REVIEW: Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe CC

Adobe’s Creative Suite dominates the creative industries in the same way that Microsoft Office dominates the market for business productivity software. And, like Microsoft, Adobe is increasingly attempting to shift its business model from simply selling boxed copies of software to providing Software-as-Service (SaaS). So while it is still possible to purchase a boxed copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite 6 – which was originally launched back in 2012 – the latest and most up-to-date versions of Adobe applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator are only available by purchasing a subscription to the new Adobe Creative Cloud service. That presents businesses with a difficult decision – whether to pay a one-off fee for the old Creative Suite, or to commit to an ongoing subscription to the Creative Cloud apps and services.

Pricing Puzzle

Adobe CC

That decision isn’t made any easier by Adobe’s complex pricing structure. There are actually several versions of the old Creative Suite 6 available, with prices starting at £1,000 (ex. VAT) for the ‘Standard’ edition, which includes traditional print-oriented applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat. There are also ‘Web and ‘Production’ versions of the suite, priced at £1,500 (ex. VAT) each, that provide additional tools, such as Dreamweaver or Premiere Pro, for Web design and video editing. Finally, there’s the ‘Master Collection’, which includes all three sets of applications for £2,200 (ex. VAT).

In contrast, the new Creative Cloud service requires annual subscriptions – which Adobe refers to as ‘memberships’ – that start at just £14.65 (ex. VAT) per month for individual applications such as Photoshop. However, full Creative Cloud membership costs £39.10 (ex. VAT) per month and provides access to all of Adobe’s desktop applications, as well as its range of mobile apps and a number of additional online services, including 20GB of online storage and use of the Behance service that allows designers to create an online portfolio for their work.

There’s also an option to subscribe to Creative Cloud for just one month at a time. This is more expensive – £58.60 (ex. VAT) per month – but could be useful when employing temporary staff or contractors who don’t need a full annual membership. All these prices are for single-user memberships, but Adobe also offers ‘team’ memberships with 100GB of online storage for £53.20 (ex. VAT) per month. Organisations that require 100 or more licenses can also apply to Adobe for pricing on ‘enterprise’ memberships that can be customised to meet the specific needs of your business.

Adobe also runs occasional offers, such as a discount for owners of the old Creative Suite, and there’s a 30-day free trial available before you have to commit to a paid membership. If you cancel your membership at any time you won’t lose your existing work files but you will, of course, no longer have access to the applications that are included in Creative Cloud.

Beyond The Desktop

Adobe CC

There will be many owners of the old Creative Suite who find that it still meets their needs perfectly well – as a case in point, this writer is still running Creative Suite 3 from 2007 and still using only a fraction of its full range of features. However, if you like to keep up to date with the latest versions of your key design applications then it may well be worth paying for a full membership to Creative Cloud.

In the long run, those membership fees may well cost more than simply buying a boxed copy of Creative Suite 6, but those fees do include all future upgrades and updates – which, of course, would have been an additional cost in the past.

Creative Cloud applications can also be installed on two computers at once – perhaps a desktop and a laptop, or a Mac and a PC in the same office. And, in addition to the Adobe’s main desktop applications, Creative Cloud membership includes the use of Adobe’s mobile apps, such as Photoshop Touch for Android and iOS devices, as well a number of other online services.

A key feature for many designers is Behance ProSite, which is a more advanced version of Adobe’s Behance community Web site. The basic Behance Web site is free to use, and allows designers to upload copies of their work in order to attract new clients or simply to encourage feedback from other designers. The ProSite option that is included with Creative Cloud goes further, allowing designers to design and publish their own online portfolio and to use their own personal URL to promote their work.

On The Edge

Adobe CC

Web design is a particular focus for Creative Cloud, as it includes a number of applications that Adobe refers to as ‘Edge Tools And Services’ and which are only available as part of a Creative Cloud membership. These include Edge Animate CC, a powerful application that allows designers to create interactive animations for the web, and the new Edge Code CC, an HTML editor for designers and developers who prefer hand-coding to the graphical interface of applications such as Adobe Dreamweaver.

You can even host Web sites for your clients too. Adobe has its own Web hosting service, called Business Catalyst, and Creative Cloud membership allows you to host up to five sites for clients using this service. And, of course, the Business Catalyst platform is designed to work in conjunction with Adobe design tools such as Dreamweaver and Muse, making it easy for designers to take projects from initial design right through to publishing a complete Web site.

The Edge portfolio also includes tools for the mobile web, such as Edge Inspect CC, which allows designers to preview and debug Web designs on a variety of mobile phones and tablet devices. Existing Web applications can be re-purposed and converted into mobile apps with a tool called PhoneGap Build, and Creative Cloud also includes Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite, which is a complete design and publishing system for the Apple iPad. If the focus of your design work is on the Web or mobile platforms then Creative Cloud membership is more or less a foregone conclusion as these apps and services simply aren’t available otherwise.

The Cloud Changes Everything

Like it or not, SaaS is here to stay – if only because it gives developers such as Microsoft and Adobe a regular monthly income that they can rely on. The benefits for users, however, are less clear. Adobe’s Creative Cloud is genuinely good value for organisations – or individual designers – who can make full use of its wide range of tools for print, Web, video and mobile. However, there are many owners of old versions of the Adobe Creative Suite who may resent the need to pay perpetual subscription fees simply in order to update a handful of key apps. So hang on to those old discs for MS Office and Adobe Creative Suite, as they could save you quite a bit of money in the future.

  • Tom Daigon

    Thinking of signing up for the @adobe Creative Cloud? Some of these horror stories might change your mind. http://forums.adobe.com/community/creative_cloud

    Remember to change your passwords and check your bank account for the next several month to make sure the hackers that got all that sensitive data from Adobe don’t access your accounts.