Creative Cloud: the best way to buy Creative Suite?

Creative Cloud members also automatically gain access not only to Adobe’s promised annual round of version x.5 releases, but to a continuous stream of exclusive new functionality. For example, in early September significant capabilities were added to Illustrator, Muse and Edge; a couple of weeks later, new features including streamlined handling of HTML5 objects, audio, video and animation were added to Dreamweaver. All this new functionality is welcome, but even more so is the sense that you’re getting an even better deal for your money.

Creative Cloud: the best way to buy Creative Suite?

Adobe is also using Creative Cloud to extend its reach beyond the traditional desktop, with a new range of tablet apps that you have to buy from the app stores, but Adobe extends your membership accordingly. There are six of these Adobe Touch apps: Photoshop Touch for image editing and compositing; Kuler for colour theme handling; Debut for presentation of creative work; Ideas for vector-based sketching; Collage for creating multimedia moodboards; and – most relevant to web users – Proto, which lets you create wireframes of websites and mobile apps directly on your tablet.

The digital hub

That’s it in terms of applications and apps, at least for now, but Adobe wants users to see Creative Cloud as far more than just software. This is where the “digital hub” and cloud-based handling come in, providing members with a range of supporting online services, such as access to 20GB of Creative Cloud storage as part of your subscription (non-members can sign up and receive 2GB for free).

For web designers and developers, Creative Cloud offers a number of additional services

At the moment, online file management is pretty basic – you have to manually upload and download files in the browser – but greater control and desktop integration are promised. Meanwhile, it’s a handy way of sharing files between desktops and essential for syncing files between desktop CS applications and tablet Touch apps. You can also choose to share hosted files with others, which enables workmates and customers to view your CS file in their browser and make general comments on them. This sharing isn’t a replacement for PDF-based collaboration and document review via, but then Acrobat X Pro is included in the package.

For web designers and developers, Creative Cloud offers a number of additional services. The first is the ability to host up to five websites on Adobe’s Business Catalyst servers. Business Catalyst integration is now built into both Dreamweaver and Muse, making it incredibly easy to create and update sites. In addition, Business Catalyst offers various advanced capabilities such as online tracking and reporting, e-commerce handling and email campaigns. Whether or not you plan on using Adobe’s hosting, Creative Cloud members can take advantage of Adobe’s TypeKit system to boost the typography of their sites by deploying a huge range of high-quality web fonts.

Most exciting of all is the inclusion of subscriptions to Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition (DPS SE) and PhoneGap Build. The former means that designers can take advantage of the new folio-building capabilities in InDesign CS6 to create rich digital publications for the iPad with absolutely no coding required (presumably Android and Windows 8 support will follow). The latter means that developers can create a mobile app with HTML and JavaScript within Dreamweaver, and have this automatically cloud-compiled ready for deployment to all mobile platforms from iOS and Android through to Windows Phone, BlackBerry, webOS and Symbian.

What’s especially impressive is that, while delivering just one app of the standalone version of DPS SE to the App Store costs no less than $395, your ongoing Creative Cloud membership lets you “publish an unlimited number of apps at no additional cost”. Produce a couple of iPad apps a year and you’ve effectively paid for your annual Creative Cloud subscription.

An offer you can’t refuse?

Touch apps to explore new ideas; award-winning, market-defining CS6 applications with exclusive additions and updates; online storage and hosting that let you share your work both internally and externally; and integration with the Digital Publishing and PhoneGap services to help get your work onto the crucial new mobile platforms. The Creative Cloud really delivers on its promise of “a digital hub where you can explore, create, share, and deliver your work”, and at less than a £1 a day for existing users, it looks almost too good to be true. However, it’s worth thinking a little more critically first.

For a start, it’s deeply irritating that, yet again, UK users are subjected to a punitive £1 for $1 exchange rate; the respective US annual pricing is only $50 per month and $30 for existing users. After the first year’s discount, the annual cost will rise from £328 to £563.

More to the point, Adobe hasn’t given any price guarantees, and without any serious high-end competition, what’s to prevent the company from ratcheting up prices in the years ahead? It’s a free world. So if the price does rise you could always vote with your feet, but here’s the rub – what would that leave you with? The FAQ makes it pretty clear:
“When you cancel a month-to-month or annual membership… you will no longer have access to the CS applications, other desktop software, and services that are components of Creative Cloud. However, if you saved your work to your computer, you will continue to have access to those files.”

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