Extensibility
Empowering Adobe Extensibility: From Abandonment to Life
by Max Dunn

We at Silicon Publishing recently attended the Adobe Developer and Partner Days 2023. We saw the extensibility features now available across the spectrum of Adobe creative software products, from Photoshop to Premiere. The clear focus was on their current shiny silver bullet, Adobe Express. As we dive in and use the latest APIs and SDKs, I can’t forget what it took to get here.

We are a company built entirely on Adobe extensibility (our survival literally depends on it!). I feel compelled to call out that this phenomenal success didn’t come easily. This milestone represents the culmination of decades of intensive work by Adobe and its partners. To tell this story properly, we need to journey back a mere eight years.

Dark Days

Creative Developers Day” at the 2015 Pepcon conference in Philadelphia

It wasn’t always this good: the dark days of 2015

This post from 2015 summarizes how bad things once were. The year 2015 was perhaps the low point of Adobe extensibility. Due to various factors, extensibility had languished. I ranted about it, despite concerns that Adobe might take offense.

2015 Extensibility rantAdobe co-founder Chuck Geschke actually read the blog post. He forwarded it around Adobe: my fears were unfounded. No doubt it was just one of the many alarm bells ringing. Third party developers and large enterprise clients were growing increasingly restless.

A year or two later, we saw significant progress. Not only did Adobe agree with me that “Software Life = Developer Ecosystem,” but they were investing heavily in solving this challenge.

2018: The UXP team saves the day

David Blatner’s annual development conferences were fun, even in the dark days. We could commiserate with other developers about the demise of our great partner. The dark humor of some Adobe developers is fantastic.

It was cathartic to compare notes on just how bad things were. But it can be even more fun when Adobe successfully supports third parties so we can celebrate a bright future. In 2018, we had complete confirmation of our suspicion: Adobe had listened!

UXP

UXP

At the 2018 Creative Dev Summit in New Orleans, more Adobe representatives attended than usual. They weren’t just going for quantity, but had brought some of the most brilliant people on this planet. And these geniuses told us exactly how they intended to solve the problem I and others had raised earlier.

The brilliant Kerri Shotts explained Adobe’s brand new extensibility technology, UXP (“Unified eXtensibility Platform”), which looked too good to be true. It promised all that we’d been asking for: modern JavaScript, REACT support, debugging tools… Not instantly perfect, but it was a massive step in the right direction. To achieve this, Adobe had arrayed a talented team of developers, and funded them properly.

When we third-party developers went out to dinner that night, we found ourselves at something of a loss for words. Traditionally Dev Summit evenings were gripe sessions over many drinks, but this time it was actually a celebration. Contrary to our fears, Adobe had corrected the direction of the ship.

The momentum continues in 2023: Express extensibility is from heaven

Fast forward to 2023. This summer, we attended two events for Adobe third party developers. We went to the Creative Developers Summit in Phoenix, and the Adobe Developer and Partner Days 2023. Both conferences had wonderful content about UXP arriving in our favorite Adobe Product, InDesign.

Yet Adobe Express was far and away the star of the show.

In the first place, the Adobe Express Beta itself was surprisingly stunning. It was something of a shock how well Adobe had answered Canva, after all. Had they been “playing dead” on purpose, with their previous Express incarnations? It doesn’t matter now, as the product is re-born.

Better still, Adobe is now at their all-time height of extensibility. UXP’s arrival to InDesign directly answered my complaints of 2015! Modern JavaScript, a first-class user experience, InDesign Server support, E4X, XMP, etc. Adobe had answered our prayers.

Seeing the way Adobe is treating extensibility with Express is even better. They are clearly doing this the right way, with a powerful, brilliant team (some of whom came from UXP). I know they will find this to be a winning strategy in their ongoing battle with Canva.

I feel something like a proud father, given the current state of things. And I am thankful that the engineer-founded company we partnered with 23 years ago remains a force of nature.

Adobe extensibility is alive

 

 

 

 

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