Adobe released their latest version of Creative Suite — what would have been Creative Suite 7 — earlier today. Only this time, Creative Suite is no more, superseded by Adobe’s new subscription offering, Creative Cloud.
Creative Cloud is a controversial release, since longtime Adobe customers want a way to buy a permanent license, or at least wish for more subscription options so they don’t have to get everything. But for now, Creative Cloud is what it is — and it’s a big upgrade to all of Adobe’s main apps.
Here’s how Creative Cloud will work for you, if you’ve already got a copy of Creative Suite and want to upgrade and get the latest features.
The Upgrade Decision
First off, you’ve got to decide if you want to buy a Creative Cloud subscription. There’s a number of updates to each of the major Adobe apps; be sure to check the Creative Cloud blog post for a summary of what to expect. Many of the Adobe apps, including Photoshop, have already gotten updates in Creative Cloud since CS6′s release, such as options to copy designs as CSS and more. So, if you have CS6 — and especially if you have an older version — there’s a lot to look forward to in the new versions.
Then, you’ve got to decide what you want. You can either purchase a subscription to one app for $9-$19/month, depending on the app (Muse is on the low end, Photoshop is obviously on the high end), or you can purchase a full subscription that’ll get you every app Adobe makes for $49/month with a year commitment. If you own CS3 or newer, you can subscribe to one app for just $9/month or the whole suite for $29/month for your first year, and if you own CS6, you can get the whole suite for $19/month for your first year. Oh, and students can get it for $19/month as well, and all of these “upgrade” offers end July 31st. That’s all: there’s no suites to pick between, it’s just one app or the whole shebang.
What The Cloud Means for You
Again, remember that Creative Cloud’s apps aren’t web apps. They’re still normal Mac (or PC, if you happen to be on Windows) apps that you’ll install and run locally. They’ll work when you’re offline. They still use the same keyboard shortcuts as before, and can still save files to your Mac directly or to other cloud services like Dropbox. Nothing at all’s changed there. In fact, with just a rough glance at Photoshop CC running on a Mac, you could easily think it was Photoshop CS6.
All that’s changed — what makes it different than just being CS7 — is that you’re subscribing to the apps. Instead of paying for the apps directly as you would have in the past (say, $1-3k for a new copy, or $300-600 for an upgrade), you pay per month for your Adobe apps. Along with that, you’ll get some extras: 20Gb of online storage (again, you don’t have to use it), a Typekit Portfolio subscription, a Behance profile and ProSite, and up to 5 websites hosted on Adobe’s cloud. Essentially, these are just extras to sweeten the deal, and are the only “cloud” aspects of Creative Cloud. Everything else is normal programs that you install on your Mac as before.
As far as Creative Cloud file storage goes, anyone can sign up for a free Creative Cloud account, with 2Gb of free storage and 30 day trials to each of Adobe’s apps (and full access to Adobe’s free apps). A full Creative Cloud subscription will get you 20Gb of storage, as mentioned before, where you can store your creative files if you want to. Again, you don’t have to store anything in Creative Cloud’s storage if you don’t want to: your choice. If your subscription dies, Adobe’s promising that they’re working to provide ways to access your data; my guess is that they’ll let you keep your cloud storage as read-only if you quit subscribing, just to quelm everyone’s fears, but that’s yet to be seen.
Subscribing to Creative Cloud
Ok. You’ve decided to bite the bullet and subscribe to Creative Cloud. If you’ve ever bought software from Adobe before, you’ll find they’ve really streamlined the process. You’ll just sign in with your Adobe ID, choose the subscription you want, verify that you’re eligible for an upgrade or educational offer if you chose one of those, add your payment info, and you’re done. That’s it.
Your browser will redirect you to the Creative Cloud account homepage, which will show any files you’ve already uploaded if you had a free account. Minutes later, you’ll get an email welcoming you to Creative Cloud with a receipt for your purchase. With that, you’re done, ready to get the greatest and latest apps from Adobe.
For the test here, I’ve personally purchased a Creative Cloud subscription, using my own CS6 license to get the $19/month discounted subscription, both of which I paid for myself.
Downloading Your Creative Cloud Apps
You could go ahead and download any of the Adobe apps you want, from Photoshop to Premiere, but you’d best start off with the Creative Cloud app. It’s your hub for all things Creative Cloud: the place where you’ll download your Creative Cloud apps, install Typekit Fonts to your desktop, share designs on Behance, and more. It’ll install automatically when you install a product, since it’s the new way Adobe has you install apps and updates, but you might as well just install it first and go from there. Just head to the Creative Cloud download page in your Download Center, click Install, and if you already have any Adobe apps installed, it’ll start installing it through the Adobe Application Manager.
A OS X password entry later, you’ll have the Creative Cloud app ready to roll from your menubar. Select the Creative Cloud icon, enter your Apple ID, accept the terms of service, and you’ll be ready to install your Creative Cloud apps and more directly from the app. Select the Apps tab first; surely you want to try out the apps you just paid for, right? Here, you’ll see all of the Adobe apps you’ve already got installed, including previous versions of Photoshop and more, and you’ll be able to see if they’re up-to-date. Interesting, Acrobat and Media Encoder didn’t show up, but everything else did.
To install your new Creative Cloud apps, just scroll down and find the one you want, then click Install. You may be asked to go ahead and enter your Mac’s password to install the app, or you may be asked to do so later on after the app is downloaded, depending on the app. Adobe’s made installing Creative Cloud apps as simple as installing an App Store app: one click, one password entry, and that’s it. The next thing you’ll notice is a push notification when the app’s installed; no more clicking required. Creative Cloud’s app works fairly good for downloads, but it’s far from perfect: there’s no way to pause downloads, and it won’t download multiple apps at the same time, but rather queues them up for download. There’s also no way to search for the app you want to install, though you can filter the apps by category (say, graphics or audio).
Here’s the good thing, though: the Creative Cloud app will let you download and install the new versions of Photoshop and more as new apps, without overwriting your old Creative Suite apps you may have installed. That way, you can keep the Creative Cloud apps and your older traditional Adobe apps installed side-by-side, and try out Creative Cloud for a month. If you don’t like it, you can get your money back, uninstall the Creative Cloud apps, and everything goes back to normal. If you subscribe for a year, then uninstall the Creative Cloud apps, it’s the same.
If you have CS6 installed, the Creative Cloud app will bring your updates to those apps, including compatibility plugins for the new CC formats to make sure you’ll be able to open your files in the older apps without having to save in older versions for compatibility. (And if you’re curious, yes, the icons for the CC apps are only slightly tweaked versions of their CS6 equivalents).
If you’re going back and forth from the Creative Cloud app to other apps as you’re installing your apps and getting everything setup, you might find the menubar app annoying since you can’t CMD-tab back and forth from it. Just drag it from the top of the popover, and it’ll turn into a traditional window. You can then get it back in the menubar from the settings gear in a click.
You’ll also quickly notice that everything isn’t there yet. The Creative Cloud app won’t sync your files to your desktop yet, which makes the cloud storage rather useless at the moment — though when it comes, it’ll save versions of your files as you’re working, so you can always go back after you’ve made changes, which alone is reason enough to consider using it. Then, you’ll notice that Typekit font download, unfortunately, isn’t available yet, and while Behance profiles are already integrated enough that you can make your own account straight from the Creative Cloud app, you can’t start projects or even update your profile picture from the app.
What is ready today is the new Creative Cloud apps, with the updates to Photoshop, InDesign, and more that we’ve been waiting for. App setting sync is also ready, so you’ll be able to keep your PC and Mac’s Photoshop settings synced right now. You’ll also find a wealth of video tutorials from Adobe about each of the apps, ready for you for free in your online Creative Cloud dashboard, something you never found back with Creative Suite. Adobe’s trying to make sure everyone gets the most out of everything in Creative Cloud, so if you learn a new app, everyone wins this time.
You can signup and get the new apps today, and let us know how the install process goes for you. We’ll be digging deeper into the Creative Cloud apps going forward. And hey, if Creative Cloud doesn’t seem like it’s the solution for you, don’t worry. We’ve got a huge roundup of the best Creative Cloud alternates coming out soon!