A year after exclusive, updated versions of the major Adobe products were released to Creative Cloud subscribers (products that would have become Creative Suite 7 had that distribution model remained), we met with the Adobe team to take stock of the switch from boxed products to cloud subscriptions, and explore how the move has impacted the benefits and opportunities available to the design community.
Originally conceived as a software delivery system with a space for online file storage, Creative Cloud has continued to grow into an entire workflow and “creative support system” with four key areas: Tools (Applications), Community, Publishing and Inspiration. While most of us are using the Tools, other benefits on offer, such as the social media portfolio network Behance, are still working to increase adoption rates and become more central to the design community as a whole. As one Adobe rep put it: “At the end of the day we’re here to help get your ideas across. Not just come up with the ideas, but also to utilize them right away.”
One of the most significant enhancements both for Adobe developers as well as Creative Cloud users is the ability to apply incremental updates on a much more frequent basis. When Creative Suite was first released, it was on a development cycle that saw 18 months or so between release versions (CS1, CS2, etc.).
While there would be smaller update patches for critical bug fixes when necessary, the majority of enhancements were deployed, together for all application titles, on that once-every-18-months timeline. The switch to Creative Cloud has allowed the product development teams to release updates and upgrades whenever they are ready, getting new features, tools and improvements into the hands of users far faster (and at no cost beyond the existing Creative Cloud subscription).
Perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of the move to a subscription model is the “all you can eat” access to a greatly expanded range of products. Previously you needed to choose which Creative Suite package best fit your needs (and budget), such as Design Standard or Production Premium, most of which focused on groups of tools for traditional creative roles (web, print, video, etc.). Making the wrong choice meant a costly upgrade or an additional license needed later to unlock other tools outside of your original package. In today’s multidisciplinary creative world, limiting your options in this fashion, with such a large investment attached, is the last thing you want to be thinking about when discussing a potential job with a client.
More importantly though is the opportunity for Creative Cloud users to test and experiment with the tools available, without a 30-day demo time limit or any additional cost. This is particularly useful when trying to figure out which of the various web-related tools fits your creative process best. Adobe has provided an enormous range of options in response to the evolution of how information is being consumed, and figuring out where to begin can be daunting. For example, when beginning an online project do you start with the incumbent Dreamweaver, or the shiny new, no-coding-required Adobe Muse? What about Edge Code, Generator, or Project Parfait? And then there are the various save-to-HTML functions in programs like InDesign and Illustrator, and specialty tools like Edge Animate. Each of these programs has its own role, value and style, so the ability to install them all to try out is a boon to everything but your free time! Adobe’s goal is to equip creatives from all disciplines with not only a wide selection of tools, but tools that fit into different workflows depending on their other areas of strength or expertise.
As a result of the faster update schedule and ability to quickly deploy new products, one of the greatest challenges with Creative Cloud is keeping up with what’s available, and Adobe shows no sign of slowing down. On the horizon are new hardware releases from the software giant as well as an abundance of 3D functions incorporated into key products for greater access to 3D printing tools.
Intro to Adobe Edge Animate
When Apple made it clear that it would not be supporting Flash on its iOS platform, Adobe had to react. This was, after all, a format that the graphic tool developer had invested a huge amount of time and effort integrating into a wide variety of its other products, unceremoniously neutered and made nearimpossible to maintain as a widely relevant format moving forward. Even today, Adobe’s push toward Flash as a ubiquitous and universally accepted file format in the same vein as PDFs can be seen in remnants of its major products, such as the Animate panel still present in InDesign.
(This becomes painfully clear after you’ve spent hours adding animated elements to your InDesign file only to discover they do not work when you export to Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.)
(Well, let’s talk for a second about “universally accepted”: All major browser and device manufacturers currently support the files that Edge Animate produces, but there is always the question of “legacy support.” Adobe had to draw a line in the sand regarding which older versions of browsers it could accommodate, but it has included tools to automatically swap-in static images as a replacement when necessary in those older browsers, allowing some amount of graceful degradation.)
One of the hardest transitions for designers to make is crossing over from a focus on print design to web design, and a great many end up designing for each in the same manner, producing excellent (static) visual content that works on either. In doing so, they miss out on a huge opportunity to design for the dynamic, interactive medium digital properties can provide. The web isn’t static. Your information shouldn’t be either.
Edge Animate is built with this philosophy in mind and offers a range of ways to build motion graphics and incorporate them into your projects. It even has a whole package-exporting type function that creates a nicely compacted file called a Composition (.OAM), which can then be inserted into other Adobe products ranging from the obvious fits like Dreamweaver and Muse to the less expected InDesign. Next time you’re working on a digital project, give it a try. You might be surprised with what a little bit of motion can add to your designs!
This column originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Designedge Canada magazine.