Adobe's Creative Cloud Shifts Into High Gear

The subscription-based package of software and services has received a major upgrade that adds up to a compelling offering for creatives.

In the year since Creative Cloud was released, Adobe has relentlessly added value to subscriptions, including feature updates to the core Creative Suite programs, as well as entirely new programs and services. The result has been a package that was tempting for many but wasn't a must buy, especially since the perpetually licensed Creative Suite seemed to have a future. But then Adobe dropped the bombshell that CS6 was to be the last version of the Suite. Going forward, users would need to subscribe if they wanted access to new functionality. Of course, this generated more than little blowback from some customers, who resented being pushed into a rental model. In some cases there would also be significant increases in the cost of ownership. And for many the big snafu was the lack of an exit — when you stopped subscribing, you'd be unable to open your files.

The current announcement doesn't contain any mention of that longed-for exit plan, which is regrettable, but beyond that it's hard not to admire the sheer scope of what Adobe has managed to pack into the current iteration of Creative Cloud. The high points are nicely covered in this overview from the Creative Cloud Team blog:

  • Hundreds of new features in new versions of the apps you love, including Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC, Adobe Muse CC, Dreamweaver CC, Edge Animate CC, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, and more. Your Creative Cloud membership includes more than 30 tools and services that enable professional-grade content creation and delivery across print, web, mobile apps, video and photography.
  • The new Creative Cloud app for your desktop, which keeps your entire creative world in sync and organized. Download and manage the latest product updates, keep tabs on your work and your followers on Behance, and more – all right from your desktop.
  • The ability to sync your application settings to Creative Cloud. Whether you use a Mac or PC —or both! — you can synchronize your workspace settings — including things like preferences, presets, brushes, and libraries. No more tedious fussing with your apps on a new computer. Just log in, sync, and get back to work.
  • Integration with Behance, the world’s leading creative community. Members are able to publish their portfolios, follow others, publish work-in-progress from within a growing number of CC apps, and solicit feedback from a worldwide community of over 1.4 million creatives. And now, stay connected with the world’s best creative work with the Behance mobile app for iOS.
  • A Behance Prosite for Creative Cloud member. Create a personalized, professional looking, dynamic web site in minutes to show off your work and build your brand.
  • The new Adobe Kuler iPhone app, so you can share your color themes and explore thousands of others available on the Kuler website. Sync your favorite themes, and they’ll be accessible immediately in Illustrator CC. We’ll be rolling out support for synced color themes in other CC apps later this year.
  • The updated Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition that extends InDesign CC and allows you to create iPad apps without writing code.
  • Over 200 new tutorials added to Creative Cloud Learn to help customers get up and running quickly. And the all new Creative Voices videos that give you a glimpse into the lives of some of the most creative minds in the world.

When it comes to the new features in the core applications, such as Photoshop, the best place to start is with their product page on Adobe's site, where new functionality seems to have been meticulously documented, followed by Adobe's videos on the updates. The main Creative Cloud product page is also worth carefully poking through if you need an overview of the entire service. All the new goodies should be available now to individual subscribers, with enterprise and education customers getting plugged in later this week and government customers following suit in July.

Overwhelmed yet? If not, Adobe is promising yet more new functionality, such as the ability to use fonts from the TypeKit library on the desktop; file syncing on the desktop, including file versioning and private folder sharing; an addition to Photoshop that is said to automatically size, crop and create image assets for the web from a document’s layers; and an app for iOS "to keep your entire creative world in sync and organized – on the go." The app sounds handy enough but seems to be part of a growing tendency of Adobe to not also provide Android versions of its Creative Cloud-related apps. Puzzling, given Android's popularity.

So what does it all mean? It means that in the second year of its existence, Creative Cloud is beginning to coalesce into a rich, self-contained world of creative tools and services — providing a kind of creative bubble within which subscribers can work and collaborate. My advice would be to devote the time to really get your head around it, whether you have any immediate plans to subscribe or not, and then stay on top of updates. Once you've got the main points figured out, there's no harm in giving the 30-day free trial a spin, to actually get a sense of how it feels to work within the environment. Because, unless your needs are modest, in the months ahead it will become increasingly difficult to resist the siren song of Creative Cloud — you can count on Adobe for that.