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Adobe releases Photoshop Nav for iPad

Adobe has released a preview of a up-coming iPad application which it claims will make its flagship Photoshop package significantly more convenient to use - by relocating the program's control panel to the touchscreen tablet.

With the traditional Photoshop interface, most controls are accessed via a floating toolbar on the screen of the desktop or notebook you're working on. On larger images, that can get in the way of your editing. Adobe Nav aims to solve that problem by relocating the buttons to an iPad wirelessly hooked up to the computer - turning it into a physical implementation of the toolbar.

Created by a team of engineers led by Geoff Dowd, a senior experience design lead at Adobe, the tool promises to make Photoshop significantly easier to use - so long as you've got an iPad, that is.

"For the first time, you can customize the toolbar to have only the tools you want," Dowd explained at the launch. "Up to 16 appear as big, beautiful icons - so a retoucher who primarily uses four nested tools can now expose them up front on the iPad, and it becomes a delightfully simple tool switcher."

The Adobe Nav tool also allows easy switching between different documents, displaying them as a grid on the app's iPad.

"You can see all your open Photoshop files in a grid on this secondary display, so you don't have to go through the file names in Photoshop or use the Photoshop tabbed view where it's easy to pick the wrong file," Dowd explained. "And you can just double tap a document in Adobe Nav to flip it over and see the file data."

Impressively, the tool also caches the open Photoshop documents - making it possible to take the iPad to a meeting and display the images without requiring a network connection. "Files in Adobe Nav are high-res and actual size," Dowd claimed - meaning that quality isn't sacrificed for portability.

While Steve Jobs might be unconvinced by Adobe's offerings - famously declaring that Flash would never make it to the iPad - Adobe itself is more than happy to jump on the tablet bandwagon. As well as Adobe Nav, the company has announced Color Lava - a colour-mixing utility that ties in to Photoshop - and Adobe Eazel - a utility which transforms the iPad into a finger-driven digitising tablet.

Sadly, there is one small catch: none of the tools are available for immediate use. While those who use Adobe Photoshop CS5 or the newly announced CS5.5 will be able to download them from the App Store as soon as they're released, they're not there yet - and will require an as-yet-unreleased update for Photoshop to operate.

Adobe's move is an interesting one: while multiple artistic packages exist for the iPad, tying the device in to Photoshop offers professional designers, artists, and other creative types a whole new lease of life for their tablets. Whether the use will catch on or become just another tablet-driven fad, however, remains to be seen.