An in-depth look at Adobe’s new Creative Cloud offering

At its annual MAX conference, which took place in Los Angeles yesterday, Adobe Systems announced the latest milestone in its market leading Creative Suite, which will in effect cease to exist, to be replaced entirely by Creative Cloud, the company's software subscription option.

A major emphasis of the new suite version ties in with the company's push to this Creative Cloud subscription model that includes downloads of constantly updated apps for subscribers along with new collaboration tools and online services. Deeper integration between Creative Cloud and the Behance social network for creative professionals is a key example of the latter – but there are plenty of cool new features which make their appearance in new program versions, which we’ll take a look at in this article.

The new suite version will become available on 17 June, according to the company, meaning the services will go live and all the new software will be downloadable on that date. All the applications will be included in the £46.88 a month subscription, so there's no more choosing between Master Collection, Design Standard, Production Premium, and so on.

Adobe launched Creative Cloud in April 2012, and since then over a half million members have joined at the premium level. The company has pushed over 20 new features for the suite applications, including brand new apps like Edge Animate and Muse Mobile, tools for creating Flash-like effects using HTML5, and producing mobile websites from designs without coding, respectively. The new strategy means that subscribers no longer have to wait up to a year to purchase the next release to get new features.

With this release, Adobe's suite takes a new approach to product naming: Instead of increasing the version number from the current CS6 to CS7, the company will call the suite and its members CC, so you'll have Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC, Dreamweaver CC, Premiere Pro CC, and so on. So there is no "CS7." In addition to new names, the suite members get new visual representations; those "totems" or icons that used to look like periodic table characters now have more artistic backgrounds.

But there's a whole lot more than name and symbol changes, and there's even more than new cloud and collaboration services. Excellent new features show up in the suite members' individual apps. We'll take a look at some of those in the sections below, but first a bit about the cloud, collaboration, and new online services.

"The creative process is evolving really, really rapidly. And as the world becomes more connected and more mobile, creative pros are really challenged by how to piece all these things together. The whole idea of community, like the constant social feedback from social networks, is not incorporated at all," Adobe's senior marketing director for Creative Cloud and Creative Suite, Scott Morris, told a group of journalists at a press briefing before the event.

Part of the answer to this gaping productivity hole is Adobe's integration with Behance, a creative professional social network. Another is lots more syncing via Creative Cloud.

Across the apps, new syncing capabilities through Creative Cloud will let workers get the apps set up the way they like whether they're working at a client site or in their own studio. For example, a contractor using Photoshop or Illustrator can go into a client's offices and not have to set up all of the program's toolbars and settings. Illustrator and InDesign users can also have their fonts, styles, colours, and even assets all available after syncing.

Behance

The Behance creative pro social network will be built into all the major Creative Cloud applications, which will let users post projects for feedback from colleagues and clients. Adobe acquired Behance last December, but with this release the service really becomes part of the suite. Adobe shipped an initial integration last March, but now users will be able to post their files to Behance and share them. Behance also provides ProSites, customisable online presence for portfolios. Creative Cloud subscribers can use their own URLs.

What's new in the Adobe CC applications

Photoshop. Like other members of the suite, Photoshop can now take advantage of the syncing mentioned above, with the ability to migrate presets and settings. As you'd expect, it also lets users share to Behance and save to the Adobe Creative Cloud. The CC version also adds a smart sharpen tool, the ability to use Camera Raw settings as filters, intelligent upsampling, multiple shape and path selection, and more 3D features formerly only included in the Extended edition.

But the feature Adobe tantalised us with in a video last year – camera shake correction – has now finally made it into Photoshop CC. Called Camera Shake Reduction, the tool analyses your photograph for camera motion, comes up with a path representing the shake motion, and aligns the photo pixels to remove the blur. The released Photoshop feature takes into account rotational shake, letting users pick an area in the photo to correct. The feature won't correct motion blur from a moving subject, but camera shake is a huge deal, especially for photographing in low light at slow shutter speeds.

Illustrator, InDesign, Muse. Fonts and a cool iPhone app take centre stage with the suite's design software. The new Kuler iPhone app lets you snap a photo and tap at an object’s colour to create a colour swatch that can be synced to Illustrator for use as a colour theme in your design project. Also new to Illustrator is the Touch Type tool, which lets you customise individual font characters by scaling and rotating them. To continue the syncing theme, Adobe Typekit fonts can now be synced.

InDesign now gets a more modern, dark interface, and supports high definition displays as seen on the likes of the MacBook Pro Retina. InDesign also boasts a simplified Font menu with search, which doesn't make you scroll down a mile long list to find what you want. For more font goodness, the app also now lets you preview fonts in your document instantly, as well as generate QR codes that are vector-based and therefore scalable.

Muse is a newer member of the Creative suite, and its goal is to let designers build websites without knowing a lick of code. New for the CC version is "parallax scrolling." All this really means is that you can create multiple elements that scroll in different directions simultaneously. For those who do work with or as web developers, Illustrator can now generate CSS code from your illustrations. Muse also now offers web-based editing, so, for example, a client could make changes to a page without messing up your site layout.

Web Builders – DreamWeaver, Flash, Edge. With its CC version, Dreamweaver gets a new CSS designer visual editing tool, a modernised interface, JQuery UI widget support, and build support for PhoneGap, which lets you create iOS and Android apps. Edge Animate now includes motion paths, custom templates, support for an Akamai CDN, and support for swipe interfaces. Edge Reflow, which lets your site respond to different screen sizes, now has an Assets panel and Adobe Typekit integration for a huge font choice. Flash Professional CC has been rebuilt in 64-bit architecture, and has a new code editor, and enhanced HTML5 support.

Video – Premiere Pro, After Effects. We've already been privy to Adobe's new video creation applications in the run up to this year's NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) conference over in the States. Premiere Pro highlights include a simplified, redesigned timeline, a clip locater, the Adobe Anywhere collaboration server, integration of the Lumetri Deep Colour engine, better closed captioning support, and precise audio control.

After Effects now benefits from the Live 3D Pipeline between After Effects CC and CINEMA 4D, an enhanced 3D Camera Tracker, and layer and mask snapping. The very cool Refine Edge tool takes a huge amount of tedium out of rotoscoping.

The suite will become available next month, though Adobe did not specify an exact launch date. Pricing for the entire cloud-based suite, Creative Cloud, remains at £46.88 per month; students and teachers can get it for £15.88 per month. Individual apps such as Photoshop CC can be had for £17.58 a month. A business oriented Creative Cloud for Teams offering costs £65.44 per month per seat and comes with 100GB of online storage. For more on the new Adobe CC suite, you can visit Adobe's Creative Cloud page. And be sure to look out for in-depth reviews of the major Adobe CC applications on ITProPortal in the coming weeks.