Dear Adobe, Your iPad Apps are a Mess.

Dear Adobe,

I got my iPad Pro — the tablet that’s roughly the size of an antelope — Last week. It will be a while longer before the fancy pencil arrives so I figured I would check out your iPad apps.

Confession Time. I’ve seen the tweets and videos for your mobile apps for years, but I never stopped to pay attention. I was pretty happy with the way everything was working on the desktop, so I was good to go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about workflow on the iPad. I’ve been working on a Surface Pro the last year or so. I can sketch, color, ink, vector up my artwork and then get it press or web ready all on one device and often times just using one or two programs: Photoshop and Illustrator.

I see there are apps called Photoshop and Illustrator for the iPad. That’s great. In fact, you guys have been busy. Right now you have 31 mobile apps listed on your site, and that’s not counting older retired apps like Adobe Line and Adobe Ideas.

There are 4 apps with the word Photoshop in them, but none of them look like the Photoshop I know and love.

That’s a lot of apps, We probably need a short refresher.

There are 2 apps for creating portfolios and posting them to Behance: Adobe Portfolio and Creative Portfolio. There is Adobe Shape CC that lets you take photos and then convert them to vector shapes. There is Adobe Voice that lets you record your voice and add simple animation and photos.

You need photo editing? There are 3 apps for that: Adobe Photoshop Fix, Adobe Photoshop Mix and Adobe Photoshop Express.

What if you just want to manage your photos? You’ve got Adobe Revel, Adobe LiveCycle Mobile ES and Adobe Lightroom for mobile.

There is an app for publishing stories — Adobe Slate
An app for creating color palettes — Adobe Color CC
An app for signing documents — Adobe eSign Manager DC
An app for making custom brushes — Adobe Brush CC
Another app for signing documents — Adobe Fill & Sign DC

Oh my gosh, you guys this is kinda a mess.

Where is just a mobile version of Photoshop? There are 4 apps with the word Photoshop in them, but none of them look like the Photoshop I know and love. Each one only does a couple things.

Maybe I should refocus here. I’m talking to Adobe. After you guys bought Macromedia a decade ago you kinda stagnated for a while there. Now, you are really experimenting. I mean really experimenting. And in a surprisingly public way. I really didn’t expect this. Maybe I should be applauding you.

Looking around the app store there are dozens of traditional drawing apps made by new upstart developers. If you want a painting app you have Procreate or Inspire Pro. They all mimic the painting tools we’ve grown accustomed to in Photoshop.

You need a vector art app? There is Inkpad or Graphic.

Illustrator Draw is a quirky little drawing app that looks at every tool as an opportunity to rethink how we create art on a tablet.

But there is nothing from Adobe that is anything like Illustrator. The app that bears Illustrator’s name, Illustrator Draw, is a quirky little drawing app that looks at every tool as an opportunity to rethink how we create art on a tablet. It’s so experimental that core elements you would expect all vector apps to have are non existent here. There are no anchor points, no pen tool, no way to edit a line or shape once you’ve drawn them. You’ve made a vector app from a parallel universe.

It leaves people like me who use and review these apps in a weird place. How do I review something like this? It’s like using Uber to to get a ride to the grocery store and then getting picked up by a helicopter. I have nothing against helicopters, it’s just not what I expected. Also, occasionally the helicopter drops you off on the roof of the store which is just awkward.

What if I want to work on the go, maybe start some artwork that I can finish later on my Mac or Surface. I can export to your desktop programs and kinda do that but the workflow I’ve had for years is all mixed up now. I’m more likely to reach for something like ProCreate or Inkpad for my work because those apps feel more natural, less gimmicky. And unlike Photoshop Sketch, those apps have features I’ve come to expect from drawing apps, like layers.

Most creative professionals look to your tools to help them improve their efficiency, to speed them up. Experimentation slows you down, makes you reflect, rethink your way of doing things. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s what you’re going for. Maybe there are people at Adobe challenging the way we work because they want their apps to shake up how art is made, not just provide another platform on which to make it.

These iPad apps don’t feel professional. They feel like big experiments.

I’m just worried that might be lost on most of us. I just want to hit my deadline and make something that doesn’t suck. I want my apps to help me make art. The same art I’ve been making for years. The art that your programs are so good at helping me create.

These iPad apps don’t feel professional. They feel like big experiments, big ideas. Part of me really likes that. I think it’s cool that you are deeply thinking about how we can work differently using a touch interface. In fact, nobody has thought as deeply and as vividly as you have over the past few years about how to reinvent drawing.

We don’t need you to be Instagram. We need you to be Adobe.

It’s now 2015. It’s time to take iOS seriously as a pro tool and do what you do best. Don’t give us 30 apps that each do one thing. Give us one app that does 30 things. We don’t need you to be Instagram. We need you to be Adobe.

You are uniquely positioned to really do something amazing here. You have a lot of smart people thinking deeply about touch as a platform and they have been at it for a while now. You have access to great resources like Typekit, and many of the touch tools you have already created in the latest desktop version of Illustrator would work beautifully on this device. And you have something no other mobile developer has: customers paying you $50 a month to use your stuff.

I understand if I can’t use full blown Photoshop on my iPad Pro. I don’t think I need full blown Photoshop. But at least meet me halfway there.