Adobe CS5: You can't do that with the GIMP!

Adobe CS5: You can't do that with the GIMP!

Summary: Adobe's Creative Suite 5 provides a surprisingly compelling set of reasons to bite the bullet and pay the licensing costs, even in cash-strapped edu settings.


Adobe approached me a few weeks back about the release of their new Creative Suite 5 (CS5) and its use in educational settings. Coming from Land of the Lost Budgets, the idea of devoting thousands of dollars to Creative Suite licensing (even academic licenses run in the hundreds of dollars per seat, depending upon the components you choose) makes me cringe. Just use the GIMP, I say! Use Eclipse for web development! It will put hair on your chest! Need to edit video? Cinelerra is free, as is Windows Movie Maker and iMovie (if you buy a Mac, that is). And then the Adobe folks gave me a preview of CS5, along with an evaluation copy of their so-called "Master Collection." Crap. There goes the GIMP.

Don't get me wrong. The GIMP is an outstanding piece of cross-platform software that meets many of the needs of students and teachers. It's free, mature, and stable and handles photo editing quite well. For simpler needs (touch up and management), Google's Picasa, Windows Photo Gallery, and iPhoto on the Mac all get the job done. But Photoshop CS5 (both their Standard and Extended Editions) does things with ease (if you have a video card that can handle it) that the GIMP either couldn't dream of doing or that would take a GIMP power user a month of Sundays to accomplish. OK, maybe not a whole month of Sundays, but it would be a lot harder.

I'm waiting on that infamous "Executive Loaner" MacBook Pro that should be arriving today to give CS5 a more thorough test drive, since it's just crushing my old MacBook and chuckled at the Windows desktop on which I tried to install it. For starters, though, I rendered a JPEG of my daughter on a 3D wine bottle; it's just one bit of built-in coolness.

So what does all this have to do with education? Who cares if students can wrap 2D pictures around 3D shapes? Who cares if they can use "puppet mode" and transform any 2D image into a 3D animation? And wait a minute, Dawson, I thought you were all about the cloud?

Here's my conundrum. Adobe CS5 is so good, it crushes any open source competition as easily as it crushes my video card. Check out this video that summarizes the capabilities of the new Flash Catalyst software and you'll get a sense of what I mean:

This will be the professional platform of choice for content creation (as was CS4, although this certainly cements its position). My position has always been to teach students skills and concepts rather than teaching them particular software or tools. And yet, the skill of creating really compelling content (for the web and otherwise) just might be better served by tools like those included in CS5. While the licensing costs may be tough to swallow, educators need to ask themselves how students will be using the tools and what we hope for them to learn.

Do we just need simple tools to clean up pictures, share videos on YouTube, or publish a brochure? If that's the case, then there are plenty of free tools that fill the bill nicely. Similarly, if you are running basic productivity/Internet access labs, then look elsewhere, because CS5 isn't exactly composed of light and snappy applications. However, I have no doubt that any vocational schools or colleges with programs that even touch upon graphics arts need to make the investment. I'd also argue that comprehensive high schools, while well-served in most situations by the GIMP and similar tools, would benefit from at least one small lab outfitted with CS5 and the hardware required to run it well if they wish to offer more than survey-level courses in web design, graphics, or other content-creation fields. Even the relatively inexpensive standalone Photoshop Extended (instead of the more expensive suites) would be a welcome addition to such courses.

In fact, my MacBook Pro just arrived! More thoughts on CS5 to come!

In the meantime, check out Oliver Marks' great analysis of CS5 in the context of an increasingly web-centric world.

Topics: Windows, Google, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Can't do *what* with GIMP?

    The title is more than a bit misleading Chris.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, Linux Advocate
    • Lots of things

      There are lots of things that the Adobe Programs of the Creative Suite can do or do easier than GIMP or some open source product but I am sure you know that and there are too many to list. GIMP is great and I have used it before and know many of the students in my district use it but you cannot argue that the Creative Suite does a whole lot more. Of course it is not free but education gets a pretty decent discount. You can get the Master Collection for as low as $35 a license. Not too bad for a Suite that retails for $2600.
      • Too many to list? Name just one.

        Dietrich T. Schmitz, Linux Advocate
        • Little things like

          the Animation and Video Support that Photoshop offers to name one. I will admit I haven't used GIMP 2.6 but I did use 2.4 here and there it compared more to Corel Paintshop or Photoshop Elements. For many people it is way more than what they need so don't get me wrong as I recommend the tool to people to at least try before investing in photoshop just like I recommend Open Office to at least try before buying Microsoft Office. Many people do not need the extra power of the licensed software but some do or they just want it.
          • Nope. GIMP Animation and Video support is just fine.

            I haven't gotten you wrong, you said:

            "Too many to list".

            So, far, you haven't supported your assertion:

            Looks like you can't support your assertion to me.
            Dietrich T. Schmitz, Linux Advocate
          • Then What about the 3D Modeling

            I know it is no use arguing with you because you do not even use the pay software so you know nothing about it but I have not used Gimp 2.6 but the achievement of 3D effects in GIMP has been reviewed as mediocre compared to Photoshop CS4 and it requires more steps to achieve pseudo 3D in GIMP as well. I used to use GIMP but then my district bought site licenses for the Adobe Suite and I got a take home license. I still recommend it though as it is very good software and just recommended it to my Aunt-In-Laws Daughter who is in High School and wanted Photoshop. So I will not argue with you anymore because you will use what you want and I will use what I want. It is just the fact that you cannot see beyond your limited knowledge of anything technical that is disappointing.
          • Still can't come up with one example. You are right. No use arguing then.

            [You] should have kept quiet.
            Dietrich T. Schmitz, Linux Advocate
          • You should try GIMP-GAP for Animation.

            It works nice
          • You should try GIMP-GAP for Animation.

            It works nice.
        • Integration

          I think that would be the most important one for professional users of Adobe Products. Ever since Macromedia and Adobe combined forces their products seamlessly swap data back-and-forth, preserving layers, color data, etc. Heck, even UNDO levels are preserved in some steps. Imagine doing that with hobby-ware like GIMP. Stop-what-you're-doing in Flash, save file(s), load files(s) in GIMP, do-whatever-in-GIMP, Stop-what-you're-doing in GIMP, save files(s), load file(s) in FLASH, transfer files to DREAMWEAVER. O snap, forgot an element - start at step 1 again. Lotsa fun when time=money, especially for your clients who get charged by the hour. Try explaining to a client how you're saving a thousand bucks a year so he can spend an extra $80/hour.
          • Nope. GIMP has undo levels. No cigar.

            Dietrich T. Schmitz, Linux Advocate
          • Gimp's undo is close to perfect

            it has been like that for almost a decade now.
            Great Kahuna
          • Its not worth it

            I should have never responded to him. He doesn't use the software he criticizes anyway so how he can respond is beyond me. No matter how good a software or operating system is he will not use it if it costs money. So you are best to not respond to him and I am going to do my best to ignore him and his many usernames or people that are just like them. It all comes down to selecting the best tool for the job and that is what I do. If the "free" or open source software does the trick then I have no problem using it.

            Did you notice he did not make a comment about the seamless integration piece? That is a huge plus for many organizations and users and a big reason they choose the software. He makes the same outrageous claims that Open Office is just as or more powerful than Microsoft office but cannot show that it does even a fraction of the integration with other software made by the parent company or 3rd party software out there.
    • What the video.

      There are plenty more on Youtube as well. This is one (among many) reason why proprietary software wins over FOSS.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Adobe CS5: You can't do that with the GIMP!

    Everyone here at Adobe is humbled and honored. Thanks, Chris!
  • Adobe Creative Suite Site Licenses.

    My School District purchased site licenses for CS3 for each of its 3 high schools and they have been awesome. Initially they sound expensive but when you look at what you get the value is tremendous. We are a relatively large high school district with about 2500 Workstations and over 9,000 students and before CS3 we only got the Suite for the Mac Labs and Graphic Labs that requested them. We started to find that more requests to have the suite or parts of the suite were being asked to be installed in other places. Many of our secretarial and administration staff wanted to use Acrobat Pro to make and edit PDF docs and when we calculated the cost of those individual licenses we were almost the cost of a site license. We just got the Design Premium Suite last time but with CS5 we are looking to get the master collection. The estimated price for a site is $17,000 (For the Master Collection) according to adobe which can be found here if you browse through the pages but you get 500 licenses per site which breaks down to about $35 a license. All in all it is worth it even if we have to burn a whole license just to install Acrobat, Photoshop, or one or two components of the suite here and there. It also makes managing the licenses much easier and includes some take home licenses for teachers and staff that need the suite for the school related work.

    Just a thought because if you plan on to outfit one lab with lets say Design Premium I think the discounted price may come to about $250 a license if I remember correctly the price we used to pay for individual licenses. That comes to about $7500 for a lab of 30 and for a couple thousand more you can have 250 - 500 licenses.
    • Would love to know more...

      about your implementation! Thanks for your support!
      • Here are the basics

        Our Current Setup:
        3 High Schools each currently with a Adobe Design Premium CS3 site license. Purchased initially to fulfill the needs of our Mac Lab and Graphics lab in each school which came to about 60 - 90 computers per school. It has then expanded and we now have most of the suite installed on all our labs and use parts of the suite (mainly acrobat and photoshop) for some staff individual computers. We are not using all 500 licenses but using simple system managment tools like Altiris we can tell which systems have the suite (parts or all) installed so we can make sure we do not go over. We no longer have to worry about what license goes where and so on and overall I think it actually is costing less to do this.

        It is in our budget (pending approval) to get site licenses for CS5 Master Collection as we have had many requests for the video softwares such as Premiere and After Effects and even though we will have to limit those installations (at least initially) due to the higher comptuer requirements and 64bit hardware OS requirements I can see that expanding much in the way we did with Design Premium.

        The only complaint I really have about Adobe is that Acrobat 8 came out in the Vista era and was not very 64bit OS friendly. I feel Adobe dropped the ball on this and while it works OK it has it's qwerks. I hope Acrobat 9 is not that way as our 64bit machines and many of our others will probably be running Windows 7 64bit.
  • Extra, read all about it: The Gimp beats the pants off of photoshop!

    Have you seen how the Gimp performs on TV, the CSI-style stuff cops do with <i>The Gimp</i> is simply amazing, looks like magic.

    Three cops were looking at a crime scene photo and it went like this:

    "Wait - there's a reflection in the teakettle! Magnify! Enhance! Now pull a DNA sample
    from the image! I don't care, just do it - boost the power if you have to! Crossmatch it with
    every person named Brent in the continental United States! Damn, this new version of GIMP rocks!"

    Annnnd... DING! Three seconds later, up pops the photo of the perpetrator, out go the cops to haul
    him in and America sleeps a little more soundly tonight.
    Great Kahuna
    • Awesome!

      I'm going to replace my paint.NET with the GIMP right now!!!!