Streaming Thoughts About Adobe

socs badge 2016-17Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator…sigh. Sometimes I feel like being a casual user of an Adobe product is a little like attempting your own dentistry. Actually, since the world of mouths and gums is fairly finite, maybe that’s not an adequate hyperbolic comparison. Maybe I need to liken it to orthopedic surgery. Of course, I do have at least one reader who has dabbled in oral surgery, so I better be careful. The fact of the matter is, whenever I have to get seriously cozy with an Adobe product, my head comes dangerously close to exploding.

The problem is, Adobe’s products are too powerful. That’s a hard admission to make. I spent a good portion of my career writing software, and I never thought that software tools could ever be powerful enough, let alone too powerful. Then, one day, one of our engineers asked me to help him configure footnotes, table of contents and indexes in Microsoft Word. That’s when I realized that software can, in fact, be too powerful.

Compared to Adobe Creative Suite, Word, Excel and Power Point might as well be sold under the Fisher-Price brand. Kid’s stuff. I swear, there’s a hidden multi-key combo in Photoshop that will let you bring your images to life. The average power user doesn’t know the combo, and it involves that squigly-inside-out-rounded-corner key that’s only on a MacBook, but I’m certain it can be done. The next time you visit an artist, take a good look at their cats. Those aren’t natural.

The other problem I have with Adobe is that I know more than enough to get myself in trouble. I know what I can do. I know what I’ve seen others do – like when you read one of those start-with-this-piece-of-crap-photo-and-turn-it-into-something-magical blog prompts, and the person describes what they did.

I removed all the wires, the dead tree and I replaced the new truck in front of the barn with a rusted 1932 Chevy Confederate Pickup. Then I brought the barn to life in my back yard and hired a crew of workman shore-up the foundation. Then I pulled it back into Photoshop and replaced the concrete foundation they poured with stone, using the random-rubble filter set to Scotland, circa 1640. Then I planted heritage grass, unpaved the road and changed the filtering effect of the atmosphere to what it was before the last flip of the magnetic poles.”

Yeah, I could do none of these.
Yeah, I could do none of these.

As far as using Adobe’s Suite of products goes, my capability varies. For example, I actually understand InDesign fairly well. If I were back in the dental analogy, I could put braces on your kid in InDesign. Maybe not your only child, maybe not your favorite child, but that middle boy, yeah I could do that. With Photoshop, I guess I’d be closer to fillings and simple root canals. As far as Illustrator goes, I could tell you to floss.

There’s another, lesser-known Adobe product, Dreamweaver that I am somewhat familiar with. Dreamweaver is for web development. I used to use it when it was a Macromedia product, the people who unleashed Flash on an unsuspecting world. Adobe bought Macromedia, did not give me a “suite-level” upgrade despite the fact that I owned the Macromedia Suite, and hasn’t done much to improve Dreamweaver or put us out of the misery that is Flash.

Unfortunately, Illustrator is the product that I had to work with. I was trying to produce an InfoGraphic. I hate that word, but that’s what the assignment was. My first thought was to run as far away from Illustrator as I could get. That, by the way, would be Canva, a web-based infographic-making-service. Canva proved to be extremely rigid and there was no way I was going to get the look we wanted. I knew I’d end up in Illustrator. In the past, I’ve actually used a CAD system to build complex graphics and Visio to build less-complex graphics just to avoid Illustrator.

In case you’re interested in this stuff, I mean, you are still here reading, Visio is to Illustrator what Chef Boyardee is to your Italian grandmother.

You would think, since it’s a “suite” of products, that knowing InDesign would help me understand Illustrator. That’s true…to a degree. For example, when you want to insert a graphic image, you use the “File->Place” command. Of course, the larger issue is that they didn’t call that function “Insert” instead of “place.” I get it, I’m placing an object on the page, but it’s not an object I have. It’s like rearranging the living room furniture you haven’t bought, or the furniture you bought from IKEA, but for which you’ve lost the wrench.

I think that’s the best way to describe my situation. Adobe Illustrator is like IKEA furniture without the wrench – so little chance of success – but so much potential.


This post was written by the voices that have been trapped behind a “Caution Adobe Illustrator at Work” sign all week, as part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Just Jot It January is: A word that starts with “P.” Find a word that begins with the letter “p,” and make it the theme of your post. Bonus points for starting and ending your post with a “p” word. Enjoy!

Someone’s getting bonus points.

The gallery has a few photos that I was going to write about, until I saw those bonus points.

66 thoughts on “Streaming Thoughts About Adobe

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  1. As someone who only ever uses the Fisher-Price level software, I’ve always been impressed from afar with Adobe Creative Suite. My husband has used Photoshop, and also Illustrator for vector graphics (does that sound right?), and I remember him using Dreamweaver at Uni when it was a Macromedia product :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess I’m reading at the “See Spot run” level. I started using Illustrator to recreate IRS forms before they were available as PDF (long time ago) so that we could print on them in a laser printer. Not exactly an artistic endeavor. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I hang my head in shame and admit that the Fisher Price level works just fine for me. I’ve never understood why a person takes a photo and then changes it to the point that it doesn’t even resemble what you were looking at through the eye of the camera. It then becomes a piece of art instead of a photograph. Just saying. Now, I need another cup of coffee. You made me think on a Saturday morning again. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sorry, Judy. I didn’t mean to make anyone struggle. Fisher Price is good enough for me. I didn’t talk about Lightroom, which I’m learning. I use that to compensate for my not being able to get the camera to see what I saw. Not looking to create works of art.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think the same… IF I was a photographer of the kind Dan or Cheryl are, enjoying it for the artistic expression it is, then I think my “game” in that art would be to take a great pic from the camera — and yup Dan, other than a couple of Fisher-Price tweaks I can’t imagine why. Unless you are taking it and doing the antique function or some such art….

      Liked by 2 people

  3. LOL I rarely even get to Fisher Price difficulty level. I actually just point, click, and if the photo isn’t good, I take some more. Canva lets me easily sprinkle a few words around, letting me make a cupcake of a photo design. So far, that’s the range of my ambition. If I ever climb the everest of Adobe products, I imagine I will remember your words as a road map.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I first started playing around with Canva, I liked it. But, I had to nudge a few elements and I found that you often can’t do that. I gravitate to easier solutions, but sometimes, the easiest way is to struggle through the hard stuff.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It was an advance on Powerpoint, which I had been using. I felt like Powerpoint was whimsical, sometimes permitting things to work and sometimes failing them for no discernible reason. I admire people who’ve taken the time and trouble to master Adobe Illustrator, but I am not there. :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You know I’m not too much of a tech person. So I want add my grain of salt to the Adobe merits. But the Photos are gorgeous. Love the full moon one. And the mention of Ikea brought back cool memories of my early years in Paris and in the US. My husband LOVES putting things together, so Ikea is like a mega Lego set for him. Ikea is so much better now than it was decades ago and they have become so stylish that our kids love their stuff as much as their parents did when they were their age in another land. Great photos again, Dan.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It all comes under the rubric of “use the right tool for the right job”.

    My biggest battle when I was working, a battle that I never won, was to convince management that one does not use the same methodology to build a rowboat and a battleship. They always demanded battleship plans for rowboats.

    Their thinking was that more complexity and more detail = “mo better”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I don’t think of myself as a professional photographer but in fact that is one huge part of what zi do in our biz, because for museum pieces a document record is required and so I take hundreds of photos a week and turn them into reports that few people see. They are almost all action images — on the fly — and so I need to clean them up so they are acceptable. Crop, level, change lighting, and occasionally blur the background so one can focus on the sticks in front of them. I’ve hated MS since they decided people were stupid and took our ability to do what we wanted with their software away. I turned to Adobe for Dreamweaver 15? years ago. I gotta say, I love their products: There is a learning curve but once you grok what their thinking process is they are fairly easy to work with, and I think their layouts are intuitive — and the problem is, as MS users we overthink everything because we started with the most convoluted program and don’t understand the simple… So here I am today — and Dan, I take credit for starting you off on this because I’ve been raving endlessly about Mac and Lightroom on FB! Mac screwed up their lovely and easy photo processing to the point where they are basically good for home use only. (YUP, my opinion, but I am right.) Because I have a deadline (so why am I here reading and writing?) and had to switch to an Adobe product, and because I am notoriously a non-reader of manuals, and because getting a new replacement computer from Apple Business was contingent on me agreeing to work with a consultant for a couple of hours on my nickel (but $250 instead of several thousand was a price worth taking) I hired one of their suggestions. He turned me onto Lightroom. So right now, walk away from Photoshop unless you want to do all that Dan said including the heritage grass (cracked me up btw) and switch. SOOOOO easy, does mostly what we are interested in, fast, and truly organizes your photos in places where you can look at them (instead of somewhere on planet Nebula.) I am in LOVE. Even the dang manual is intuitive. I processed 300 images my first day on it — Yay! Now I realy do have to get back to the other 1500 images so I can write the report and get paid….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Kate. I didn’t talk about Lightroom today, but I do use it (personally) and I’m learning (and liking) it. I have used some products that were useful and intuitive over the years, but the big boys have put them all out f business, or forced them to become just as complex. I’ve been writing software for Windows, almost since the PC was invented, so I live in the Windows world. I’ve had to use a Mac, because I also develop(ed) iOS apps for our company. I can find pluses and minuses in both worlds, but switching between the two is awful.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have to agree with you Dan. Something that’s over complicated, is not better to me. People scoff, but I manage to make plain old Word do a lot (as far as general “writing” software goes). As for Photoshop, every time I begin to halfway figure it out, my computer has died of old age and I have to get the next Adobe version, and it is useless to me… Have a good weekend. Hugs.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Teagan. I work pretty well with Word, not looking for better writing software, at least for now. I was using a an open source photo editor, but I have to use Photoshop at work, and I have to know how to help other people use it, so I decided that I should be using it at home too. I bought the package that includes Photoshop and Lightroom, but I still sneak off to my open source (GIMP) product every now and then. I think people like simplicity more than anything. It’s hard to make highly capable products simple, but sometimes, I thin they could try harder.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I always wanted to have Photoshop and play in it, but never forked over the $$$. At work, there isn’t a need (I most often use Excel and SharePoint these days), so the PTB in IT will never give it to me. I laughed at the Photoshop changes that made an original photo very made up. I suppose that’s for people like me who have an idea in their head, but can’t draw.

    I’m giving you 100 bonus points for talking IT on a Saturday morning and not boring me. I can take this anytime over the dreaded math.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hmmm, I had a mathy post ready for this week. I was going with it until I saw the SoCS prompt. I’m probably gonna use that next week. I better spend those bonus points quick like. Before I decided to fork over a few $$$ on the Photoshop/Lightroom combo, I was using GIMP (Gnu Image…) its interface takes some getting used to, but it’s free and it has a lot of features. I’m glad you enjoyed this – thanks for the bonus points. They will be gone by next Saturday :)

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Absolutely loved this piece! I use photoshop elements and yeah, it’s pretty much playing with fire. Some days I feel like I’ve made a pact with the devil just to keep from losing my photos altogether in the ether…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Dan the analogies were darn good. if we were having a beer I would say lets keep it simple. grab something cold and wet and lets step out into the garden where we can talk. okay for the next three months or so we will leave the step into garden part out. The Greeks did not know about software when they came up with Prometheus. However software and the punishment for developing software have something in common. Software and the hardware it runs on never stays simple to use. It is not like pouring beer into a glass. it is more like click and curse repeatedly. Did I mention Prometheus ? About the only good thing this analogy allows is another round. Good scream of consciousness. now I will go crack open another one… Next time we can talk about a daylily called Primal Scream. Until then.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John. Is Prometheus the guy who stole fire? I could use a guy like that around here. I’ll stick to pouring beer into a glass this weekend. I’ll leave the graphic manipulation for the M-F time slots.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. “Now with less car roof” Ha!
    Anything beyond basic photo software has me feeling like I’m dying.
    I only have a vague sense of understanding this post because of your metaphors. Thank you for including metaphors for people whose brains work like mine.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Shaking and nodding, here comes that queasy feeling. I guess I hit a nerve. Then again, you seem to have mastered Minecraft, so I’m guessing Adobe’s got nothing on you. Thanks for the comment – I’m glad you liked this.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I haven’t used Photoshop for about 15 years. If I tried to use use it again I’m sure my brain would probably explode. Never could figure out Illustrator but I know people who swear by it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wow. And I feel bad cropping, enhancing color and light. It just feels like too much work for me. I think I should be painting instead. It is miraculous though. My granddaughter has a new app for her tablet that brings her Pokemon drawings to life and adds music. She’s almost 13..😳

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Painting would be a wonderful option, Cheryl. Sadly, I’m not even good at painting walls. Software should be easy to use. I try to get my photos to look like what I remember seeing, but I don’t work too hard at it.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post Dan. I’ve tried to work with Illustrator, but I’m afraid it’s been like a nightmare. I still dip in to it now and again with new vigour and resolve, but inevitably become deflated.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Oh, Dan–from ‘the piece of crap photo to something magical was an absolute riot! I have not a clue about Photoshop or Lightroom. I know ‘crop.’ Ta da! That’s it. If that doesn’t fix it, I don’t use the photo. I loved this.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Interesting thoughts…
    …I know what most of the tools in Photoshop do and see where they take me.
    I know when you talk about these tutorials where people change everything in a picture and produce great looking fantasy landscapes. Though when you try to produce something with your photos it doesn’t work, because you didn’t take the right pictures.
    Therefore I let the program take me somewhere and in the process develop different styles that evolve or desovle..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m pretty comfortable in Photoshop, but I don’t always have the right photo and I rarely know where I want to go with it. My usual goal is to try and get the image to look like what I saw when I took the photo, as opposed to what I managed to get from the camera.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This I usually do in Lightroom.
        With Photoshop I usually try to combine photos. Like one of my latest photos where I thought it would be great to combine the stumbling guy with something dangerous.

        Liked by 2 people

  17. I agree with your assessment of the Adobe art software. I tried it way back when, when the basic Photoshop program was free. I had the worst time with it. I finally gave up on it and clicked onto the Corel site [called PaintShop Pro back then] and bought PaintShop Pro 7. It seems to be powerful without all the confusion. My PaintShop Pro is considered old now but it still works for what I want to use it for.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I used PaintShop Pro for years. I really liked that program. I switched to PhotoShop when we started giving it to people at work, because they expected me to be able to help them. I used it at work, but I kept using other products at home. I finally bought the “photography bundle” from Adobe to get Photoshop and Lightroom. I like Lightroom, for working on multiple images, but I seem to remember that PaintShop had some capability to do that.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, can I borrow the sign? You raise an interesting question (I’m not sure it’s your point, but…) I remember when a pencil/paper sketch got you a lot further than it does today. I think people think “oh, it’s all digital” so it must be easy. Good luck keeping the sign off the door.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Hartford under moonlight without the car roof was such a beautiful photo, Dan. I felt like what you were doing was finishing a photograph to its best capacity. It was very interesting but to me, a little too high tech. (Gobbledy goop)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Robin. I knew the post wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but it was what I was dealing with all week and it just seemed to want to come out. I’d blame it on Linda, with the “P” prompt, but I think it was coming out, one way or another. I’m glad you liked that photo.

      Liked by 1 person

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