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Spring 2014 - Productivity Pointers by John Parsons

SWEET NEW SOFTWARE: ADOBE’S CREATIVE CLOUD

Editor’s note: This review of Adobe’s latest improvements was originally written for magazine and business publishers, but it has strong implications for print service providers who understand their customers’ multimedia needs.

When Adobe moved away from the traditional shrink-wrap software model with Creative Cloud, one of their promises was that updates—incremental and otherwise—would be more frequent. The frustrating wait for the next version release, and the speculation about whether desired features would be added or not, would be replaced by a more benign, less hype-filled process.

SMALLER, ONGOING IMPROVEMENTS

Adobe’s January 16, 2014, announcement has confirmed that trend. Creative Cloud subscribers—all 1.4 million of them, by Adobe’s count—will receive some significant feature updates, along with relatively minor improvements that, taken as a whole, continue to improve the design and production experience.

Adobe has had to weather the revenue transition—moving away from selling disc-based Creative Suite packages and towards a subscription model. Technically, Creative Cloud is not a true cloud service, like Google Docs, but a members-only online download, installation, and periodic verification process for traditional computer software. Adobe applications are simply too large and complex to be used in a client–server fashion.

According to Adobe, there have been around 50 “feature-bearing” updates since Creative Cloud’s inception, comprising about 500 new features. While some of these have been relatively minor, others certainly have not, including the single-edition DPS license for creating iPad apps.

COST-SAVING FEATURES

For magazine, business publishers and proactive graphic service providers, today’s update contains some cost-saving new features. Muse, Adobe’s highly intuitive Web design environment, now directly supports HTML animations created in Adobe Edge. These animations can now be stored and reused—and even shared with other users via a free online exchange. Muse has also automated social links, letting website creators simply drag and drop a widget to specify a Facebook page or a Twitter feed to be used on a site.

Improvements to Photoshop are mainly for designers, but production workers will appreciate the addition of linked smart objects—items copied from Illustrator or Photoshop that can be used multiple times and changed globally.

Illustrator received some long-awaited new features aimed at designers, including “live corners” (the ability to easily specify the roundness of any object corner) and a much-improved pencil tool. Also in the time-saving category is Illustrator’s new ability to customize the toolbox—a godsend for a complex, mega-multi-tool program. Customized toolboxes can be made part of a custom workspace and, presumably, shared with other users.

Both Illustrator and InDesign are now tightly integrated with Typekit, which offers over 900 fonts as part of a Creative Cloud license. Users can search for Typekit fonts from within the program rather than switching to a browser. Selected fonts are downloaded as desktop and/or Web fonts and can be used in non-Adobe applications.

InDesign itself has been improved in one very important aspect—at least for publishers of interactive content. Hyperlink creation, once a source of extreme frustration, is now remarkably easy. Users can create URLs automatically from selected text and can easily reuse those hyperlinks elsewhere in a publication. Hyperlink tracking is not only more intuitive, it is also “live” so long as the InDesign user is connected to the Internet. If a created hyperlink does not resolve to a valid URL, a red warning icon appears. This warning is regrettably not part of InDesign’s live preflight, but it is still a welcome respite for those creating interactive PDFs, tablet apps, or e-books.

BEYOND THE BIG RELEASE

Those who create and publish content in a multimedia environment will appreciate many of the changes announced today. The thrill of waiting for “the next big release” may be diminished, but so is the stress of worrying whether a particular feature will make the cut. This is a solid, albeit not earth-shattering, improvement.

Only time will tell whether Adobe’s new model will remain an agile one—adding publishing-essential features incrementally but with shorter wait times. However, since publishers today are less likely to be among Geoffrey Moore’s 16% group of early adopters and innovators, the steady, more predictable subscription model is the right one.

John Parsons is a veteran advisor and writer for printers and graphic communications providers and developers.

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