Inspector panels: Food for thought

In previous entries I’ve noted the need for a properties inspector/editor in Photoshop:

The richness that’s possible in a PSD file has totally outstripped the Layers panel’s ability to display & control it. […] Photoshop needs a properties inspector, a panel that lets you view & adjust the parameters of the selected object. […] Such a panel can supplant & control other dedicated panels, making it possible to display more info & yet fewer panels on screen.

New panels in CS4–Adjustments, Masks, and 3D–represent movement in this direction. It’ll take time to unify things more fully.
I mention this because I happened across UI designer Keith Lang’s inspector ideas & thought you might find them interesting:

Some of the details remind me of what’s been shown in Adobe’s interesting “Rome” application sneak peek (worth popping into full-screen mode):

Lots of good food for thought. Feedback is welcome as always.

14 thoughts on “Inspector panels: Food for thought

  1. Hehe, “Inspector” panel in Ps…
    …reminds me somehow of Fireworks’s Property Inspector panel (PI) — this is the place where you can edit almost all properties of almost any select object on the canvas in Fireworks. You do not need to have open Layers panel or Color mixer, or Text, etc., in Fireworks — because when you select a certain object in Fireworks, the Property panel immediately changes and shows all relevant properties of the specific object, so that you can instantly edit them — text, font, fill, stroke, colors, gradients, live effects, opacity, blend modes, everything! 🙂
    When I must work in Ps/Ai, I must have open a lot of panels, just to be able to do event the most simple tasks, because so many properties are scattered in various panels.
    When I work in Fireworks, most of the time I need only the Property Inspector open and maybe the Layers panel.
    So, if we see some day a real Property inspector panel in Photoshop, that would be nice, and will improve the workflow in Ps!
    (Looks like the “big guy” is learning from the “small boy”,eh?;)

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  3. Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?
    I really like and see the value of the UI in the first video. I wish Numbers would have that, and it probably will some day soon.
    As for Rome. Good Grief! As brilliant as Photoshop and other CS apps are, and as much as they have traveled in their Palette/Panel growth, they almost look super dated compared with Rome.
    When CS4 launched, I was excited to see multiple clicks from object to object, panel to tool savings. Now theres another potential revolution on the horizon. One thing the first video marked though, was the ability to work “as we are used to”. I think that is an important factor as many folks get super comfortable in their workflow and simply do not need an onslaught of UI changes.

  4. To quote an well-known Ogress-turned-princess-turned-ogress: Man, that was annoying!!”
    Seriously… I’m really interested on developments in Flash… interactive motion graphics as a whole etc. etc. I’m quite nerdy (for a designer), else I probably wouldn’t read jnack anyway.
    But, boy, did these presentations suck — as presentations.
    I don’t fault the guys who gave them… the’yre nerds. Like me. Yet those were terrible, terrible presentations. Had someone shoved me on stage unprepared… I’d most probably effed-up the presentation like our two examples.
    But does it have to be this way? Isn’t there something an employer can do (trainig, workshops) to help those, who can produce things of extraordinary grace and beauty, but dwell and thrive best away from any stage or microphone, when they are inadvertantly pushed into the spotlight?
    I really don’t know, and would like some feedback from other people who have experienced similar situations… active or passive.

  5. you lost me at “Air Application” ugh no thanks.
    [Your prejudice, your loss. If I told you that everything you see was “HTML5” running in WebKit, you’d probably dance a little jig. Then if I told you that WebKit was running inside AIR, you’d say “FAIL”–for no concrete, defensible reason. If I told you instead that WebKit was running on the desktop through some Apple effort, you’d say “WIN!!” And that’s ignorant (because there’d be no difference except your brand perceptions), and that sucks. –J.]

  6. I always wished right-clicking on anything in PS or Ai etc would give you every possible option (click a shape in Ai and get to the color swatch right there; click a layer in PS and get the Layer Options right there).
    So whether it’s Air, html or the app, super-detailed contextual menus are a great goal.

  7. [Your prejudice, your loss. If I told you that everything you see was “HTML5” running in WebKit, you’d probably dance a little jig. –J.]
    Actually most users don’t care, at all, how Adobe programs are built.
    Video One: You know what looks really nice in this video, what looks a million times better than Flash panels? Apple’s UI elements. You want users to dance a jig? Use the tools provided by Apple and Microsoft, don’t reinvent the wheel in a transparent ploy to keep Flash relevant.
    Video Two:Rome/Flash/Flash Catalyst/Flash Builder/Photoshop. Which one is a web developer supposed to buy? All of them? How many timeline models? How many stages/states/pages models? How many UIs? How many overlapping feature sets implemented in different ways? How many different sets of keyboard shortcuts?
    Too. Many.

  8. Rome looks very, very cool, whatever it ends up being. I’m sure you can’t comment on it, but it very much looks like what Flash Catalyst wants to be. And if not, uh, I don’t see a reason for FC to exist alongside this product. I like FC, but depending on where that’s going, I’d certainly hold out for Rome instead if my guessing is wrong.
    Very curious to see where this goes, and how much of this and your other ideas make it into CS5.
    I feel like I say it a lot on here when I comment, but I like the Adobe UI as of CS4. Although, from what I can see in the video, the Rome UI looks like its potentially even nicer. It’s a bit CS4, a bit Apple-style HUD, and maybe a bit Lightroom. In any case, as much as I like my Apple elements and consistency (those lingering aqua blue controls in PS need to go :P), I find that my favorite designed apps break some rules: Tweetie (Mac version) is a bit ‘different’, and on the iPhone front, anything by Tapbots is rooted in Apple’s style, but taken so far past it, and their UIs are gorgeous. Since we are just talking UI here, I encourage you to check them out if you haven’t before.
    Not that this comment needs to be longer, but I definitely like the first video too. Seeing as how you guys seem to already be on the context-sensitive track though, not a lot needs to be said here. Though I do like how Mr. Lang thinks.

  9. Rome looks phenomenal! I love the intuitive panels. I don’t care if it’s AIR, HTML5, LUA or BASIC it’s whatever gets you to the destination. VERY exciting developments.

  10. I’m curious: if I open a brand new install of Photoshop CS4, is it actually running swf files somehow? For the panels? All of them, or just some of them? How does that work?
    [You’re using Flash (SWF files) only if you load the Kuler or Connections panels under Window->Extensions, or if you choose File->Share My Screen. Whatever else one may say about panels in CS4, they have nothing to do with Flash. –J.]

  11. The Rome UI is interesting, but I hope it will drop the “hover” interaction model. I already see a lot of gripe when I miss the hovering on a specific item and it opens instead the wrong one. 🙂

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