Replacing Adobe Software?

Dave Zatz —  April 4, 2011

Yesterday, I came across a New York Times piece describing how EMC’s network security was compromised which led to the RSA SecurID data extraction. While several factors were at play, an Adobe software vulnerability was fingered as a significant attack vector. So, given the seemingly constant parade of Adobe security bulletins and updates, combined with CPU-crushing bloat, I tweeted the news as an opportunity for folks to once again reevaluate their dependence on Adobe products. And one follower wondered what options are available to her.

Adobe makes a number of packages many of us have come to depend upon. Yet, in two distinct categories, I’ve successfully reduced my exposure these last few months – beginning when I picked up a 13″ Macbook Air as my primary personal computer.

First, while I haven’t been able to completely excise Flash from my web travels, I have certainly cut back. And, of my three browsers, the plugin is only installed (by default) within Google Chrome. It can be crashy, and it does take a toll on performance, but there are still areas of the web inaccessible without it… despite Apple’s insistence on a Flash-free mobile OS.

However, image editing is the category where I’ve been able to completely excise Adobe. Although it wasn’t an entirely comfortable transition. You see, I’ve been using Photoshop since 1997. But given ever increasing prices and superfluous functionality (to me), I downloaded Acorn and Pixelmator as potential replacements last spring. And, as I said, it was somewhat uncomfortable given over a decade of Photoshop usage and so I only dabbled in the apps – quickly returning to the familiar. That is, until my MBA arrived. As I didn’t have an external optical drive handy to re-load an older version of Photoshop and wasn’t yet sold on a download of the new version of Elements, I gave both Acorn and Pixelmator another, more serious look. I’ve since settled on Pixelmator as my full time image editing app. It’s quick and pretty and does just about everything I want it to. Although, in occasionally unexpected ways that requires a bit of hunting.

Another reason this incoming Twitter query caught my eye is because it originates from a TiVo employee. She’s not a TiVo spokesperson and hopefully doesn’t work Sunday evenings but, given the still incomplete HDUI and sluggish Premiere experience, I have to wonder if Adobe’s Flash was the right platform choice for TiVo.

21 responses to Replacing Adobe Software?

  1. “I’ve since settled on Pixelmator as my full time image editing app. It’s quick and pretty and does just about everything I want it to.”

    If you don’t want to spend the money on a real Adobe suite, Pixelmator kicks ass, for basic image editing.

    But I personally find Bridge alone to almost be worth the money for an Adobe suite. If you don’t want the elements of lock-in that Apple’s photo management products produce, Bridge is a kickass way of shoeboxing.

    And I have reasons to fire up Dreamweaver from time to time.

    So it’s pricey, but if you can justify the money, it’s nice to have an Adobe suite installed. With an SSD, the stuff is actually pretty snappy. And the help system is quite good.

    But if you can’t justify the money, then Pixelmator does do accomplish its simple functions well. (Though their decision to go only AppStore would concern me. It would make me reconsider Acorn if I didn’t have Adobe, since they’ll still deal with me directly as a customer.)

    And as a postscript, I don’t know if Adobe packages a reasonably full-fledged version of Bridge with Elements on OS X. If so, it would make consider Elements if I didn’t want to spend the money on a real suite.

  2. “Another reason this incoming Twitter query caught my eye is because it originates from a TiVo employee … but, given the still incomplete HDUI and sluggish Premiere experience, I have to wonder if Adobe’s Flash was the right platform choice for TiVo.”

    First, there is genuinely no connection between her image editor and the TiVo HDUI woes. It’s a non-sequitor. Flash as a platform has pretty much zero to do with the state of Adobe Suite software. The only tenuous connection is that the Flash platform is created with Adobe tools, but even that doesn’t really matter. Adobe tools for creating Flash content could be excellent at the exact same time that Flash is a lousy platform.

    Second, despite there being no connection between the suitability of the Adobe Suite for the average consumer and the Flash platform for DVR’s, I’ve wondered from the beginning if TiVo’s decision to rely on the Flash platform was a major error.

    From an outside perspective, it’s really still too early to tell. Obviously, the Flash platform UI sucks on Premiere hardware. But maybe it’s always been the plan to wait until Moore’s law brought suitable hardware, and that is what the next generation TiVo will be.

    If Flash soon gives TiVo a platform that runs with teh snappy, and makes it easy to cheaply roll out “apps” for various OTP services as they arrive, well then, Flash was the correct decision, and TiVo will have a product they can aggressively market.

    If the Flash platform doesn’t soon provide those two benefits, then I’d say it’s close to being a long-term fatal decision for TiVo. (don’t panic. it would expire very slowly cuz of the patent trollery).

  3. “I have to wonder if Adobe’s Flash was the right platform choice for TiVo.”

    While the above is all wild speculation about an unknown future, I will say the one thing I do know for a fact:

    If the TiVo HD is as good as it ever gets in the CableCard era, it got pretty damn good. All I ever asked for in a DVR was an elegant UI that is quickly learnable, and provides almost perfect functionality with high reliability.

    And I’ve got one sitting under my big flatscreen. If my TiVo HD broke tomorrow, I’d go buy a used one to replace it.

  4. I use Adobe CS5 Production Premium for my video post production work. Apple’s Final Cut Studio has a nasty habit of crashing on my 27″ iMac. The Adobe Suite runs great on my Windows 7 Intel i7 powerhouse.

    Adobe CS5 Production Premium is quite expensive. It includes:

    1. Premiere Pro (video editing)
    2. After Effects (titles and much, much more)
    3. Encore (DVD, Blu-ray and Flash site mastering)
    4. Photoshop Extended
    5. Flash
    6. Illustrator
    7. Soundbooth
    8. OnLocation
    9. Bridge

    The first three applications are irreplaceable in my kit. I wish there were good, cheaper alternatives. There isn’t anything that I know of.

  5. Not entirely a non-sequitur, Chucky… the premise of the post is Adobe alternatives. But I obviously did save it for the end as a postscript.

    “If Flash soon gives TiVo a platform that runs with teh snappy, and makes it easy to cheaply roll out “apps” for various OTP services as they arrive, well then, Flash was the correct decision, and TiVo will have a product they can aggressively market.”

    What’s the time frame for success? The Premiere has been out over a year…

    “I don’t know if Adobe packages a reasonably full-fledged version of Bridge with Elements on OS X.”

    They have a new Organizer. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t speak to its capabilities. If/when Elements ends up in the App store, at a competitive price without having to mess with rebates, I’ll be more inclined to make a purchase. But I recognize for creative professionals or hobbyists with more skills than I, replacing Adobe is a very difficult proposition. And don’t forget I have limited screen real estate.

    (Glad PDF support is built into Preview.)

  6. I now use GIMP for graphic editing software. To me its just as good as Photoshop… and its FREE.

  7. Hi Dave, Flash-in-browser had nothing to do with the social-engineering attack on RNA.

    1) The fake email was retrieved by an employee from their spam bin.

    2) They then clicked the Excel spreadsheet which was attached.

    3) Their spreadsheet reader then invoked Adobe Flash Player to render a SWF, and this host did not have the same protections the browser does as host.

    The “seemingly constant parade” is due to the omnipresence of this software. Willie Sutton targeted banks for a reason. But Adobe works with white-hats in the security trade, and new methods of exploitation are frequently nipped in the bud, thus the “parade”. Wouldn’t it be nice if email attachments from strangers were similarly foolproofed by now…?

    jd/adobe

  8. Let’s just say your parade has been inconvenient at the day job and I’m hopeful our organization or your organization makes some changes. But you can probably imagine what my recommendations have been.

  9. “And don’t forget I have limited screen real estate.”

    My main workhorse is a 13″ MBP. I’m fine with the software at that resolution. You just have to adjust your toolbars from the default.

    Like I say, I have Photoshop mainly cuz it comes with a package that has value to me. I’m pretty sure that Photoshop alone would not be worth the money to me for my reasonably limited image editing needs. But since it’s installed, I’d rather fire it up than Pixelmator or Acorn. It’s a nice image editor.

    “Glad PDF support is built into Preview.”

    Yup. I’m entitled to install Acrobat, and I didn’t. Acrobat on OS X is a total and utter mess.

    ——

    “What’s the time frame for success? The Premiere has been out over a year…”

    Soon.

    I have no contact with what is going on in Alviso, so I don’t know if there is a plan or not. I also have no idea what the Flash platform parameters are for a DVR. But their window is still open if they can ship something good soon.

  10. Or put another way:

    I go to great lengths to fully block Flash in my browsers. Only one of my browsers can even see the Flash plug-in, and in that browser, I still have to click to load the Flash elements on any site I haven’t explicitly whitelisted.

    So I think Flash in the browser sucks. But there are sites I often visit that use Flash profusely and wonderfully that I’m happy to whitelist. So even for Flash in the browser, some of sucks and some of it is great.

    And all of this is a non-sequitor to the Flash platform for a lean-back DVR+OTP box. It’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. If a Flash platform can achieve those two key aforementioned platform needs for TiVo in a timely manner, I’d say they made the right choice. If not, then they’re Germany and they decided to fight a two-front war…

  11. I think the advice to uninstall Flash from all your browsers EXCEPT Chrome, and use that only when you have to if you’re on a Mac is a good one. First proponent of this I was aware of was John Gruber. Its better than flash blockers in that they still say you have Flash installed, so you get an alternative HTML 5/h.264 render if they have one, and many do. So it’ll work better than that approach a lot of the time. Somebody should actually build a flash blocker plugin that works like that actually, assuming its possible.

    If you’re running a PC, one utility I recommend is Secunia PSI, which scans your system for various vulnerabilities in common software and (a) alerts you if you’ve got something that isn’t up to date; and in the 2.0 version it (b) updates you automatically without bugging you. I install that and then UNINSTALL all the little Java/Adobe/etc checkers from my tray. Will at least lessen your exposure a little by keeping you current.

    For PDF reading, the FoxIt reader is of course a fine alternative. May have just as many vulnerabilities as the Adobe one, but since its so uncommon, you should be much safer using it.

  12. “I think the advice to uninstall Flash from all your browsers EXCEPT Chrome, and use that only when you have to if you’re on a Mac is a good one. First proponent of this I was aware of was John Gruber.”

    Gruber’s is a workable solution. The even better solution for me is to set the prefs in OmniWeb (my default browser) to not even load the Flash plug-in, and to use the most excellent ClickToPlugin Safari Extension when I regularly hop into Safari. (ClickToPlugin offers highly configurable control over all plug-in loading. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.)

    So Safari is my browser for pages where I want plug-ins or plug-in replacement players, and OmniWeb covers everything else. (A 4 or 5 line dead-simple AppleScript bound to a keystroke instantly opens the current webpage in the other browser.)

    I’m not a fan of Google’s OS X apps, so I try to avoid Chrome. I don’t like the non-standard and only semi-controllable update mechanism in Chrome.

    And the perhaps EOL’d Camino has a standard pref for totally disabling Flash.

  13. @Chucky,

    The problem with that approach is that you’ll see dead-zones where flash would have been. And various sites that would happily serve up HTML 5 or h.264 alternative video for iPads and such will NOT offer you that. They’ll instead just show a broken plug in symbol. If you truly don’t have flash installed they WILL offer you that alternative.

  14. I’m with Dave on this. Installing ClickToFlash dramatically improved my web browsing. I fire up Adobe Reader only for documents that don’t work properly in Preview (ex: some types of forms). And although I bought a copy of Photoshop Elements, it drives me mad. I find iPhoto to be sufficient for 100% of my photo organizing and 98% of my photo editing – even with RAW pictures. When Adobe produces software that works correctly and efficiently, I’ll reconsider. Not until then.

  15. “The problem with that approach is that you’ll see dead-zones where flash would have been. And various sites that would happily serve up HTML 5 or h.264 alternative video for iPads and such will NOT offer you that. They’ll instead just show a broken plug in symbol. If you truly don’t have flash installed they WILL offer you that alternative.”

    Well, one caveat. Since OmniWeb lets you selectively disable the loading of plug-ins, when I disable the Flash plug-in in OmniWeb, sites think I don’t have Flash installed. It’s not a Flash blocker. It’s just that Flash is simply not installed as far as that one browser is concerned.

    On your larger point, sure. But with an SSD and an AppleScript, I hit a keystroke and I’m viewing the site in Safari in under a second with all its web 2.0 glory.

    I’ve had ClickToFlash enabled in OmniWeb before, and I prefer this workflow for a variety of reasons I could enumerate.

    Also, I highly recommend giving the ClickToPlugin Safari Extension a test-drive in Safari. It’s a beautifully executed, highly configurable gem with all kinds of little bonuses in your usage. It’s worth a test-drive even if you don’t have Flash installed.

  16. Glenn, yeah I linked Gruber above (“by default”) as the timing lined up fairly well with my new MBA and stimulated my thought process.

  17. At work, we have nothing but problems with adobe acrobat and the ie plugin.

    On many PC’s we get the dreaded “Internet explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close”. The event log always points to the adobe pdf dll.

    We always spend countless hours uninstalling and reinstalling acrobat. It’s a real pain. We’ve tried FoxIt, and while much faster – the browser plugin behaved very strangely with one of our in house web applications.

    Then there’s the big problem of editing PDF’s. You can only do so much with standard. For anything else you have to pay an exuberant price for Professional. Then there’s the whole issue of uneducated employees who think they should be able to modify a PDF like it was a word document. I keep telling them, PDF is like the “Final Draft”. Keep the word version around for the changes and only print to PDF when your absolutely satisfied with the document. That doesn’t work in all cases… so I get the task of fixing PDF’s, since Professional is so damn expensive, only a few people in the company have it.

    Then on my laptop, home pc and work pc, I sometimes get a blank dialog box with an OK button when trying to load a PDF in a browser. The best browser for PDF’s seems to be Google Chrome, and it’s just because they use their own PDF engine!!! Adobe stinks. Go check out their forums and see all the complaints on their Acrobat X product. Were on a mix of 8 std, 8 pro, 9 std and 9 pro. I have no intention of going to Acrobat X.

  18. Here is an why TiVo might have made the correct decision on using a Flash-based platform.

    The BBC made iPlayer available for lean-back, and since it’s Flash-based, TiVo was able to immediately implement it.

    Now I want my HBO GO on TiVo…

  19. Just like they immediately implemented Hulu Plus and modernized Netflix? ;)

  20. “Just like they immediately implemented Hulu Plus and modernized Netflix?”

    Well, that’s precisely why the iPlayer story is interesting. From my (not very close) reading of the Engadget post, they’re implementing on day one of the release…

  21. Eh, it’s an arbitrary Day 1 for new products. iPlayer was announced as a Virgin TiVo app but wasn’t initially available until it went live March 2 – a month before the BBC announces it on their blog?

    According to the BBC’s site, variants of the app are available to a wide variety of other devices like Sony Blu-ray players, Samsung Connected TVs, and the Wii:

    http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/where_to_get_iplayer/television/