Adobe’s Creative Cloud is still evolving, for better and worse

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Adobe Creative Cloud logo imageAdobe is still altering and fine-tuning its Creative Cloud paradigm. And while change is expected, the specific changes sometimes aren’t.

One of the features first announced at the last Adobe MAX is that one could download any “version” of software, current or past, starting with the (then) current release of CS6. One of the main maxims of the Creative Cloud was that the user would be getting constant updates throughout the year. Prior to that, updates were released every 12 to 18 months. However, one might prefer to stick with an older version to use a plug-in that hasn’t been updated to work with the latest version, or to take advantage of features or capabilities that were dropped during a program’s evolution.

A big question regarding these updates is how does a user know which version of an application will work with any given feature. And since we now can update an application all the time, how will we know the difference of any given application from the one we updated last week?

Well, the news is now in, Adobe is branding/naming their software on an annual basis. Thus, this years updates will be CC-2014, and it’s safe to assume that subsequent releases will be CC-2015, CC-2016, etc. This is somewhat amusing since now that we are halfway into 2014, the CC software is officially 2014. Nonetheless, this is important because some of the software is radically changing, most specifically Photoshop.

In the past, the various Panels seen in Adobe applications were either done in a native code format or created in Flash. Panels such as Kuler and MiniBridge come to mind for Flash Panels. However, starting with Photoshop CC-2014, Flash Panels will not work in Photoshop. Interestingly enough, they do work with InDesign CC-2014 and all other CC-2014 applications. So, it seems the implementation of HTML-only (non-Flash) Panels will be done on an application-by-application basis, with or without the CC-2014 distinction.

What’s important here is that if you have a plug-in that will not be updated—or hasn’t been updated yet—you can still run Photoshop CS6 along side Photoshop-CC alongside Photoshop-CC-2014. Also, if you start your CC-2014 subscription today, you will have access to past releases that you’ve not downloaded previously. What you will not have access to (and there’s really no reason to have access to them), are the partial updates. That is, you can download Dreamweaver 13.2, but not Dreamweaver 13.1 or 13.0.

This transition will be a bit confusing because you cannot say, “Oh, you are using CC-2014 and therefore cannot use Flash Panels…” Rather, it will be up to the user to find out which applications will be requiring either Flash or HTML 5 Panels. It will also be up to the user to find out if the vendor for the plug-ins that the user uses plan to support the software updates. And, it’s up the vendor to very carefully lay out how their extensions work with the various applications. Since some vendors have extensions for multiple applications, it could be somewhat challenging to properly pass that information on to the users of that vendor’s applications.

Nonetheless, it does seem any actual change of functionality of an application will occur during a branding update. Thus, while InDesign CC-2014 can still use Flash Panels, any change from that will not occur during ID’s CC-2014 existence. As such, you can guess that maybe in ID’s CC-2015 release, Flash Panels may not work. [Please note, I am completely guessing on this issue; I have no reason nor ability to know about Flash Panels working or not working in ID, I am only using it as an example to point out the dynamics of the new branding/naming structure.]

As demonstrated in the June 18th announcement, one other aspect of the evolving nature of the Creative Cloud is so many releases of so many software items all at once. I am a bit sad by this, so let me explain:

As a reviewer, one of my tasks is to learn as much as I could about as many of the software packages as I could in as short a time period as I could to get the review out to potential users. This was always a horse-race during the Adobe’s Creative Suite phase when they released over a dozen applications filled with new features all at once. Originally with the Creative Cloud, applications were released in a very staggered basis, so it was much easier for both the user and reviewers alike to take an application with fewer new features and be able to devote a concentrated time-block to learning and understanding everything that is new. This is also an equal problem for users who use multiple Adobe applications for the same reason.

With this new media event, we received most of the Creative Cloud software all in one-fell-swoop. Yes, the number of features remains much smaller than we received during the CS period, but it is still a significant number of applications all at once. At this point in time, we do not know if subsequent updates will all be coordinated and released at the same time or if this binge-release will be the current norm.

There is also one other problem with this updated application assault; software that may not have been ready for release.

One of the potential benefits of the Creative Cloud staggered release schedule is that the various product managers could have a “general” release expectation date and aim for the new various features to be ready “around” that time. If things needed an extra week of tweaking, no problem. If they needed more than that, the feature could simply be pulled until a future update. Similarly, if a feature was only half-baked but working just fine, it could be released and, at a future date, could be updated with a greater range of (originally intended) abilities. Now, with a mass, cross-application update, those opportunities are less likely to occur

I feel that this is Adobe’s Marketing division driving the application development, and that is not always wise.

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  • David K

    Refreshing to hear an objective evaluation of Adobe’s evolving approach.