Adobe CS4 — User Interface Clusterf**k

I’ve been “struggling” along with Adobe CS3 for some time, so finally switching to CS4 is a bit of a shock. To start with under Windows (I don’t have the Mac version) they’ve decided to opt for a non-standard Mac-like UI — the menu bar is at the top of the screen. OK that might be great, except that it’s (a) not the platform standard, (b) ugly, and (c) doesn’t actually benefit from Fitts’s Law because the menus are actually buttons that don’t reach the top of the screen. How hard would it have been to make the menus look (and work) like menus?

Adobe tries to implement a Mac menu bar under Windows and fails.
Adobe tries to implement a Mac menu bar under Windows and fails. Note that the shortcuts become underlined after you hit Alt -- which is both non-standard and annoying.

If you have multiple documents open, by default they’re arranged in tabs in an MDI-like interface (yes, they’ve combined a fake Mac menu bar that doesn’t benefit from Fitts’s Law with a fake MDI interface … if only they’d made everything Metal and put the main menu at the bottom-left of the screen it could have been perfect).

If you actually want to look at two documents side-by-side, well you can “tile” — which isn’t too bad, or you can “float” the windows — which separates the menubar and palettes from the documents. Exactly how this is supposed to be workable I’m not sure. What is definite is that Photoshop CS4 somehow manages to become a total slug when more than one document is visible or you use any floating windows. (When you choose Tile there’s a huge thunk … and I’m looking at empty documents on a late-model PC with lots of RAM.)

And the UI implementation is buggy too. When I tried to see if standard Windows keyboard shortcuts work as expected, well… the UI just went crazy. (They do kind of work, but they also trigger random behavior in the UI, so after pressing Alt, then F to see the File menu, the application had resized itself (beyond full screen) and magnified the underlying image.)

If you’re going to break platform rules, it should be for a good reason and you should do it competently. Adobe Photoshop CS4 feels like a bad X-Windows port.

Good grief.