Introducing Adobe Configurator

By now you’ve probably heard me talk many times about our desire to better manage the complexity and power of Photoshop.  The very general interface that Photoshop presents is incredibly flexible, but it can be overwhelming, and it doesn’t do much to show you just what you need when you need it.  We can do better.


It should be possible to:


  • Make Photoshop “everything you need, nothing you don’t”
  • Navigate Photoshop as task-based pieces (think workspaces on steroids), each showing only what you need for the task at hand
  • Let anyone remix the Photoshop UI to fit their needs
  • Make it drop-dead easy to share these remixes


Adobe Configurator (screenshots 1, 2), a new utility that’s due to ship on Adobe Labs around the end of the month, is a key part of our strategy.  Configurator makes it easy to snap together your own Photoshop panels (a.k.a. palettes).  Think of Configurator as a box of Legos–an app that lets you drag and drop all the tools and menu items in Photoshop, call actions & scripts, and add widgets (images, videos, other SWFs, etc.).  I’ve posted a 10-minute demo on Russell Brown’s site.  (If you don’t have QuickTime installed, you can watch it on YouTube as well, though the compression quality there is pretty abysmal.)


We’ve shown a beta of Configurator to members of the press & have been getting great responses:


  • Imaging Resource: “Dead easy. But we expected it to be easy. What we didn’t expect was just how useful the little panel we built would actually be.”
  • TG Daily: “[I]t is very intuitive to use and enables users to integrate virtually any function of Photoshop in a custom panel.”

  • Outback Photo: “We personally love the new Adobe Configurator 1.0… Using the new Configurator is as easy as gets.”


We’re putting the finishing touches on Configurator right now, so look for it on Labs in the next few weeks.  [Update: It’s live now!] (I’ll of course post news about it here.)  We look forward to hearing your thoughts & using your feedback to move the tool forward.


[Updates: Sorry, I forgot to mention that Configurator requires Photoshop CS4.  It’s building on top of the Flash panel extensibility system that’s new to CS4.  We wanted to make sure people could create for that system without having to be coders.  If you do write ActionScript, however, you can go much further using Flash and/or Flex.  You can create independent SWF panels, and you can incorporate your SWFs into Configurator-made panels via drag and drop, just as easily as I added an image in the demo.]


PS–If you’d like to be able to configure other applications (Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Fireworks, etc.) via Configurator, please make a little noise.  We’ve designed the tool such that the other apps just need to supply an XML file that lists their menu items plus the associated scripting commands, as well as PNGs for their tools.  Hearing your interest would help the PMs of other apps raise the priority of supplying those assets & testing Configurator.

0 thoughts on “Introducing Adobe Configurator

  1. After watching the demo I’m pretty excited about this new feature! Can’t wait to see what people come up with!
    Oh yeah, and by the way; I can’t think of a reason why not ad this in the other creative suite apps?! 😉

  2. Holy crap! That looks amazing. It’s worth upgrading for that by itself. Can’t wait to start using that.

  3. That’s one sweet looking AIR application.
    [Thanks. Provided there are no legal snags, we’d like to make both the authoring tool & the panels open-source. –J.]
    Also, for anyone who’se ever worked in large document management systems trying to build workflows across applications and departments, making special panels in Photoshop with this really has me think about potential workflow solutions I’ve worked on for magazine publication, etc…
    Am I assuming too much that we’ll be able to make panels that can use Flex/Flash code, maybe interact with some remote document management libraries, and build tightly coupled workflow from within Photoshop (and hopefuly other asset creation tools in the future)?
    [Hell yeah!! 🙂 The door is now open to doing that across the whole Suite, and I’m very excited about it. You can expect a Flash panels SDK and other docs to be made available soon. –J.]

  4. This could be incredibly useful for streamlining Indesign in a newspaper environment. Get rid of functions that you don’t want your layouters to use, and the ones they dont need to put a focus on the important ones.

  5. Definitely add it for the big four – Illustrator, InDesign, Flash and Photoshop!
    That would be the hierarchy for me.

  6. Pretty incredible to say the least. Having gotten into AS3 in the past year I’d love to be able to minimize the amount of items in the Flash menubar.
    Where, oh where, can one get a message to the powers-that-be?
    Love the blog, Mr. Nack. Keep up the great work!

  7. “If you do write ActionScript, however, you can go much further using Flash and/or Flex.”
    Regarding that, is there/will there be an API somewhere for developers to gain more control over the UI?

  8. Hello Jack,
    Looking forward to this “tool”
    For a guy like me who can complicate a straight pen, this outta help.
    Ken in KY

  9. Flash palette is very “cool” from a developper standpoint but it’s value wont be visible to user until there are “quality” palette (adressing real production needs) appearing on the market..
    [Absolutely right. That’s one reason we haven’t promoted this potentially transformative foundation more heavily. Almost no one would care that PS and the other apps can run Flash panels; they’ll only care when Adobe and others build more/better functionality more quickly than ever could have been done in the past. –J.]
    This configurator seem to be quite powerfull and simple enough so that normal users will be able to use it! (It was about time.. i remember having done a customised toolbar in word more than 10 years ago!)
    That’s a very nice move!

  10. This would be a great asset to have when working with InDesign. Aside from panels customised for tasks, it would be useful for showing new staff our production methods.

  11. Really useful.
    Now, how about listing the email addresses or other contact info for the other Adobe PMs so that we can bug them about making this a part of the rest of the product line-up?
    Any chance this capability could be released as an update during the CS4 product life? Or will it need to wait for CS5?
    Thanks for the great work and for the chance to promote this amazing capability.

  12. This looks amazing! Absolutely cannot wait. I immediately think of how this will help newcomers transition into using PS. How great will it be to have panels specific for certain tasks? Users won’t have to wade through everything, they’ll be able to have panels with the tools they should be using (or that you want them to use). Can’t contain my excitement!

  13. Seems like a great new application to create workflows for clients, students or big creative agencies. I would really like to see it working with the other CS4 applications too. Might be handy for me and my students.

  14. Great demo John – the possibilities look endless. One question. Does Configurator affect performance in any way (significant), like loading and in processing? I’ve seen other GUI’s that ‘sit on top’ of underlying processes that can tend to slow down operations. It looked rather quick in the demo.
    [There’s some memory overhead for running SWF panels (much as there is when running a SWF in a Web browser). The startup time should be minimal, though at the moment we’re still working through some bugs that can delay loading. Once panels are running, they shouldn’t consume CPU cycles unless they’re doing something (actively running scripts, playing video, etc.). –J.]

  15. Nice job, John. I know you’ve been talking about this for a while.
    I will definitely be using this for the CMYK stuff.
    Rick McCleary

  16. Can you add UI elements that take input from user and pass it on to scripts? Can UI elements ‘read’ info from the document? Can panels run initialization code? Can a panel in Photoshop access the filesystem and/or other apps? I’m trying to get a handle on close this is getting a full automation interface…
    [All good questions, and I can’t get into addressing them all here. As I mentioned, Configurator is certainly not the only way to make panels for Photoshop. When you hit the limitations of what Configurator panels can do out of the box, you can use Flash/Flex either as an alternative or in concert with Configurator-made panels. We’ll offer more documentation on the details of what communication is possible. –J.]

  17. PLEASE, PLEASE include this into Bridge too!!!
    This is the missing part for all my scripts and it will free me from spending SO MUCH time coding ScriptUI, which is very frustrating to me as a workflow developer (by the way I have created a similar tool for builing basic ScriptUI palettes for my own needs, but it’s a hard thing and will never work as good as this).
    Markus Selbach
    PS: Please make CS4 available in Germany soon, we can’t wait any longer 🙂

  18. Is it technically possible now, with the CS4 packages, to get such panels into ALL the CS4 apps — or must we wait, wait, wait till CS5 is out, since there are bits missing in the other apps? That’s not clear to me yet.
    [That’s a question we’re discussing now. We’ve designed Configurator to be very scalable, and to leverage the infrastructure already in CS4 products. Even so, we had to start with just one app, and it’s possible we’ll find gaps in the other apps’ support. Whether/when the other apps join in will be determined largely by the community response, and I’m very encouraged so far. –J.]

  19. As a expert-level user of Photoshop, I have to admit that, based on early descriptions and previews of the Configurator, I had my doubts about it’s usefulness to me (and other advanced users), but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. This looks sooo cool! I can’t wait to give this thing a test drive. Great work, John (and team).

  20. unrelated: where can I find this wikipedia menu item?
    [It’s a groovy little utility called iSeek from Ambrosia. You can put focus on it from any app, then use Tab to cycle through search engines. –J.]

  21. This would be AWESOME in InDesign and Illustrator. Creating a custom panel would allow me to cut WAY down on the amount of space taken up by toolbars and panels – since I can’t afford a 30-inch LCD just yet.

  22. I’m glad you named it “Adobe Configurator” instead of “Phtoshop Configurator”. Now the other apps have to go in.

  23. I remember the uproar and resistance the mention of Flash panels in PS got early on. Glad to see you forged ahead, this feature looks great! I’m getting mighty impatient for CS4 to ship. I would chime in that I agree with others who have posted, we need to get this integrated with other apps. I just started using Illustrator a few weeks ago and could very much see the benefit of configuring the UI for it.

  24. Let me just point out that by adding Configurator, Photoshop is actually being made more complex, not less.
    [You’ve missed the point: Configurator can be used to bring forward selected functionality (e.g. various tools), letting you hide other parts of the UI (toolbar, menu items, other panels). It’s about subtraction and simplification. –J.]
    This smacks of the 3D app modo. A very small number of über geeks like modo’s customizability, but for the most part the only thing this sort of customization does is make the software more confusing, and it pulls away development resources from more important concerns such as true 16 and 128-bit (or HDR) color support and the like.
    I also find it somewhat disingenuous to say that Configurator’s palettes and panels fit right in with the rest of the app and don’t feel alien and weird when the CS4 apps themselves have been so radically altered away from the aesthetics of their respective host OSs that they feel alien and weird. They don’t look and feel like Mac or Windows apps anymore. It seems to me that the changes being made are radical and unnecessary. The world would be better served, I think, by less complexity and more Mac-like Mac apps and more Windows-like Windows apps.
    I shudder to think how much energy and resources have been poured into what is basically an arbitrary cosmetic change.
    [Meanwhile I’m amazed at how much energy you put into finding the negative in anything Adobe does. –J.]
    Yes, Apple does this too. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    [The decision by Apple’s pro apps teams to go beyond what the base Mac OS offers doesn’t strike me as “wrong.” –J.]

  25. If you’d like to be able to configure other applications (Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Fireworks, etc.) via Configurator, please make a little noise.
    IS THIS NOISY ENOUGH? I want it for InDesign and Illustrator too…

  26. Before i get too excited about this, one thing which isn’t too clear is if i will be able to modify the existing structure of the photoshop interface. For instance, will i be able to combine those 2 toolbars at the top of cs4 into one toolbar? In their current state, the occupy entirely too much space and i would love to see them be merged.
    Or is this tool only for creating new panels?
    [It’s only for creating new panels, but you can do various things with the toolbars at the top of the CS4 interface. That deserves another post that I don’t have time to write just now. –J.]

  27. Wouldn’t this capability be great for teaching novices how to work with Photoshop? (As well as for people who are trying to learn by themselves.)
    There would be a series of sequentially more complex Configurator-created panels, which would be part of a “curriculum” for teaching. Different instructors/author could develop different curricula, based on their philosophies of how best to teach.
    In addition to “simply” teaching how to use the software, these curricula could also be a way to help students learn to think about photography, about some of the *why* modify the image, as well as *how* to modify the image. Perhaps similar to what Ansel Adams’s _The Print_ does for film printing.

  28. Very interesting idea, I’m going to have to watch this through again.
    Oh, and FYI — if you want to avoid the lousy compression on the youtube video add the param fmt=18 to the url. e.g. “”
    Since I found that youtube has been much more useful for this kind of screen recording!

  29. The Adobe Configurator is an awesome idea! I would like to see it for Dreamweaver and Flash in addition to Photoshop.

  30. Agreed. Great idea and, yes, I too would like to see this for Dreamweaver and Flash.
    Can you imagine what great teaching tool this would be? Customizing/enabling panels step-by-step according to the lesson!

  31. »…If you’d like to be able to configure other applications (Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Fireworks, etc.) via Configurator, please make a little noise…«
    noise, Noise, NOIIISE! Great Tool. Becaus i very often use Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously, i really need the same feature for Ilustrator.

  32. Looks like a great tool. I can’t wait to start using it.
    I continue to be amazed at the time you put into your blog, including the time you waste responding to the nay-sayers. In the public sector, we call them CAVE’s. (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).
    [Hah–I dig that one. –J.]
    A question. I’m a little fuzzy on the concept. I understand that Configurator needs to run in CS4 but do the resulting panels need CS4 as well or can they be run as a plug-in on earlier versions? I followed your link to you May 19 entry and I take from that blog entry that the panels themselves are running on Flash and the answer would be no?
    [That’s correct. We were able to sneak some preliminary support for Flash inside dialog boxes into PSCS3, but we couldn’t do panels until this time. –J.]

  33. Awesome idea… we would love to see that feature in Illustrator CS4 as well as Photoshop. We use them in tandem all day, every day.

  34. Managing a production environment of 75 people where consistency is key, I would LOVE to have this in Illustrator and InDesign.
    For my own use where I’m not as good as I’d like to be in Dreamweaver and Flash, I’d love to be able to use panels someone else has made to help simplify some tasks.
    Where should we be making the noise?
    [Right here works just fine. 🙂 –J.]

  35. Please consider this my contribution to the noise! Brilliant idea and so many applications!
    Someone above asked if this was considered noisy enough, or if we need to send emails to the PMs of the Suite Apps. I’ll gladly send emails if that’s appropriate (and their names and addresses are provided).
    Kudos to the teams working on this!
    With admiration and respect,

  36. John,
    I have been reading your blog since I met you at the birds-of-a-feather MAX 07 session. And I have to say out of all of the cool things you have posted about, this is freaking AWESOME. I can’t wait to use this in PS. but I do have to say: Bring on the Flash Support!!! The thought almost makes me giddy. Way to go John. You have really got the vision of some cool stuff.

  37. In my dreams I’m already using it.
    This is priceless – can’t wait.
    And as someone else mentioned – I can’t think of any reason why the other apps shouldn’t get the configurator – it’s brilliant – I would use it across all my CS4 apps without a doubt.
    Well done – if CS4 had no other improved features I would upgrade for the ability to use this alone.

  38. Yes this would be more useful in the more historically poorly designed apps like Flash. I think its useful and likely to point out flaws and accessibility issues in certain current UI’s
    As a training tool it has one slight drawback, it makes the normal location of menu items invisible. If there was an option to have these pop up quickly when lets say “save for web” was clicked in the configurator panel, it would make more sense for training.
    Its a good development though, we’ll see how often its used.

  39. It is coming to Labs at the end of the month, so my guess is that initially it will be limited to Photoshop. If that is the case, please ask the development teams to integrate the configurator into ALL Adobe applications.

  40. This would be utterly awesome in so many ways!!! Please PLEASE Adobe… add support for the rest of the Suite!!!

  41. Long live Configurator!
    Good to see its reception out there now. We are just scratching the surface on what it can do.
    Glad to see you guys didnt cave (giggle),

  42. As someone who builds Fireworks commands pretty much every week, I’d *love* to see Fireworks support in Configurator.
    Here’s hope Adobe Configurator 2.0 supports all of the CS4 suite.

  43. The ability to configure Fireworks panels in a more Photoshop-user friendly manner would be an ideal catalyst for designers who would like to take advantage of FW prototyping tools/workflow but are reluctant to move out of their PS comfort zone.

  44. And where do you download this program? I cannot find it.
    [It’ll be on Adobe Labs in another few weeks (now targeting the first half of Nov.). –J.]

  45. please please PLEASE make this for Illustrator!!!! I am constantly using Illustrator, and could probably reduce everything I use from many different panels into one (also Flash…but DEFINITELY illustrator first!!)
    [Cool; I’ve passed this feedback to the Illustrator PM (and others). –J.]
    thanks, and looking forward to trying it out 🙂

  46. Please say you can customize the right-click menu for the brush tool. I can’t believe CS4 still doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut for the color picker 🙁

  47. I’ll be honest. I don’t want to wait for the end of the month. I’d like to get started ‘configurating’ right now… (sigh).

  48. Very cool! We absolutely need this technology for building custom interfaces to our backend systems in Bridge, InDesign and InCopy also. Who at Adobe should I direct my noise-making to?

  49. Hi Jack,
    I like the Configurator a lot!, but why I must run it (Vista) as Administrator? Why does the application hasn’t got an application manifest?
    Vista has a very good security model.

  50. I loved to have a different right click brush menue for PS CS4 but unfortunatly this can’t be done for a non programer at the moment in Configurator.
    Please as “Sean” already pointed out this is a much needed chnage.
    think about something like this
    I hope someone will get his hands dirty on this.
    [Absolutely right. That’s one reason we haven’t promoted this potentially transformative foundation more heavily. Almost no one would care that PS and the other apps can run Flash panels; they’ll only care when Adobe and others build more/better functionality more quickly than ever could have been done in the past. –J.]
    I say this would enter the concept artist speedpainting world like a bomb …
    regards mogh

  51. I set up configurator, and put some adjustment layer commands in, but it didn’t give me same functionality as PS3, not having to use the adj panel.
    [Why in particular do you saying “having” to use the panel? –J.]
    Did I do something wrong, or is this what it provides, because I can set up a adj layer with actions?
    [By and large the buttons added to panels will do exactly what the equivalent menu items do. In the case of adjustments in CS4, I did make a simple panel that enables creating/editing curves via a dialog. The trick was to edit the script attached to the button, changing “DialogModes.NO” at the end to “DialogModes.ALL”. –J.]

  52. This is along the idea that I’ve sent as feedback to Adobe for a number of years, except that my idea was to sell a basic version of PS with an 80% case set of tools (whatever that might be) and sell either individual tools or sets of tools, at a reasonable price, of course, so that users, as they get more proficient, or change their work style, can add only what they need. This Configurator is probably a better idea though, since we don’t always know what we might need or have a chance to experiment with various tools.
    Excellent job, John!

  53. Is it possible to have tools icons as a group like you have by default in tools palette (like a group that contains rectangular marquee, round marquee and lasso tool for example)?

  54. I have Photoshop CS4 installed on two machines. A Notebook running Windows XP Professional (32-bit version), and a Desktop running Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit version). My issue is with the Adobe Configurator Application that I’m running on the Desktop.
    I installed the Application, made a Configurator Panel, and then Exported it to the default location. When I open up CS4, it does not show up under the Extensions as it is supposed to do. I’ve gone through the process several times, but nothing that I do seems to make the Panel show. Please note that I have also Installed the Configurator with no problems on the Notebook, and it shows up properly there.
    Do you have an answer for this troubling difference? Everything seems to work normally up until I need to access the Panel under the Extensions. Have you heard of a problem with the Configurator and 64-bit systems? Perhaps it has to be installed in a different Folder (other than Plug-ins>Panels)?
    Thank you for your help!

  55. John,
    We are in the midst of upgrading our interface to our backend systems. The original interface connected our DAM with our creative department and our order entry application. It consisted of a bunch of scripts in Illustrator and Photoshop.
    We are now converting to using InDesign and InDesign Server CS/4 and we are writing Flex apps. In one of your posts, you said (I think)that the Adobe Configurator functionality could be driven by XML in InDesign. Is there any documentation on how to do that?
    [Sounds like an interesting project. Configurator and InDesign aren’t presently connected, but we have a roadmap for getting there. For CS4 your best bet is to roll your own SWF UI using Flex. –J.]

  56. Please add Configurator support for Illustrator and Flash. Having used it with Photoshop, it’s hard to go back to using Adobe programs that lack those features.
    Excellent job, guys.

  57. The interface looks good. If it can do what is claimed, as easily as claimed, I’d love to see it done for Lightroom 2X

  58. OMG I love this!!! Thank you!!!
    Can I do this?
    I want a hard list (not a drop down) of layer blending options. I freq try several different blending options and it is a PITA to have to keep going back and doing the drop down thing.
    Please let me know! 🙂

  59. Fantastic app! very simple to use. Well Done chaps!
    Now how about that Indesign capability?
    Keep up the good work!

  60. Hi John!
    Is it possible to sell a panel or a set of panels as a commercial extension of Photoshop CS4?
    [Sure, absolutely. The only unfortunate thing is that right now we don’t offer a way to compile one’s scripts or to otherwise prevent piracy. You kind of have to depend on honest people being honest. –J.]

  61. Yes, please integrate this with Illustrator (and Flash). Illustrator first, if you have to choose. I’m using AI CS5 daily now, and there are a few things I could do with some custom panels. Loving the panel I made for my Photoshop.

  62. Hello all,
    can please anyone from Adobe give a statement about the actual development state of this application? As a lot requested it to be included in the other programs of the creative suite i’d also like to have this in illustrator especially!
    Kind regards

  63. there’s a bug in configurator that i’m hoping someone has a solution for…
    basically, i set up all my panels (swatches, tool presets, layers, history, etc.) all together in one (they are all ‘bumped’ or ‘magnetized’ together so they act all as one big panel – hope this makes sense – kind of like when you drag one panel beside another, the blue line appears and allows you to stick them together.
    so when I press TAB, they all appear at once. I then select whatever I need (a current layer, a swatch color, a tool preset, etc.) Then press TAB again and they all disappear at once, so I can edit my document again.
    Here’s the problem:
    One of the panels in my big group is a configurator-made panel. When pressing TAB to view all my panels, if I click on anything inside the configurator-made panel, then photoshop gets ‘stuck’ on this panel and will not allow you to press TAB to make them disappear again. For whatever reason, the TAB function is gone whenever you click on a configurator panel.

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