There has been a lot of conversation among the team here at PLuGHiTz and our sister company, Sumo Software, about how complex applications would translate to Windows 8 apps. When we see apps like Pulse News or Skype transition well to the minimalistic approach to design, how would an app like Photoshop work?
My guess is that Adobe has been listening to our conversations, as this week they launched a Windows 8 version of Photoshop Express and it does not disappoint. The free app, available now, brings all of the basic features of Photoshop to the Windows 8 anti-desktop and makes it feel totally natural. While the app is not what I would consider "fast and fluid" as Windows 8 apps are supposed to be, it does mostly abide by the Windows 8 design guidelines and is easy to use.
You get the expected features from the Express version of PS, like cropping, contrast, clarity, vibrance, exposure, white balance, red eye reduction, etc. There is also an option for "auto fix" which, in my experience, makes the photo almost unviewable as opposed to fixing it. The feature that I like the best is called "Looks" and it is similar to the alterations you see people make using services like Instagram, except designed more for a designer's needs and less for a hipster's irony. Looks come in two flavors: free and premium. The premium, of course, are paid features, but it is a free app after all.
While there are a lot of great things about the app, they certainly missed on a number of things as well. The app appears to have some issues initially loading images, especially from SkyDrive, sometimes even locking up the computer for a few seconds. It also has improperly implemented sharing, which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. The Windows 8 share capability is possibly the greatest enhancement from a programming and usability standpoint. Instead of each application having its own collection of things that can be shared, Windows maintains a list of applications that can share any file type.
For example, if you are using Fresh Paint, another favorite Windows 8 app, if you choose share, any application that can share images is shown. All Fresh Paint had to do was say it is an image that it is sharing and Windows does the rest. Unfortunately, Photoshop Express does not take full advantage of this feature. What they have done, instead, is implemented their own sharing options, allowing you to share to Facebook or Adobe Revel. While standard sharing options are available as well, depending on where in the app you are, if you would like to share from another app to Revel, you are out of luck.
Another interesting oddity is that, if you are in the process of editing an image and you load the application settings, which they luckily DID implement correctly, the undo and redo buttons appear OVER the settings flyout. While not a breaking error, it is a surprising oddity that you would have expected Adobe's QA team to have noticed. Oh well - we can't all be perfect, right?
Overall, the application is well designed and well implemented. For anyone who is messing with photos on their Windows 8 desktop, laptop or tablet, it is definitely an app worth trying out. Check out after the break for some photos of the app in action.