Extending professional applications: Different takes from Apple and Adobe

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

These days big developers are looking to create platforms: hardware and software environments where third-parties can add features through their own hardware, software and services.

One aspect of the choice between choosing Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro is what you think of their take on how to build an ecosystem around their applications.

Adobe popularised the use of plugins for software when they opened up Photoshop for developers to make effects to apply to images. Apple included a scripting language with Final Cut Pro 1.0 that could be used to make plugins. They introduced XML export and import with Final Cut Pro 3.

With Final Cut Pro X, it is much easier to make plugins - by using Apple’s Motion 5 application - and it’s XML format can express almost everything about X databases in a text form. This has resulted in a huge range of plugins for Final Cut Pro X and large variety of of X XML processing applications and cloud services.

As Adobe’s pitch for Creative Cloud says that the application suite can take care of every aspect of creative design and post production, they haven’t promoted third-party tools quite so much. Their plugin development system hasn’t prompted a large number of commercial and free plugins, and they don’t have their own published interchange format that works well with other post production applications.

On the other hand, Adobe have opened up Premiere Pro CC with their ‘panels’ technology. Third party tools makers can create user interface elements using HTML5 that can be used in the application itself.

It looks like Apple are far away from enabling third parties to add user interface tabs to Final Cut Pro X. This might be a technical limitation (i.e. not high up on their long feature request list) or a philosophical restriction (they don’t think third parties have good enough ‘taste’ to be allowed near the Final Cut UI). Once third party developers start doing interesting things with Premiere Panels, Apple might want to take a look at this form of extending applications.

Last year I wrote about how Nativ’s third-party Adobe Premiere panel works for workgroup collaboration at ITV. Marquis Broadcast’s Edit Bridge gives access to Avid Interplay servers from within a Premiere Panel:

Marquis Edit Bridge enables the seamless integration of Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects CC in an Avid Interplay environment. It includes two Custom Panels for Premiere Pro which allow you to control the workflow directly from the Premiere Pro user interface.

Today Scott Simmons has written about a forthcoming third-party product for Premiere that supports note taking:

A tool worth keeping an eye on is Post Notes. While in its infancy Post Notes is building a panel for Premiere Pro that lets you take notes right in the application. Here are a few screenshots with some notes from the developer about what they are planning. 

…a feature that would be impossible for a developer to add to the current version of Final Cut Pro X.

I hope that ‘Phase 2 of the Apple Video Applications Universe’ is about Apple developing a iMovie iOS/iMovie OS X/Final Cut Pro X ecosystem. A big part of that would be giving third-party developers the ability to add to the to user interfaces of those applications.