Adobe Creative Cloud First Impressions. Also, how do you get started?

By Sareesh Sudhakaran

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There are supposedly 145 billion pieces of snail mail sent annually in the US. On the other hand, there are the same number of emails being sent per week in the same region. The internet has brought about the need for speed, so much so that anything slower than ‘instantaneous’ is perceived to be of lower value.

Newer technologies demand their own workflows. The ‘threat’ of cloud-based solutions have been upon us for quite some time. Therefore, why should be worried, now that it has arrived? This article is based on my first impressions of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, of which I’ve taken a yearly business license.

Adobe CC Logo

What is Adobe Creative Cloud?

I’m going to try to keep this simple. Normally you’d buy a CD/DVD of the software and install it on your computer. Then you’d connect to the internet (or phone) and activate your license. From then on, you are free to use your software as long as you see fit.

On the other hand, there is the option of downloading the software from the net (nothing new), and repeating the licensing steps to activate your product.

Thirdly, there is Adobe Creative Cloud (Adobe CC). This is where you download your product, but instead of paying a one-time fee, you will be paying a monthly (or annual) subscription rate – like a magazine subscription. Some ‘features’ are:

  • When your subscription ends, your software stops working.
  • Your internet connection must be on at least once a month for the software to ‘sync’ with Adobe, to establish you’ve paid your dues.
  • You can download your software on as many machines as you want, as long as you don’t use them simultaneously. Only one machine must run the software at any given moment.
  • You can run it on both Macs and Windows-based PCs.
  •  

    How much does it cost?

    I paid about $810 for a full year, inclusive of all taxes (mine is a ‘team’ or business purchase). This works out to be $67 a month. This was the ‘offer’. Because of this, I get 100 GB of cloud storage.

    In USD, the price for Adobe CC for teams is $69.99 per month. So, it looks like I got a good offer but had to pay a lot in taxes. If you’re an individual, you can get the same for $49.99 per month. Educational institutions get the same for $19.99.

    Okay, so what do we get for all this money? You get all the applications in the Adobe kitty. From video apps to web apps to Photoshop and Lightroom – everything. In fact, after seeing the entire list, I’m scratching my head on what I’m going to do with them all. Luckily, you only download the apps you want, when you want it. The Adobe Master Collection CS6 required a hard disk space of about 15 GB, so I’m guessing the total size of the initial download is about 20 GB. What do I mean by ‘initial download’? We’ll see.

    In some parts of the world you can buy Adobe CC from the Adobe website. In other parts, like India, you have to purchase the software from Adobe directly (via a Reseller). Before you purchase CC, please speak to Adobe directly. You might get a better offer than what is listed on the website.

    What if you don’t want all the apps, but only need one or two (or want to buy piecemeal)? The cost of that is $19.99 per month per app. You also get a discount if you already have CS installed. For a full buying guide, check out this link.

    How does one get the Adobe Creative Cloud?

    Call Adobe! Or, if you have the option to purchase it online go for it. The following sequence of events take place:

    Adobe ID

    You are given a payment confirmation, whereby you are required to create a unique login ID and password. This is your Adobe ID. Nothing fancy here, works just like signing up to an email service. You also get a unique VIP number (no, it does not stand for Very Important Person, but Value Incentive Plan).

    Invite Team Members

    Once you sign up, you need to add team members. The site for that is creative.adobe.com You get the following screen (click to enlarge) by clicking on the cloud-like icon on the top left:

    Add Team Member

    Depending on how many seats you have purchased you can add that many ‘team members’. You also have access to your anniversary date so you know you’re getting what you paid for. This is supposed to make it easy for one organization to keep track of their seats, but how? If you want to add team members mid-way, how do you manage it, if you are locked in to a yearly membership? If you add one member per month you’ll have 12 anniversary dates.

    Since I’ve only got one seat for now I don’t know the answer to this, but I hope they’ve figured out an easy way to manage seats. To add a seat you just click on the Add Seat link, and you submit an email address. The person you want to add will receive your ‘invitation’, and they must accept. Once they do, they will create their own login ID and password. I’m assuming their login experience will be similar to the administrator’s, except they won’t have access to other team members’ records.

    Download via the Adobe Application Manager

    The first app you need to download is the Adobe Application Manager. I wasn’t prompted for this, so I tried to download an app directly from the Apps tab. Then, I learnt I had to download Adobe Application Manager. Please, Adobe, make it easier.

    This is what the Apps tab page looks like (click to enlarge):

    Applications Screen Adobe CC

    How many can you count? I counted 35 of them. I guess you can divide the apps into four major segments:

  • Video and Audio
  • Photography
  • Web Design and Documentation
  • Mobile App Design
  •  
    There are also a few ‘administrative’ and cloud-based apps but who knows how they work? I can’t imagine any major production house attempting to use these apps on a project without ensuring they ‘work’.

    The apps that I feel are important for my kind of video work are:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Prelude
  • Adobe Audition
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Acrobat XI Pro
  • Adobe Speedgrade
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe Lightroom
  •  
    There’s also Adobe Story Plus, Photoshop Touch, etc. As for the rest, I don’t think I’ll ever need them. But who knows? It feels nice not to have to pay extra and still have these apps at my disposal, without having the need to ask anyone for permission.

    Installation

    Once you download the Adobe Application Manager you fire it up and get a screen like this:

    Adobe Application Manager

    There’s a blue ‘Install’ on every app. Look closely: Most apps say ‘CS6‘. What you are effectively downloading is the CS6 version. How do I know? Read on.

    Updating

    Once you download an app you just fire it up like normal and you’re good to go. Immediately upon downloading a few apps I get the following screen:

    Adobe Application Manager

    If you click the Updates tab, you get this:

    Adobe Application Manager Update Screen

    Almost every app comes with a blue ‘Update’ next to it as soon as you install it. As you can see above, the update version is still CS6, but with a different version number. Adobe provides notes on which updates are important and which are just routine. As you can see in the above image, the After Effects 11.0.2 update is ‘strongly recommended.’

    Why? Who knows? I guess Adobe expects customers to intuitively know what ‘critical updates’ are. Please explain in plain English, Adobe. Will be much appreciated if you can tell us why exactly we need to download them, or whether the sky will fall on our head if we don’t.

    This is what I meant when I wrote ‘initial downloads’ earlier. If you plan to download all the apps, also estimate for updates, which are quite substantial in size.

    This entire process works very smoothly, to Adobe’s credit. Except for one problem. You can’t update unless you close all of Adobe’s open apps. Yes, all of them. There’s even one called AdobeCrashDaemon. This means, don’t update when you’re in the middle of the job. It also means updates are manual.

    What happens when you update an app for two years running? Does it add to your disk requirement, or does it ‘erase’ earlier versions? I don’t know yet, but I hope Adobe does something about that.

    Differences with the boxed version

    I could not find any differences in speed for any app. All of them run as smoothly as the boxed version of CS6. This isn’t surprising, but worth noting.

    The apps behave the same way, and the idea of regular updates is great. But, what happens if an update breaks your version, or creates problems with your hardware? As far as I can tell, there is no way to roll back! Adobe also doesn’t give us the option to uninstall an app from the Adobe Application Manager. What happens if I uninstall an app from the computer – will I get a blue ‘Install’ again? I don’t know yet, but maybe I should try it with one of the unnecessary apps and find out for myself.

    If you’re listening Adobe, please give us the option to roll back if a conflict occurs. At least give us a workaround.

    The biggest difference with the boxed version is the ability to store data in the cloud, and share projects with team members. 100 GB is a big deal. E.g., to get the same amount of storage via Dropbox you’ll have to pay $99 per year. As far as I know, which I’ve confirmed with Adobe, you don’t have to use the cloud if you don’t want to. Your data, files, etc. can remain on your computer if that’s how you want it to be.

    On the other hand, you can store your project files on the cloud, securely one hopes, and then recover them if your system dies or whatever. Remember, you can install your apps on a new machine as long as you have your Adobe ID. That’s got to be faster than a DVD/CD install any day.

    Unless your internet connection sucks.

    The second big difference is the fact that you are tied in with Adobe. You can’t purchase a perpetual software license (which is what you get with the boxed version). Still, you only have to pay for the months you use. If you don’t want Adobe After Effects this month, stop your subscription, and reactivate it when you prefer. This works okay for individuals who might only need these apps sporadically. E.g., if you need After Effects only for four months a year, you pay about $80. To buy the standalone version costs $625.

    If you’re one of those frustrated people who simply can’t live without a boxed version, please buy them from Amazon before stocks run out – and help this site!

    Is Adobe screwing us?

    Not as far as I can tell. Here’s my response to the critics, posted in a few forums online:

    I have bit the bullet and purchased a year’s worth of Creative Cloud.

    I actually welcome this system. I understand there might be teething pains, and I’m sure to grow a few white hairs dealing with service, but it seems every aspect of life has this problem nowadays.

    Will Adobe raise prices after the year is up? I assume so, for my own sake and sanity. It’s up to me to justify the expense, which is still cheaper than buying a whole boxed suite. When I compare it to an Autodesk Flame or an Avid system, the price is cheap.

    Will I have problems with Adobe authentication? Sure, I expect so. Why? I have had problems with google, gmail, facebook, hotmail and yahoo, too. This is a fact of life now.

    Am I concerned about privacy? Not really. I don’t have to upload my files to the cloud if I don’t want to. But if I want to, I can, which sounds cool. The Adobe Anywhere idea sounds cool.

    Am I locked in to Adobe? Yes and no. It’s a business, not a marriage. If I earn my money with Adobe, I can continue the business.

    Do I trust Adobe? No. I’ve used Adobe since the beginning of my career 12 years ago. I know it like the back of my hand, but I don’t trust them. Why should I? It’s just a tool. If it doesn’t work, I’ll move on. As far as I’m concerned I’m taking an acceptable risk. Actually, all things considered, it’s not risky at all.

    Will the software work? I hope so. Even an installed boxed version can develop snags. That’s why there is tech support. Will they help? Maybe, if you make a hundred calls. Factor that into your head before you begin, and it will seem okay. It’s out of my control, so why worry about it?

    I can use it on my mac and pc, and any other system I want, as long as I don’t use it at the same time. I have no clue how Adobe will know I’m using it at the same time. Maybe they don’t, but if they catch you they might terminate the agreement. That’s a risk they’re taking, which seems like a big risk.

    All things considered, I think it will work out for me. Adobe has always delivered, so I have no cause for concern. Will it end in disaster? If yes, so what? My office could burn down, I might meet with an accident, or my clients might stop answering my calls. There are bigger problems in life than software.

    I’ll definitely post my experiences in the coming months. Expect a lot of twists and turns. I am.

    I hope I have given you enough information so you can make an informed decision on your own. In many ways these thoughts are my initial impressions. It remains to be seen if I will be a happy customer by this time next year.

    All said and done, nobody knows how this is going to pan out. I have subscribed, only because Adobe has always delivered whenever I’ve needed them to. What other assurance can a company give?

    What are your thoughts? Have you subscribed, or are you jumping ship?

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    May 14, 2013

    4 comments
    Trevor Dennis
    Trevor Dennis

    That was quite useful Sareesh.  Seeing the full list of available apps for the first time, came as a bit of a shock - my goodness, that is a lot of software!  Nor did I realises that Lightroom came with the package, although I have never managed to get into it, despite paying for it before it was discounted!   The Installation guide was particularly useful, and I suspect it will help save a good few people confusion and frustration.   For me the decision is easy.  Having paid a 50% premium for my Adobe apps for years, I can now get a Creative Cloud subscription for the same price as people in America. I'll be going from three separate updates (Photoshop, Premiere Pro & InDesign) to the entire CC suite for a lot less money!  :-)   Thanks again for your research

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @Trevor Dennis 

    You're welcome! Lightroom works with DNG, as it does with ACR in Photoshop. Adobe has tried to ease the pain of transition as much as they can. I don't see how they could have done any better.

    You know this already, but for the sake of others who might not:

    I've also been told by Adobe that you can run it on two machines with one license, at the same time. If you fail to activate in 30 days, your software will still run for 90 days. Check out this updated FAQ and Agreement: http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud/faq.html

    JosHigher
    JosHigher

    Thank you for all the useful tips you always give. I'm an avid reader of your articles. I'm a Nigerian video editor/motion graphics designer and most of my works require adobe softwares. Unfortunately, I'm unable to subscribe to CC from Nigeria and this is a big source of worry to me since I rely so much on adobe softwares.I would really appreciate it if you can enlighten me on how to go about getting adobe CC from Nigeria. Thank you once again

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @JosHigher I really don't know, brother. If there are no certified resellers in your area try speaking to any large studio or post house that uses Adobe products. Try to form a group.

    Does Adobe have a Nigeria office or support number? Call Adobe directly. Good luck!