Adobe Ink & Slide: Workplace Toys

A little over a year ago the Storycode team was at the Adobe MAX conference when Adobe announced their first foray into hardware development with Project Mighty and Napoleon. Now, after waiting over a year for the public release, a name change, and an excruciating week waiting for delivery, I finally received a well designed package with Ink and Slide inside.

Unboxing the package is a treat. It really feels like you are being presented with an exclusive piece of technology. The stylus (Ink) and the ruler (slide) are on top when you open the box. Below are the charging case, charging cable, getting started book and a little Creative Cloud branded screen cleaning cloth (reminding the owner that, at the heart, this is a product to deepen use of Creative Cloud). Flipping through the “Getting Started” book prompts you to download Adobe Line.

Line is the primary app built for use with Ink and Slide, and consists of a blank page with six “pen” options, 20 basic color themes, a perspective tool and options for Ink and Slide. Immediately, the Creative Cloud integration becomes apparent as the 20 basic color themes can be expanded via Kuler, Adobe’s color pallet creation tool.

With any stylus, Line becomes a decent drawing app. Not great, but for a 1.0 product, a solid start. With Ink, the experience of line becomes better, and the integration into Creative Cloud becomes deeper.

Pushing the single physical button on Ink shows a menu on the connected iPad offering settings for Ink, Slide and Kuler, as well as sharing options and transfer options to Creative Cloud clipboards that can be accessed in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Overall the integration with Creative Cloud and other Adobe products is excellent. But at the end of the day, the experience of drawing and creating with Ink and Slide is what matters. And overall, that experience is pretty good, especially for a 1.0 product.

Ink feels great in the hand. It’s light without feeling cheap, and the elegant twist in the body of the pen makes it incredibly comfortable to hold. The pressure sensitivity works decently well, it’s most noticeable when writing (release strokes tend to be heavier). There is, however, a noticeable lag between the physical stroke of the stylus, and the visual appearance on the screen. It’s unlikely that this will ever be completely resolved, simply because of the technology used by Ink, but, decreased latency should be a goal for the development team. At it’s core Ink is a good stylus, but by itself, and even with the apps and Creative Cloud integration, it’s not worth the hefty price tag. But the final piece of the puzzle, Slide, takes the product package from good to great.

Slide is unassuming. Aluminum and plastic with a single physical button, it would be easy to ignore Slide while immediately gravitating to the (literally) glowing Ink. And while the digital straight edge is great, Slide is so much more than just a straight edge.

By placing Slide on an iPad with the Line app open, you get two guide lines that you can trace with Ink. Turn Slide to show intersection points and draw perfect 90 degree angles (or 45 or 30). Press the physical button and the lines become a circle, then a square, then triangle, all of which are traceable with Ink and scalable with the familiar pinch motion. Tap the Slide icon in the upper right hand corner and open a menu of six “trace packs” (shapes that can be traced) a over a dozen stamp packs that range from the whimsical (skaters and safari animals) to the practical (arrows and user interface). All the stamps are scalable and can be placed on your page with a double tap from Ink. All these options take what appears to be a straight edge and turns Slide into a powerful digital creation tool.

But, for as great as Ink and Slide already are, there are definitely bugs that expose them as a first run products. If the pen ventures too close to the edge of the screen (within a half an inch or so) lines often disappear. Slide will inadvertently lose the connection with the iPad, but luckily, picking Slide up and placing it back on the iPad will usually restore the connection. These are little bugs that can become annoying, but do not break the experience.

The multitasking gestures that are native to iOS become a hinderance while using Ink and Slide. While Adobe recommends disabling multitasking gestures while using the products, few users will take the time to turn on and off one of the strongest features for the iPad. It would be beneficial for app developers, and especially stylus manufactures if Apple would include an option to disable multitasking gestures in specific apps. So while the problems that gestures cause are certainly not Adobe’s fault, it is a fact that users need to be aware.

Overall, the Ink and Slide package is still a toy, but it is a high quality toy that could easily become an essential tool with minor tweaks to the apps and continued development of the hardware. And while it may still be a toy, it’s one that I enjoy playing with quite a bit.