In a slick, media-rich keynote, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen discussed Adobe’s blue sky network publishing vision. In between sweeping statements, Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s executive vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing and Communication, demonstrated the products that would realize that vision.
Chizen opened by saying that, despite the economic slowdown, many general market trends continue. There will be more web access, more digital content and more access of that content from other sources like cell phones and PDAs according. Right now, companies are creating, managing and delivering their content in different stages and often in different locations. “Our goal at Adobe is to evolve this into one seamless workflow where content can be easily re-purposed,” said Chizen.
“Right now, these aspects are stovepiped,” said Narayen, “Adobe is striving for more integration.”
Narayen first demonstrated Illustrator 10 running on a G4 PowerBook running Mac OS 10.1. He demonstrated new symbol tools, where a single symbol — in this case a drawn leaf — could be sprinkled across an image. These symbols can be wholly, individually or in small groups be made transparent, dyed or otherwise modified. Also, the symbol can be replaced — in the demo, flowers replaced the leaves — with the transparency and other modified data remaining intact using the new symbolic image.
Illustrator 10 also has new distortion tools that can be easily applied to fonts as well as images. Narayen demonstrated how Illustrator 10 has intelligent and efficient slicing so Web designers can quickly create banners and boxes.
Also new in Illustrator 10 is a variables feature. Designers can add a variable to an image or text, and a Web designer can then connect those variables to databases. For example, an image could easily have a changing address — say as in a business card. Illustrator 10 can then output the image using all of the different entries in the database — to print cards for all of the different employees for example.
Both Adobe and Quark are running after the same brass ring in publishing, namely the integration of design for all possible delivery methods and creating a single workflow with multiple design outputs. Narayen said that Adobe is embracing all open standards but is also, “ensuring that PDF is a fundamental format.”
In the above vein, Narayen showed off Adobe Acrobat reader for Pocket PC that was announced yesterday, and how Illustrator 10, with help from other Adobe apps, can create one image that can be viewed by many devices and platforms.
Narayen next demonstrated Adobe Studio, an Internet tool to allow designers in different locations to collaborate. There will be two levels to Studio: The Community level is publicly available on the web, and it allows designers to post their portfolios, jobs and media as they see fit for public distribution. The Design Team level is secure and paid for by those using it. Within this area of Adobe Studio, companies create project folders and designers can log in and use or store files there. There are also version control features to allow teams to collaborate more efficiently.
InDesign 2.0 was also shown off, using Glamour U.K., which uses InDesign and recently won a major European design award. New features such as transparency and tables were demonstrated. Most notably, InDesign 2.0 has XML support, and can quickly fill in styles and pages. InDesign, as well as all Adobe products, can manage and manipulate files in many formats.
Adobe also sounded the charge for XMP, their eXtensible Metadata Platform. This is an open XML based standard that Adobe believes will allow documents to move to the Web more easily. Thus far, companies like IBM and Kodak, as well as dozens more, are on board with the standard and Adobe will announce more as they come to the party. All of Adobe’s products will also support this standard.
XMP fits in with Adobe AlterCast, a backend system for content management. Using XMP, Altercast can take data and automatically create the many variations of it needed for different output. For example, AlterCast can add languages, change formats and convert one copy of a graphic into multiple file types or many different sizes.
More interesting though, is AlterCast’s ability to manipulate layers within an image. In the demonstration, a graphic was created for a banner ad. In this ad were the price and a few other variable items coupled with an image. The variable data were stored as different layers within the image. Altercast linked those layers to an XML database, and it was able to change the prices and variables in the image with just a quick change to the database instead of a designer redrawing the image.
Adobe hopes that this will allow images to be used more compellingly — without AlterCast a designer would have to redraw all price changes within the image. This is time consuming, and currently most variable data are displayed as text outside of an image file. AlterCast will run on Solaris and Windows NT servers, but Mac users may see and use AlterCast as is it a Web based interface. Adobe expects to ship AlterCast in 2002.
Chizen ended the keynote with a brief animation collaboratively created by a designer on the east coast and one on the west. The animation suggested healing and understanding between peoples after the events of September 11.