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CS6 & Creative Cloud – Adobe finally starts to get it right

I’ve spent the past two days in San Francisco attending the launch of Adobe’s new Creative Suite 6, Creative Cloud and Touch Apps. Having now been at the launch event and having spent time working with all of the new CS6 products, Creative Cloud and Touch Apps I can say for the first time in a long time that I think Adobe is finally headed in the right direction.

For me it has been incredibly frustrating to watch the past few years as Adobe got crushed by Apple over Flash on iOS devices and even worse to watch the innovation of Macromedia stagnate as Adobe’s product launches became reactive to market trends instead of proactive to help shape the future to design and digital experiences. We have been burned by believing in new features that came out in one release that are then gone in the next release (cough…CS Review…cough). We all knew that something had to change and with launch of CS6, Creative Cloud and Touch Apps I finally see a meaningful and holistic strategy to bring about the change we have been waiting for.

Creative Suite 6

Of all the new CS6 products I have spent the most time in Photoshop CS6 Extended thanks to its beta (you can get your own copy here). After spending a lot of time doing a lot of designs I can say there is a lot I like about this new version of Photoshop. The biggest thing is that thanks to the new Mercury Graphics Engine the entire program is A LOT faster across the board. After that my top three favorite new features are the completely re-design crop tool which sounds dumb but it a fantastic improvement I didn’t know I needed, the new content aware move feature and finally background saves and auto recovery that always keep your designs safe. The other programs have other good enhancement (you can check out here) as well but I’ve only spent a small amount of time really putting them through their paces so I am holding final judgement until I can really test them out. But I am also excited to see a fluid grid layout feature for responsive design in the new version of Dreamweaver.

Creative Cloud

The Creative Cloud is made up of two different parts. The first part is a complete re-think of how you get your software, get new products sooner and publish your content. It starts with instead of paying one huge fee up front for all the CS6 products you pay a much smaller fee of $29-$49 a month for everything in the adobe suite. You can then go into the Creative Cloud and download and install all the apps on to any two computers with a MUCH better and simpler install system than Adobe ever had. The Cloud also gets you access to monthly product updates and new applications as they are put out for beta testing. Finally with your monthly membership you are able to publish up to 5 sites with Adobe Hosting Services and with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition you’ll be able to deliver digital publications to tablets.

The second part of the Creative Cloud focuses on cloud storage and collaboration and device syncing. The Cloud gives you 20GB or storage that can be added through Dropbox like desktop interface or through their suite of Touch Apps. Since it is an Adobe Cloud it understand and renders out all of your different file types so you can page through InDesign files or explore the layers of a Photoshop file. I think this part of the service has a lot of promise but still needs a lot of work before I would ever consider putting it in my studio and I say that for two reasons. The first is that in the version the demo’s at the launch you can see that files are either private so only you can see them or they are public so everyone can see them. They need to add a concept of closed workgroups so that your design can be kept private within a set group of people as no designer and especially no client wants their great new design to be available for the world to see before they want to launch it. The second part is around the security of the cloud which they did not discuss in the event. I hope they realize that this cloud isn’t like Apple’s iCloud where I could really care less if a photo of my dog or latest music download gets out in the open. For me this is more like I am giving you bank account information because for this tool to truly work creative teams have to be able to trust that they can put sensitive info, files and designs on the Cloud and they will be safe and protected. If you want to learn more, check out this Adobe Creative Cloud Review which looks at all of the individual applications included in more detail.

Adobe Touch Apps

I think the introduction of the Adobe Touch Apps is another peek into the fact that they are finally clueing into the fact that they need go embrace how tablets are now part of the creative process and that their tools need evolve to part of the creative process not just the production of the resulting ideas. I have been working with the Touch Apps for about five months now on Android and really like them. My favorite is Adobe Proto which is a very fluid, gesture based wireframing and prototyping tool. My second favorite apps is Adobe Photoshop Touch which is a useful but light version of Photoshop that is good for creating rough comps and composites when you are on the run and need go show and art director what you want them to create. Other apps include Adobe Ideas which is for vector based illustration, Adobe Collage which lets you pull together mood boards from your files on the Creative Cloud or internet site like Google and a tablet version of Adobe Kuhler for creating color palettes. The only app I don’t use is Adobe Debut which is their presentation tool but I don’t like Keynote for iPad or any other tablet presentation app because I need more creative control than they can provide.

I also get asked a lot about what my relationship is with Adobe because my team and I have appeared in some of their customer stories and product showcases so I wanted to set the record straight. I have been working with Adobe for a few years testing new products and giving advice on their strategy and their products. I am not an Adobe evangelist. Adobe doesn’t pay me anything for my time. I do not have to, and in the past have not, said always nice things about some of their decisions. My opinions are all my own but I do have to give them credit because they didn’t bury their head in the sand and ignore those of use who had strong opinions about their products. They asked us to help and I think it is that type of behavior that has led to their new direction and strategy.

So I think when you look at what this new release has you see that it isn’t perfect but it is the first step to Adobe becoming more reactive to the industry and taking a holistic strategy to their products instead of just bolting features on that don’t last. It looks like CS6 will drop in early May and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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