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Review: Adobe Creative Cloud

Written by UKWDA on 06 August 2012

What is the Adobe Creative Cloud?

Adobe's new Cloud based interface is a essentially an all-encompassing solution that takes into account the modes of communication that are available to us, and how it is that we use and interact with these modes of communication, as designers. The result is something quite spectacular.

For the first time ever you have the ability to view, access and share your creative work using tablets, smart phones and MIDs - pretty much any device with mobile web capabilities. This is a revolution for the design process that shows Adobe's intent to really harness the power of the internet.

The Creative Cloud offers flexibility on the move and makes it far easier for designers to communicate ideas with colleagues, business partners, tutors, clients and anyone else who might be involved in the design process.

Usability is key to the Cloud experience, with Adobe making it super easy to access and view your files online and in an interactive capacity. You can turn layer states off and on and give this functionality to anyone with whom you've chosen to share the programme. Adobe have really taken touch screen technology and ran with it here, creating a slick new user experience that enables you to quickly flip through the artboards on your Illustrator files, and page through InDesign files as well. This functionality, though, is a mere modicum of what the Cloud has to offer.

The Cloud allows you to share and present your creative work, from the creative Cloud, from any browser. All you need to do is send a link to clients, colleagues and/or friends, wherever they may be. In turn they are able to view and comment on your work, from wherever they are in the world. Take all your ideas and your creations from Adobe Ideas, or Photoshop Touch or Proto, and you can access them directly from your desktop, in your creative suite, for future editing.

And so, with the Cloud at your fingertips you can design something at home on your desktop, upload it to your 20GB of storage, jump in the shower, jump in the taxi, jump on the train and/or the plane, and pull that selfsame file up, right on the screen of your tablet or smart phone. It's there, and it isn't just there to look at - it's there to be worked on.

Given the advanced nature of Programs such as Photoshop Touch (which is yours as an Adobe Cloud subscriber), there is no denying that the Adobe Creative Suite, for the first time ever, turns the design experience into a uninterruptable continuum. With time of the essence and a growing cultural requirement to shift from place to place, between projects, keeping everyone in the loop, the Cloud is by far the most advanced solution available to designers and not just by a bit. The Cloud is pretty much beyond compare.

Subscribing to the Cloud - what do you get?

An essential aspect of the Cloud is that it incorporates the all new CS6, which sees Adobe making some serious enhancements to their software. Take for instance Illustrator, which is now running faster than ever, in native 64-bit. All this additional speed and performance is largely down to the use of Adobe's Mercury Graphics Playback Engine, which is a greatly welcomed feature of both the new Photoshop and Illustrator Programs.

Finally, we are empowered with the ability to edit images and watch the changes as they're being made. This beats the frustration and tedium of waiting for an image to redraw, only to find that the changes you made just aren't anything like what you had in mind.

Here's where Adobe's new business model comes in. With the Creative Cloud, you subscribe and pay a monthly fee to receive ongoing access to all of the programs that make up Adobe's burgeoning creative suite. On top of this, there is a variety of publishing services, geared towards simplifying the process of publishing content across multiple formats.

The Cloud is going to have new products and new services added to it, as and when Adobe release them, so it's the ultimate way to keep abreast of Adobe's ever-evolving software world. Also a big part of the Cloud is the community area, where creatives around the globe congregate to share ideas, techniques and inspiration. The Cloud is where you'll find all the free support and training that you're ever likely to need.

How much does the Cloud cost?

Currently there are two pricing options available to Cloud Users. If you sign up for a twelve-month contract then it'll cost you £45. However, you're hit with a considerable premium if you're the non-committal type, with the price creeping up to £68 if you just want to pay for the service on a month-by-month basis.

This monthly fee gives access to all the software in the CS6 Master Collection, the Business Catalyst hosting service (allowing up to six users to share access to your account), Typekit for web fonts, the Digital Publishing Suite for pushing content to tablets, plus Edge Preview and Muse for web development - and all Adobe's Touch applications for use on tablets and touch screen devices. This is one serious heft of a service package that, given the price, makes Adobe's Cloud concept seem like more than just a bit of a bargain.

This payment model is what makes the Cloud so appealing. The cost of the creative suite to buy outright (currently £1750), makes it tremendously inaccessible, especially in view of its relative ephemerality. It's all change now, though, with a monthly subscription fee that makes Adobe attainable for all. This'll make the world of difference to a million and one freelancers, startups and SMEs who are reliant on being up to date, but suffer the restrictions of a tight budget.

Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages

When something as game changing as the Adobe Creative Cloud comes along, it really is hard to be critical. Whilst there are no disadvantages to the Cloud, whatsoever, its efficacy and suitability will vary, dependant on the user.

If you're running both Mac and PC operating systems, one at home, the other in work, then the Cloud bridges this gap for the first time ever. A single subscription will allow you to download all your Programs to a Mac and a PC, which sure beats having to pay for two versions of CS6.

Another string that the Cloud has to its bow is that it can be used as and when necessary. This flexibility is ideal from a business perspective. If a piece of software is needed for a specific project for a month, and that's all it's needed for, then paying for the Cloud for that month will be a welcome alternative to buying software that you'll have no use for once the project is over.

The whole Business Catalyst system is also something that will prove invaluable from a commercial perspective. Being able to interact with clients in a way whereby they see their projects developing in an ambient, interactive environment (that they can partially control), not only ensures that clients feel they're getting value for money, but places them in the centre of the design process. Less toing and froing means more time to design, which means more time to take on clients, which means increased turnover.

Realistically, then, and for the most part, the only minuses that can be applied to the Adobe Creative Cloud relate to the mild user. If you only ever use one Adobe product, for instance, then it might be hard to justify paying an ongoing monthly fee for the privilege. Over the course of just 14 months you'd have paid out the same amount in monthly fees as it would cost you to purchase Photoshop outright.

It's also a case of how relevant the new features are, to you, as a designer. Some people get all they need from a version of Photoshop or Illustrator that came out a decade ago, and so there is little beyond the novelty factor that warrants getting a Cloud subscription.

The necessity of the Cloud is all down to how serious you are about design, or more so, the level at which you are involved. If design is a hobby of yours that involves utilising certain 'rudimentary' functions of certain Adobe programs, then why complicate things and waste money on unnecessary features? If, however, design is how you make your bread and butter, then realistically the Creative Cloud is essential.

In an industry as competitive and as technologically dependent as design, you have to position yourself at the forefront of technology and you have to give your clients the same level of service as your competitors. If, as a designer, you aren't embracing the tools that technology gifts us with, then you can only ever be destined to fail.

Switch to the Cloud now and you'll save £19 per month for the first year!

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