Surface Pro 3 + Adobe CS 2014

Surface Pro 3 + Adobe CS 2014

Almost, but not quite

If you still use a lot of desktop applications as I do, you know that some handle high DPI displays and the desktop scaling functionality in Windows 8+ better than others. To date, the worst offenders, by far, have been Adobe's creative apps, like Photoshop. But with this week's release of Adobe Creative Suite 2014, the company finally enters the 21st century. So what's the experience like on Microsoft's "pixel-free" high DPI Surface Pro 3?

To find out, I installed Adobe Photoshop CC (2014) from the firm's web site.

I'm not sure why this surprised me, but the app runs normally by default, as it did before, meaning that the menu items and toolbar buttons are too small to see or use accurately.

Complaining about this on Twitter, I was told that there is in fact a buried setting that enables experimental high-DPI support. And sure enough, if you look hard enough, it's there in Preferences, Experimental Features: "Scale UI 200% for high-density displays (Windows only)." That locked scaling figure should have been a warning signal, because when you enable this feature and restart Photoshop, the UI is scaled so big it looks like the app is running at 640 x 480.

I assume that over time, Adobe will become more sophisticated and offer various scaling levels. And I further assume that the reason this looks so bad is that it's scaled 200 percent on top of the 150 percent scaling that the OS is already using. That is, they're doing it wrong.

No surprises there. This is Adobe after all.

There are a few more new features in there that may be of interest to Surface Pro 3 users in particular, but also for others who interact with their PC using a stylus or touch.

According to Adobe, the new version of the app also offers improved Windows 8.1 stylus support. "Get to work quickly and comfortably with your stylus on Windows 8.1 devices, and enjoy smoother brush strokes thanks to higher-frequency sampling," the release notes explain.

I hadn't used Photoshop with the Surface Pro Pen before this update, so I can't really compare the changes. But using tools like Freeform Pen, it seemed to track the pen very accurately.

Also in that Experimental Features preferences area is an option called "Use Touch Gestures (Windows only)." This lets you do things like rotate the image or zoom in and out using commonly understood touch gestures and works as expected.

Overall, Adobe is moving in the right direction. But it really needs to refine its approach for the modern, high-resolution and high DPI displays that its most loyal customers are obviously using on the Windows side. These things shouldn't be experimental. They should just work.

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