package designer would fancy. Another useful example would be interior designers using the app to plan a space by applying the built-in Herman Miller furniture packs. In that scenario, you could also trace the inside of a room on top of an existing photo for a more accurate representation. Once again, Creative Cloud is baked in here for Kuler themes, file access and sharing work as you go.
Lastly, Photoshop Mix packs in key features from the full-on desktop version into an iPad app for the first time. Here, tools like Content Aware Fill and Camera Shake Reduction should make compositing and masking images on a slate a breeze. What's more, you'll be able to open and save PSD files from a tablet for later use in Photoshop CC when you're back in the office. Unfortunately, we weren't able to test that app, so we can't offer any initial impressions on it. The software maker is also opening up its mobile SDK that allows access to CC settings, so we should see the app selection grow before year's end.
Adobe's Sketch and Line make it much easier to get tablet sketches into desktop apps like Photoshop and Illustrator quickly. Once there, though, you'll have to contend with a PNG file -- at least for now. This means that you'll still have to convert drawings vector artwork manually just like you have scanned in a sketch on paper. It's an even bigger bummer when you get your clean lines just right in Line only to have to retrace them again to make a workable vector graphic. If my work in that app could be beamed straight to Illustrator as vector art, Ink and Slide would instantly have a place in my mobile workflow, especially for things like branding projects with loads of iterations. However, it's really nice to be able to send a file from my iPad to my desktop in a matter of seconds with two taps of my finger, no matter how much I'll have to clean it up once it arrives.
My qualms with file handling aside, both Sketch and Line perform quite well for tablet drawing apps. If you've encountered similar software in the past, you can expect a comparable UI arrangement here. Menus are tucked away up top or down below giving you the maximum amount of real estate in the middle to work with. Heck, you can even go full-screen and hide nearly all of the tools if you really need to get at the edges. To make the most of the iPad's touchscreen, both apps also feature handy gestures for things like undo, a history scrubber and both pan and zoom. This handful of touch gestures allows you to pick up the pace when drawing, without the need to switch to an eraser to correct a misplaced mark or navigate the canvas with a separate side-rail control.
Aside from the Ink, there's a plethora of Bluetooth styli on the market, and at a wide range of prices. For creative professionals, specifically, only a few stick out as true competitors. Wacom's Intuos Creative Stylus is another iOS-only tablet pen that touts palm rejection and 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity (the Ink recognizes "thousands"). It also has clickable buttons, similar to what Wacom builds into its separate Pro Pen product. The Pro Pen, by the way, is meant to pair with Wacom's pricey, professional-grade pen displays, pen tablets and hybrid devices from the outfit, but here, the precise nib tip is replaced with a larger rubber end that I'm not too fond of. The larger contact area makes the Creative Stylus feel like just that, a stylus, instead of a more realistic pen-to-paper experience when sketching inside the Bamboo Paper app. However, it only costs $100 -- half the price of Adobe's new Ink and Slide.
Thanks to its partnership with Adobe, Adonit has a Creative Cloud-connected stylus of its own, the Jot Touch with Pixelpoint. As the name suggests, it packs the same tech and skinny tip as Ink in the first third-party stylus to access CC settings. While it's also iOS-exclusive, it will only hit your wallet for $120 and could be useful for those who don't also need the Slide ruler.
Lastly, FiftyThree's Pencil ($60 and up) has become a popular choice for those looking to create on the go. This, too, offers palm rejection, an eraser tip and fingertip blending. It also works only with iPads and is fine-tuned for the company's Paper (no, not that Paper) app that was recently retooled for iOS 7. This particular piece of software, along with Wacom's Bamboo Paper (both free), are the closest options to Adobe's Sketch, but the accompanying styli pack a much beefier tip, so you'll need to take that into account in addition to the monetary savings.
If you aren't looking to futz with replacing batteries, FiftyThree's Pencil, Adonit's new Jot Touch and Adobe's Ink are the internally rechargeable options here, while Wacom's device relies on AAA batteries for power. Another detail that may factor into your decision is availability. Adobe's Ink and Slide are only available in the US for now, though Adobe says they'll ship globally later this year.
I'll admit I had to keep my excitement in check when Adobe outed Mighty and Napoleon last year. I knew that the company could crank out stellar software, but I wasn't sure how compelling the hardware portion would be -- especially compared to other styli. In terms of functionality and ease of use, the company has created the first set of tools that allows me to start a project on a mobile device and finish it when I get back to the office, now that I have access to assets while in transit. The mobile software plays nice with the Creative Cloud apps that I need to finalize my work, and I can make the transition from slate sketch to full-blown apps on my MacBook Air quickly and easily.
There are two cons that ultimately hamper the experience: durability and price. I can't justify spending the $200 on Ink and Slide until I can create and send vector graphics from my iPad for use in Illustrator on the desktop. Some creative types may get a lot of use out of the duo in their current state, but I'll have to wait for those other apps and expanded file support to arrive. For double the price of competing devices (more in some cases), I expect my accessories not to get scuffed so easily when they're resting in the same pocket of my bag. Don't get me wrong; I prefer the metal to a plastic shell, but if these are devices I'll carry with me nearly everywhere, I should be able to haul them around without producing wear so easily. In the end, though, Adobe has built a somewhat tempting window into Creative Cloud for those eager to start projects on an iPad. The only question is whether the company has priced itself out of attracting the curious.