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Adobe brings new life to the iPad stylus market with Ink and Slide

Serenity Caldwell | June 19, 2014
For a few years now, Adobe's been teasing its followers about Project Mighty, its iPad stylus and ruler prototypes. The day has finally come: Those prototypes have graduated to full-fledged products in the form of Adobe Ink and Slide, available in the United States for $200. The accessories are also paired with two new iPad apps from the company: Adobe Line and Sketch.

Ink's one letdown is in its precision: Despite the 3mm Pixelpoint nib, I couldn't get the Ink to consistently trace the same line after drawing my initial volley. Sometimes it would do just fine, but other times, it wiggled and wobbled and drew a full line's width away. This is the one black mark on an otherwise solid stylus. I'm not sure if the fault lies in the hardware or in software calibration — because of how few tools are available to developers for screen pressure and sizing, stylus precision is incredibly difficult, especially when drawing outside of a zoom — but if it is due to software calibration, an update could very well fix the problem.

And for those invested in Adobe's Creative Cloud, the Ink stylus offers one other tantalizing feature: integration. When you tap-connect your Ink stylus within an Adobe app, your Creative Cloud assets automatically download into that app, letting you access your favorite drawings, use your favorite color themes, and copy and paste assets between devices. It's a lovely perk for those who want to work inside the Adobe ecosystem, and it saves you the trouble of hardwire syncing palettes, projects, and more.

The Slide: Tactile feedback for those left wanting

If the Ink made me hesitate despite all its promise, the Slide did the opposite: I was initially skeptical of the need for a Bluetooth "ruler" on my iPad, but I came around very quickly. The metal-and-plastic tool is two-thirds the length of the Ink stylus, with two large pads that come down to rest on the screen. When you use it inside a compatible Adobe app, like Line or Sketch, it becomes an instant straight-edge ruler for your finger or stylus: No matter how wobbly your pen may be, the Slide forces the line to be straight.

Pretty cool, for sure, but I was still skeptical. You see, both the Sketch and Line apps offer a virtual version called Touch Slide for those lacking the physical tool, and it's quite a good on-screen representation of the ruler at that, offering two touch targets to move it around the canvas. But the actual Slide ruler — which feels almost weightless in your hands — offers a delightfully tactile drawing experience in the way that virtual sketching can't quite replicate.

When I use a stylus, it's difficult for me to forget that I'm drawing with a piece of plastic or rubber on a glass screen. The tactile sensation just isn't there: The pen is too sticky or slippery against the glass, handwriting recognition isn't good enough yet, and so on. But the Slide ruler is different. On a glass screen, the Slide glides across the "canvas," and when you draw against it, it feels much like the act of tracing against construction paper. The effect is especially pleasing when used with Adobe Line: The company's new drafting app is one of the neatest drawing programs I've seen in some time, and it feels like it was made to show off the Slide's true capability. I imagine shape gurus and architects will have a field day with Slide and Line; the app is clean-cut and simple, but offers a variety of line types, widths, and colors — not to mention the app's wide variety of stamps.


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