New Tools: Adobe Updates Photoshop for Cloud Users

When Adobe Systems released Creative Suite 6 last May, the company made it clear that users who obtain the software through Creative Cloud membership would enjoy advantages over those who purchased the traditional “perpetual license” in which you pay a flat fee. Among other benefits, Creative Cloud members would get new software features as they became available rather than waiting for the next major upgrade.

First in line was Illustrator, which gained a handful of features in August. This was followed later by some modest enhancements to Dreamweaver and a new Single Edition version of the Digital Publishing Suite. But the most dramatic update came last month, when Creative Cloud members were treated to some significant additions to Photoshop.

Here’s a rundown of these “membership exclusive” features. You’ll also find a quick video overview here and a more extensive one here.

What’s new in the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop?

Photoshop Conditional Actions feature

Photoshop’s new Conditional Actions feature lets you add if-then-else branches to Actions.

  • Smart Filter support for Blur Gallery and Liquify. Experienced Photoshop users know that Smart Filters provide a more flexible and productive way to apply filters such as Unsharp Mask and Gallery Effects. Rather than permanently altering the image, a smart filter behaves like an adjustment layer—you can easily turn it off or modify the effect. With the update, Photoshop’s new Blur Gallery and Liquify effects can now be applied as Smart Filters.
  • Conditional Actions. This major enhancement to the Actions panel lets you create steps that apply only to images or layers that meet specified criteria. For example, you can create an Action that performs different steps based on whether the image has a landscape or portrait orientation. It follows an if-then-else structure common to programming, but if coding gives you the willies, fear not: It’s all accomplished by means of simple pull-down menus. Right now, the selection of conditions is a bit limited; for example, you can’t apply Actions based on an image’s height or width. But the feature still promises to make one of Photoshop’s biggest productivity boosters even more powerful.
  • Copy CSS. Web designers who create mockups in Photoshop will fall in love with this: If you right-click on a layer or layer group, a new Copy CSS command extracts CSS properties, including font settings, color, position, dimensions and alignment. You can then paste the CSS into Dreamweaver or any other HTML editor. This is similar to a new feature in Fireworks CS6.
  • Load colors from web files. Another godsend for web designers: You can now use the Swatches panel to extract colors from CSS, HTML or SVG files.
  • Default type styles. Photoshop CS6 added paragraph and character styles similar to those in InDesign and Microsoft Word. In the update, you can now specify default styles that will appear in all new Photoshop documents.
  • Also new are some enhancements to Photoshop’s 3D and an interface tweak for the Crop tool.
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One new feature available to all Photoshop users — including those with perpetual licenses — is support for high-resolution displays, including the MacBook Pro’s Retina display. Without Retina support, the software uses interpolation to simulate extra pixels. Users with these displays should benefit from a sharper-looking interface and greater detail in images. Adobe has also added Retina support to Illustrator and Dreamweaver, again for all users.

Along with these Photoshop enhancements, Adobe made a few other announcements:

Creative Cloud for Teams. The long-awaited workgroup version of the Creative Cloud is now available. You’ll pay an extra $20 per month for each user to get the following additional benefits:

  • Centralized administration. Managers will have access to an online Admin console through which they can add team members and reassign seats from one user to another. To add a member, you send them an invitation via email, and they log into the Creative Cloud to download the software. If you’re managing a large team, you have the option to export an address list. Team members do not have to work for the same company.
  • Additional storage. Each team member gets 100GB of online storage versus 20GB for those with individual memberships.
  • Enhanced tech support. Each team member gets up to two “deep-dive” sessions per year with an Adobe expert to handle a specific software issue.

Total cost is $69.99 per user per month. Existing customers with previous volume licenses pay $49.99 per user per month. Users with existing individual accounts can upgrade to the team account with no penalty. You can find additional info in this FAQ.

Creative Cloud Connection. This is similar to Dropbox, the popular desktop syncing app. Creative Cloud members can download an app that adds a “Creative Cloud Files” folder to your computer. Any files saved to the folder are automatically synced to your online account.

Adobe Muse. Released in May, this is a program from Adobe’s InDesign team that lets you create websites without writing code. New is the ability to create layouts for tablets and smartphones.

Online training. This is a library of training videos from Kelby Training, video2brain and Attain.

New in Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite

Though it wasn’t part of Adobe’s December announcements, another Creative Cloud benefit worth mentioning is the new Single Edition of the Digital Publishing Suite (DPS). Introduced in 2010, DPS is a collection of software and services that allows publishers to create digital versions of magazines and other media properties for delivery to the iPad and Android devices. It was originally available in two versions: the Enterprise Edition for large publishers and Professional Edition for mid-sized outfits. The tools for building digital publications are built into InDesign, but to deliver content to end-users, you have to pay $495 per month (Professional) or $5940 per year (Enterprise) plus a small fee for each download.

With the Single Edition, Creative Cloud members can create digital content for the iPad at no additional cost, aside from paying $99 per year to join Apple’s iOS Developer Program. Yes, you have to become an Apple developer, but no programming expertise is required. As with the other DPS editions, you can use InDesign to build apps that include video, audio, slide shows and other interactive features and then submit them to Apple for inclusion in the App Store.

The key difference is that these are single editions—unlike the reader apps from magazines like Wired and National Geographic, these apps cannot automatically download new issues or manage archives. And the Single Edition is limited to the iPad—no Android support, at least for now.

However, building the apps is relatively easy—I participated in a training session with a couple of other journalists, and we were building apps within a few hours (albeit with the guidance of an Adobe rep). So this could be a nice solution for designers who want to create digital portfolios, brochures or other one-off publications. You can build the documents using the Windows or Mac versions of InDesign, but you’ll need a Mac to complete the process.

The Single Edition is also available to non-members of the Creative Cloud, but at a cost of $395. Additional info is here.

To further spur adoption of the Creative Cloud, Adobe announced in December that it had acquired Behance, a social media platform for creative professionals. As part of the deal, paid Creative Cloud members will be able to use Behance to create online portfolios of their work.

So what’s in store for Adobe customers who prefer to stick with the perpetual licenses? Per standard practice, the company is mum on future product plans, but if it follows the release patterns of recent years, I would expect to see an upgrade later this year. But as you’re waiting, designers who have opted for Creative Cloud membership will have early access to these features plus anything else that Adobe chooses to roll out in the meantime.

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