Earlier this year Adobe confirmed that it was working on a full-featured version of Photoshop for the iPad, but no real details on the product were given. Today that changed, however, as the app's official announcement arrived alongside the kickoff of Adobe's MAX conference.
Photoshop for iPad won't arrive until some time in 2019, but when it does launch it will differ drastically from Adobe's current lineup of Photoshop-related iOS apps. Rather than focusing on an individual subset of desktop features, like Adobe's existing Photoshop Fix, Express, and Mix do, the aim with this forthcoming app is to provide the full desktop Photoshop experience on an iPad.
As part of its iPad efforts, Adobe has brought the same underlying codebase of Photoshop for desktop to iOS, and it has also worked to modernize PSD files for the cloud. These new Cloud PSDs will be the default file format on the new iPad app, offering a seamless file experience across multiple devices. Adobe's chief product officer, Scott Belsky, told The Verge:
"Cloud PSDs, when we ship Photoshop on the iPad, will also run and automatically show up on your desktop...Suddenly, you’ll have this cloud-powered roundtrip experience akin to a Google Docs experience, where literally the source of truth of your Photoshop creation is in the cloud."
Cloud PSDs will eliminate the need for importing or exporting files, removing a major friction point that currently stands in the way of working with Adobe's apps on the iPad. With Creative Cloud's automatic syncing of all files, you should be able to pick up editing on any device at any time without needing to do a thing.
When manual importing or exporting does make sense to your workflow, those options will still be available in Photoshop for iPad. The app will support file providers like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, and more. Based on the preview version of the app, it appears to support Files.app's document providers, and I'm hopeful that iOS 11's drag and drop features will be supported as another option for importing and exporting.
The Verge was granted a week of hands-on time with Photoshop for iPad, and has a great video that demonstrates the app in action. It appears very similar to Photoshop on desktop, with some adaptations made for OS differences like iOS's lack of a menu bar. There are sure to be touch-optimized improvements offered too though, such as a gesture the video highlights where you can tap with two fingers on the screen to undo.
Though Adobe's goal is full feature parity between desktop and iPad versions of Photoshop, the 1.0 release of Photoshop on iPad will lack certain features that will be added over time with future updates. That full list of missing features is unavailable at this time, but we're sure to learn more as the launch approaches.
Photoshop for iPad will be available free to all Creative Cloud subscribers, but there's no word currently on whether a standalone purchase or iPad-only subscription will be possible. It would be a strong vote of confidence in iPad-first users to make the app available for non-CC subscribers, but based on Adobe's history that appears unlikely.
Today's announcement highlights what an exciting time it is to be an iPad user. With new iPad Pro models expected to be announced in the coming weeks, and a reported focus on significant iPad features coming in iOS 13, there's no time like the present for the full power of Photoshop to make its way to Apple's tablet.