Drive Photoshop with your iPhone

Oh, now this is cool: PhotoKeys is a $4 app that lets you drive Photoshop (switching tools, nudging layers, running actions, etc.) from an iPhone.  [Via Jesse Zibble]


I’ve taken it for a spin, and it works as advertised.  Setup proved to be a bit more time-consuming than I’d expected (involving installing a simple free server app, killing off my VPN connection, restarting the iPhone, and assorted trial and error), but all told it wasn’t bad.


It’s funny: thinking about the dearth of unused keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, a bunch of us were talking about just such an idea the other day.  Cool to see that someone has already beaten us to the punch.


Of course, what’s really in short supply is another modifier key (a la Shift, Cmd/Ctrl, and Opt/Alt) or two.  Having another way to modify commands would open up exponentially more possible combos.  It would be brilliant if an app like PhotoKeys could add such a thing, but I think the bottleneck would be Photoshop.  That is, the app needs to open up a more flexible, general purpose way to accept inputs.  (How about MIDI, so you could hammer saturation with a whammy bar? ;-))


Out of curiosity, if Adobe were to create (or work with a hardware company to create) a simple, inexpensive hardware device, would you be interested in it?  What would it need to do/look like/cost in order to be interesting?  (This is one of those ideas that’s come up for years, so I’m just tossing it out there for consideration, not hinting at anything specific.)

35 thoughts on “Drive Photoshop with your iPhone

  1. That (and it’s Air Mouse brother) seems very science-fiction. Years ago I switched to a Wacom Pen (not just for Photoshop) because of carpel-tunnel as well as drawing control. Using a remote clicker in a serious way sounds painful over time. Maybe Adobe could make some kind of Air Pen or something…

  2. ive already bought 4 different models of these just for using in photoshop-
    and whereas i think its already a great piece of preexisting software that could fit hand-in-glove with ps, the software behind it leaves much to be desired (as seen in the one forum post on their website with over 1/3m views).
    logitech is their parent company, but if adobe were to have a piece of hardware or buy a company whos already producing them, these would be great start, with their 3d knob and many customizable keys in a way thats easy on the hand. the space explorer i find is the best with ps, but again the hardware could be much more functional with the right people behind the software end

  3. I would like a wireless Photoshop specific keyboard / keyboard extension and I wouldn’t want to pay more that the price of a current Mac/PC Wireless keyboard.

  4. I’ve thought about hardware sound mixers with all of their sliders and knobs.
    You could use them for all sorts of things… zooming, opacity, sample size, rotation, real time brush size, etc.
    I also want to upgrade my Cintiq to one that has multi-touch(there isn’t one yet, outside of tablet PCs)… but that may be a bit hard to do, since it would have to ignore input from the hand resting on the monitor.
    I’ll have to ask my work to buy me an iPhone and Photokeys so I can increase my productivity 🙂

  5. Very interesting, thank you! About the Adobe device, that could be a great idea, or not. I think the problem would be the “inexpensive” side of it. I would really like something I could use with different CS4 apps, the less I know a software, the more this kind of device could help. But the word inexpensive here (I think) means something less open, something just about PS. I’ve considered some alternatives, from the cheapest (but fully customizable) gamer’s lefthand keyboards (own Saitek PRO Gamer) to the very expensive Oled keyboard (do not own Lebedev’s Optimus Maximus). Onestly everything less than the Optimus is just a total waste of time, set things up, choosing (carefully) workflows in every – single – program, and then just pretending you can remember everything.. But having the visual shape of tools in Optimus, and in this PhotoKeys is everything. This just works, and, as a trainer, I speak by the total beginner’s point of view. By the way, in the Lebedev’s store it says Optimus will be available soon, anyone knows anything?
    Ps. after your Adobe Groups post I created Photoshop Italia, thanks for the opportunity!
    [Cool! Thanks for jumping in. –J.]

  6. The Logitech NuLOOQ Navigator is a *great* accessory for use with Photoshop. Its dial-like feel makes it much more intuitive to use than any sliders or keystrokes for changing brush sizes, zooming, panning, etc. When I’m Photoshopping, I typically just keep my left hand on the NuLOOQ and my right on the Wacom tablet stylus (with the keyboard nearby).

  7. The simplest, easiest, least expensive way to add more function keys would be for Adobe to work with Apple, Microsoft, and keyboard makers to add extra keys to standard keyboards. Those keys could be used for other programs, besides Adobe’s, that have a need for more shortcuts.
    The last thing most users need is an additional device on their desks while they are trying to work. Also, keyboards are replaced periodically anyway because they wear out, have liquids spilled into them, etc., so there would be no substantial additional cost to users.

  8. I wouldn’t mind having to use another key on the keyboard as a modifier key, for instance the caps lock key, or tab. Double combos like hold-‘a’-press-‘f’ or double-pressing individual keys (like double-m for revealing masks in After Effects) would also make a reasonable alternative.
    I know that these would severely violate existing conventions, but I’d prefer that over not being able to control certain functions with the keyboard or only being able to control them with a separate hardware control device, or just not being able to use Photoshop as efficiently without it. I need every keyboard shortcut to be usable on a standard laptop without any additions. That said, being able to intuitively do color corrections with dedicated hardware trackballs should be fun …
    An simple alternative to keyboard shortcuts could be a concept similar to Maya’s marking menus or especially Toxik’s Gate UI. Basically you press a keyboard command (the tilde key), and then you get a choice of multiple options arranged in a circular pattern around the mouse pointer. You then swipe out of that circle in the direction where the desired command is located. If you know the arrangement, you can just press and swipe so fast that you don’t even see the menu, and it’s quite intuitive to use with a Wacom tablet. For instance, that way you would only need a single shortcut for the gate related to dealing with selections and then use the swipe direction to choose between the individual commands (deselect, refine edge, inverse, quickmask, etc) instead of one for every one of them, and it’s as fast as using a regular keyboard shortcut. They also show a gate with options when you drag & drop something. But they probably have a patent on it, so you’d most likely have to make some kind of deal with Autodesk if you wanted to use that concept.

  9. That looks like a great iPhone app, I’m gonna try that one for sure.
    They never sold it over here in the Netherlands, but I’ve always wanted to try the Logitech NuLOOQ. Thats something I think might be usefull and perhaps the kind of device you’re thinking of.

  10. I think the MIDI idea is a terrific one – i think i even suggested it on the Lightroom requests forum once – personally i would love to use my Korg padkontrol for tagging, starring, picking and so forth in Lightroom.
    If you’re not familiar with it already you might have a look at how Ableton Live associates controllers with actions, that’s the most intuitive interface i’ve ever seen for this sort of thing…

  11. The nulooq would have worked great if it had been supported directly instead of having to go through shortcuts. A hardware device for switching tools is pretty much irrelevant, since you can switch tools just fine with a pen. Instead, a hardware device should replace (and improve upon) all the fiddly and cumbersome tasks that currently take your eyes off the screen. I was a nulooq beta tester, and of all the things I imagined it would be able to do to speed my workflow it could do zero of them.
    Any device needs to have continuous incrementing, as opposed to clicks. It also needs a completely open API and easily sharable profiles (import/export of configurations). It also needs to be aware of what’s going on so that you don’t continually need to reset it to a new task (eg: if the brushes palette is open, it knows to scroll through the brushes, but if you’re painting it knows to increase/decrease feather if that’s what you have it set to do).
    Of course, all my nulooq testing was pre 3D support, so now I guess I’d prefer some morph between the nulook and the connect3d navigator.
    I guess the primary things are:
    Duplex support for continuous and simultaneous input
    Task and window recognition
    Z-axis support
    Unlimited reconfiguration
    I could go on for days. Contact me if interested.

  12. John, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
    Implement the spacebar as a modifier.
    Think about it:
    1. It can be hit by either hand so it’s easy to use as a modifier for any key on the board.
    2. It already works like a modifier — Space alone toggles the hand *while you hold it down* but changes back when you release. So it won’t switch a tool if you press&release without hitting another key.
    I have more brilliant ideas listed here:

  13. I am thinking that character recognition on a Wacom tablet might work well for shortcuts, and the tablet already has the equivalent of a modifier key.
    So hold the modifier key on the tablet and write “A” or “B” etc for a shortcut. Very speedy and no reaching over the tablet to the keyboard.
    Then you junk the keyboard and save space and reaching. (except for long text maybe). An additional hardware device, while better than a keyboard for shortcuts, takes space and time reaching, etc. Could use char rec for short text too.

  14. Shit,Command, Control, Alt are enough for anybody. Just look at something like Textmate to see how fluid shortcuts using those can become, I even remember commands like shift+ctrl+alt+C means switch to languages starting with C, because the 3 modifier keys together look a bit like an L for language.
    Main problem is windows users because they have that windows key thats almost utterly useless, a way to turn that into a proper modifier key would be nice.

  15. Though it’s marketed for video editing, I saw the usefulness of the same concept in Ps, so I picked up one of these at Macworld 05:
    I use it with Ps and Illustrator, and you can map any of the buttons to pretty much anything I’ve ever wanted to try. The only thing is that if you map a button to be the Option/Alt key, you can’t use it in combo with pressing a letter key on the keyboard. If this were fixed, one could have five key modifiers (plus the combinations thereof) in addition to the wheel & knob for zooming, brush resizing, etc.

  16. What about combining it with the Wacom tablet somehow? I know I use the wacom tablet all the time and although using the keyboard is second nature now it would be nice to free up the space. I am not sure exactly how it could work. Maybe you could still go with the idea of the Wacom now, where you can customize the keys as to what you want. It would be nice if you could customize the keys with photoshop commands or your most used tools or layers, etc. Or since we use way too many different key commands maybe modifiers on the bottom with a row of buttons above (below, etc). Not quite sure if it is even realistic.

  17. I use a Tablet PC (not a Wacom tablet, tho they make some of the interface). When in tablet mode, I don’t have a keyboard at all handy.
    Aside from all the good ideas here, I’d like to ask for one more. Make Brush size scrubby (like opacity). To change brush size with a mouse requires Ctrl+Rt-click and by then I’m in the keyboard popup mode; might just as well hit the bracket keys.

  18. “How about MIDI, so you could hammer saturation with a whammy bar? ;-)”
    What, you have a keytar, John? Really rockin’ out to Final Countdown, aren’t we? (smiley!)
    In a weird way, that made me think how cool it would be to not “command” PS with MIDI but to “play” it with MIDI! Somehow map pitch and velocity and sustain pedal to brush strokes and styles and colors… Hmm. Someone’s probably already come up with that idea, though.

  19. I also enjoyed the NuLooq before it was discontinued. I did not have a chance to try it in conjunction with my pen tablet, but I was really looking forward to Logitech expanding its capabilities.
    I liked its ability to bring up PS Tools right at my cursor position, very useful.
    I think a hardware device like NuLooq would be readily adopted by beginners versus memorizing a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. A pen tablet works well too, but has its own learning curve.
    Definitely going to checkout the Photokeys.

  20. That’s pretty crazy + kinda useless at the same time. Very interesting concept though, there’s something in the idea, I think it just needs to be refined some how. I’m sure Adobe / or someone will figure out how to actually make it usable. Besides the “Wow” factor, this app really doesn’t offer much. You need to at least be able to control the cursor by moving the iPhone around and you can’t do that with this. Props to them for even making it though, it’s always rad to see innovation and there will be many more of these types of iPhone remote apps in the future.

  21. “Out of curiosity, if Adobe were to create (or work with a hardware company to create) a simple, inexpensive hardware device, would you be interested in it?”
    A dedicated keyboard/ hardware device for Photoshop (plus other Adobe products) would be a great thing. Dozens of gaming keyboards, no Adobe keyboard.
    Hundreds of thousands of people spend their working day using Adobe products, if it increased productivity and made the working day easier a properly set up keyboard for Photoshop etc would sell very well I believe.
    Lots of powerfull potential in such a device.

  22. Window users can have additional modifier keys and create shortcuts with them within limits of what Photoshop lets you get at. The trick is to use AutoHotKeys. You can assign the Win key as a modifier so that you have Win-?
    combinations. I am developing this on Lightroom and have not played with it yet in Photoshop but it should work.
    Instead of Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E to stamp a new layer, you could assign Win-S.
    You can also reassign all of the numpad keys. Endless possibilities.

  23. I don’t think a new device is needed. Just some software enhancements. I agree that there is a real need to increase Photoshop’s capability to quickly and easily access many more commands than now allowed using keyboard modifiers. I see two avenues of approach, both of which have been successfully implemented by others.
    Easiest: Allow keyboard modifiers to tablet/mouse buttons & wheel. Five or more buttons on a mouse (say, Logitech 518) with modifiers would enable a lot of commands without removing the pointing hand to pick a key. The current tablet pens have poor button/switch placement but still this would power them up quick a bit.
    More Powerful: Provide an alternate keyboard entry like Autocad uses. The current situation is that the difficult to remember keyboard modifier combinations are way too few for the many commands, actions and scripts that users want to implement quickly and remember easily. Instead use the command alias system like used by Autocad where you pick any available command, action, or script and assign it to any key combination. This is done by typing one, two, three (or more) letters – case doesn’t matter – you have assigned to a command, say J for Healing Brush or JJ for Spot Healing Brush, and pressing the spacebar with your thumb (which takes only a split second). Say you want to use your Stamp set to Darken 50% opacity, you just press “SD5.” Done. No pecking around the screen picking parameters you use all the time.
    This command execution system would provide a tremendous boost in productivity and can live side by side with the slow, almost impossible to remember, almost impossible to input control key combinations now required by Adobe. What about using the spacebar for panning? I see no reason why we cannot continue to use it like we do now. If you have not typed a letter, the Spacebar will Pan as it does now. Obviously, text operation are in a different mode, as they are now, so when Photoshop is expecting text from the keyboard that is what it gets. In Autocad you can add command aliases on the fly. Hopefully, someone working on Photoshop was proficient in Autocad at some point. If so, they can vouch for this.

  24. For me, I use a logitech track ball. I have a nulooq but I never quite got the hang of it (need to practice with it more). I would like a left hand trackball, at least 2 wheels, programmable buttons, another trackball. Heck give me left and right hand versions. I could draw a path with my right hand while scrubbing a chalk effect with my left – if I (and my brain) can do two things with it at the same time. draw a curve while manipulating the brush size, pressure etc.

  25. Sorry for the off topic, but the web help of CS4 is absolutely f’ing useless and a pain in the ass.
    PLEASE make it a preference that can be TURNED off. Yes, I requested that it be fixed in the old CS4 site.
    It should have been part of 11.1

  26. I don’t know about remote controlling Photoshop from an iPhone, but Maya-style marking menus would be cool.
    I’d really like to see tool buttons clickable across the entire face of the button, so that we could leverage screen edges when the tool bars are docked to the sides of the screen.

  27. All whammy-bar jokes aside, MIDI would be awesome. Korg released a line of mini-controllers. One is a (musical) keyboard of course, but another is knobs and sliders – it would be fantastic to map knobs to brush size or sliders to rgb values or who knows what else. And they cost about $60.

  28. How about just letting us plug in a 2nd keyboard? I’d like to put a 2nd keyboard on the floor and use the big enter key by the number pad and the space bar as modifiers. The Function keys could be mapped to other common shortcuts/actions.
    Yes I am that good with my big toe.
    The next step after allowing 2 keyboards to work on the same system would be to allow 2 mice as well. Imagine under-funded public schools being able to use 1 pc & 2 monitors, 2 keyboards, 2 mice, and a virtual machine so 2 (or more) kids could use the same machine at the same time. Would save some money.
    Or imagine both of your kids being able to play both of their world of warcraft accounts at the same time on the same 1 machine. No more fighting for computer time. No more being nagged to buy an entire 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) pc!!!

  29. Considering that Photoshop (and most other CS4 products) can be controlled through Flash panels, it might be an idea to try WiiFlash to enable the Wii controllers. Not sure it’s useful for PS, but it can be very useful for 3D design (as demonstrated on Flash in the Can).

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