What does Creative Cloud mean for desktop apps?

Summary:Adobe Creative Cloud is a way to pay for Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite in monthly installments. It's also a way to sync and share the files you make with Adobe tools, and there are some nice extras like live previews of files instead of unhelpful icons.

Adobe Creative Cloud is a way to pay for Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite in monthly installments. It's also a way to sync and share the files you make with Adobe tools, and there are some nice extras like live previews of files instead of unhelpful icons. But in the long run, the most important part of Creative Cloud could be how it might change the desktop Adobe apps too.

Take a close look at the Creative Cloud logo, as it appears in the menu bar or notification area. It's two Cs, for Creative and Cloud, but tilted at an angle that makes them look like a fluffy cloud. It also looks like two wheels turning, as your content syncs between your PC and Mac and phone and tablet and the cloud (politely, and only using the network bandwidth you've allowed it to use), or a little engine that lets you do things with your content (like automatically extracting the colour palette and font list from an InDesign file). Or the engine could represent the cloud chugging away adding new features, like a licence for Lightroom or community galleries where you can share artwork or tools for making enhanced ebooks (what Adobe calls Single Editions).

Later on there will be team versions of Creative Cloud accounts so contractors and freelancers and agencies can use cloud app licences and upload files while they’re working on a project for a team that uses Adobe cloud licences (and leave those on the team account when they go onto another project). Another future plan is to link Creative Cloud accounts into enterprise content management systems. Further down the line, video production houses might want to sync through a content distribution network rather than uploading massive video files to the cloud directly.

The idea is for the Creative Cloud to be a clever cloud rather than just a storage and sync system, and AJ Joseph of the Adobe Studio Team (responsible for the Creative Cloud logo as well as coordinating the artists who produced the striking new CS box illustrations) says the logo is meant to convey those multiple possibilities of cloud.

And subscribing to a product rather than having to be persuaded to pay for an upgrade to the next version means Adobe could offer updates to the desktop apps far more often. "The Creative Cloud will be constantly updated," Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told us yesterday. Initially we expect that to be new features for the cloud service itself, like the ones Adobe has already promised. But how about adding support for newly popular JavaScript libraries to Dreamweaver? A subscription makes it worthwhile for developers to come up with handy new features that wouldn't been enough to justify a full upgrade. As Narayen phrased it, "one of the attractive parts of Creative Cloud is that I don’t need my engineers to be experts in revenue recognition and accounting."

But the other thing about Creative Cloud is that you're paying one price and getting a range of Adobe applications. Where you might only have bought Photoshop and Premier Pro, you now have Illustrator and InDesign as well. And that might change what you want each product to do. The new paragraph styles in Photoshop CS6 are very welcome. The new simple video tools in Photoshop are great. The basic vector tools in Photoshop work perfectly well but it's about this point that you start to think that if you need text and layout and vector and video tools, you should take your Photoshop artwork and work on it in InDesign and Illustrator and Premier Pro instead. And once you have a Creative Cloud subscription that gives you access to those tools, maybe you will - and maybe Adobe can stop cramming in features that aren’t core to the products because users will already have a program that does what they need without the compromises of adding that option to a program that already has more panels and palettes than you can comfortably view on screen.

As senior director Jeff Veen put it, "when you have the tools joined together like that there's an opportunity to simplify". Adobe can make its apps more focused and simplified if users are prepared to use the right tool for the right job. The rise of tablets makes that even more relevant. See a flowerbed or a coffee can that has just the mix of colours you want to use for a design? You can snap it with the Kuler app on your smartphone. Do some sketching or some basic layout ideas in Ideas or Photoshop Touch on your tablet. Work on the device that's most suitable, in an app that does what you need but doesn't have to do everything because you can get the work you did there in the program where you'll do the next stage without worrying about plugging in cables and dragging files into folders. It's easier to be creative when there's less to get in your way, whether that's admin or duplicate tools.

Mary Branscombe

Topics: Windows


Born on the Channel Island of Jersey, Simon moved to the UK to attend the University of Bath where he studied electrical and electronic engineering. Since then a varied career has included being part of the team building the world's first solid state 30KW HF radio transmitter, writing electromagnetic modelling software for railguns, and t... Full Bio


Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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