Creative collaboration

by Mary Branscombe

Adobe’s Creative Cloud for teams brings new features to help designers and developers work together.

HardCopy Issue: 61 | Published: November 1, 2013

Adobe’s Creative Cloud service is more than just a way to subscribe to Photoshop or InDesign, rather than buy them outright. It also brings you a range of online tools for extracting further information from your design files, such as being able to generate a colour palette, plus online storage and portfolio space. More important are the new tools for working as part of a team. Creative Cloud for teams, as it is called, gives you a space to collaborate online using workflows that involve a lot more than just sharing files.

Creative Cloud for teams includes all of the Adobe Creative Suite desktop applications: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, After Effects and Premiere Pro plus Muse, Acrobat XI Pro, Lightroom 4, Adobe Audition, Bridge, Encore, Fireworks, Flash Builder Premium, Flash Professional, InCopy, Media Encoder, Prelude, SpeedGrade and the Edge tools. As these get updated, you automatically get updated too. You also get 100GB of storage per user, Web space for up to five Business Catalyst sites (plus Typekit for better Web fonts), and access to Behance, a design social network for showcasing your files from Creative Cloud, or from right inside Photoshop or Illustrator. In addition there are a range of tools and services that use the connection to Adobe’s cloud services to make your Adobe software even more useful.

Adobe download centre screenshot

Find the tools you need by the type of work you do, see what’s new or browse everything that’s included in Creative Cloud for teams.

Creative Cloud doesn’t just sync your design files to the different computers you work on; it also syncs your assets, settings, styles, colours and fonts, so you don’t have to remember to export fonts or recreate settings when you work on a new device. This includes mobile devices that host Adobe apps, and while a Creative Cloud subscription doesn’t actually include Photoshop Touch, Ideas or the iPhone versions of Kuler, Behance or Creative Portfolio, these do connect to your account when you buy them. The synchronisation doesn’t happen automatically as this would overwrite your current settings. Instead you choose Sync Settings Now in the desktop Creative Cloud sync app to opt in to syncing settings. Having the files that a team is working on all in the same place is much more convenient than passing files around from designer to designer. For one thing you always have the most recent version of files and share assets. If you’re working with video it can be a significant time-saver; the size of the files does mean you have to consider the time it takes to upload and download, but for quick changes that you can make in the cloud, such as renaming, you do save time.

 

Online extras

Files stored within Creative Cloud come with additional information. For example, you can check out different versions that you’ve been working on, and you can add and read comments, which is particularly handy if you’re collaborating with someone who isn’t in the same office.

The file info doesn’t just tell you its size and resolution, and who it’s shared with. It also includes the five main shades of the colour palette used in the image. You can download these as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file, or open the palette in Kuler where you can save it to as a reference for use in other designs. This works with photos as well as Photoshop and Illustrator files, so if you see a shop window or a flower bed with a great mix of colours, you can take a snap, upload it to Creative Cloud and extract the colour palette. Or you can experiment with different colour combinations in Kuler, switching to shades of a single colour or to a mix of complementary colours.

Layers are also visible in Creative Cloud, and you can turn individual layers on and off without having to open the file into an application. Again, this is great for collaborating and presenting ideas. You can see how a file is put together before you open it, or you can include multiple options for a logo or a layout in a single file and let the client turn the layers on and off to see which version they like. You can also read through the pages of a PDF on the site, whether or not you have a PDF viewer installed.

Kuler screenshot

Use Kuler to save palettes from multiple Creative Cloud files and experiment with different colour combinations.

If you’re collaborating on a video then you can work on the script from within your browser using Adobe Story CC Plus, where there are facilities for managing who can make changes. From there you can turn it into a shooting script, complete with a schedule and tags for props, lighting and sound effects. And then you can bring the script into Premiere Pro to see how your video clips fit into the production, matching metadata from the clips to characters, locations, props or dialog.

There are lots of tools available that allow you to do these steps separately, but integrating these tools into Creative Cloud and building them into the Adobe applications means you use Creative Cloud as part of your workflow, rather than as just another shared drive.

One extra benefit with Creative Cloud for teams is that everyone in the team gets two support sessions a year. That’s not just the usual forum and email support, but a one-to-one session with a product expert that you can use for problem-solving or training.

 

Managing the team

If you work in a design team that changes fairly often, or you work with contract designers on projects, then managing Adobe software licences hasn’t always been easy. The licences are expensive so you want to control who gets to use them and what happens at the end of a project. If you let a freelance or contract designer use one of your Photoshop licences, you don’t want them to keep it when they move on to their next project for some other company. The same applies if an employee moves to another division within your company that has its own software budget.

Creative Cloud for teams comes with an Admin Console on the Creative Cloud Web site where you can assign licences to users, and to take them away when they’re no longer part of your team. You can email new workers links where they can download and install the Adobe programs, or you can use the Adobe Creative Cloud Packager to make an MSI or PKG file that you can deploy to their PC or Mac with your usual software management tools. If you’re not comfortable with all the cloud sharing aspects of Creative Cloud then you can even block cloud sharing when designers connect to the business network where you want them to save their files.

Extract palette screenshot

Keeping files in Creative Cloud gives you not only synchronisation and sharing but also allows you to extract the colour palette without actually opening the file.

Admins can also see who is using the programs for which they have licences. That’s no substitute for good management when it comes to making sure your team is working well, but it could come in handy when you’re winding down a project and you need to see who is ready to move on.

Part of getting everyone on the same page is getting everyone on the same version of the software. However there may be instances where you need to collaborate with a designer who’s using an older version. In this case they’re probably going to see the same thing on screen, but they’re not going to be able to edit your effects or use the same workflow as you. If you have a Smart Object layer that uses a newer version of Camera Raw that their version of Photoshop can’t handle, for example, then it will stay as a Smart Object when they open the file, but they won’t be able to open or edit the layer. A text layer will look the same in an older version of Photoshop, but there is a danger of the layout changing if they edit the text.

However this is not a problem with Creative Cloud for teams as all the designers working on the project are on the same version of the software. You don’t have to juggle Windows and Mac licences either as each user downloads the correct version for their operating system.

 

Updates and changes

Getting the latest versions of Adobe products is a big part of Creative Cloud, but it isn’t the only way you get new features. For Adobe, Creative Cloud has brought a whole new development cycle. There are still major releases of the big tools every so often, but smaller updates can come much more frequently.

For the last few years, new version of Photoshop have included a number of what Adobe calls ‘JDIs’ or ‘Just Do It’ features – an idea that started in AfterEffects and spread to many of the Adobe products. These are small, often simple fixes or improvements that the Photoshop team can update or create quickly, such as adding a setting to turn off the ability to rotate the canvas with a multitouch gesture on the trackpad, or being able to rename layers right in the layers panel in Illustrator CS6.

Before Creative Cloud, you had to wait for the next major version of the software to get such improvements. And if you didn’t have the budget to upgrade, or there weren’t any major features that you needed, you wouldn’t get those extra conveniences. With a Creative Cloud subscription, you not only get the major versions when they come along; you also get smaller improvements more often, without having to wait for the next major version.

Developing with Creative Cloud for teams

Adobe’s Creative Cloud isn’t just for designers. With a strong focus on Web apps, it’s possibly the best source for HTML5 tooling around. And it’s not just for HTML: there’s still support for Flash developers, with Flash Professional providing a framework for working with ActionScript, and Flash Builder for developers working with the now open-sourced Flex framework.

Web developers will be familiar with Dreamweaver’s support for HTML and JavaScript development, and its integration with popular Web development frameworks. With Dreamweaver CC part of the Creative Cloud package, faster access to new features might be more important to Web developers than any other Creative Cloud users. Users are demanding more and more from Web apps, and both standards and practices are changing rapidly. Other key elements include grid tools that simplify the construction of responsive designs that support desktop, tablet and phone in a single page.

Creative Cloud also includes a new suite of Web development tools, namely the Edge tools. Edge Animate takes the Flash timeline approach to help you design HTML5 animations. There’s also a new Web application development tool, Edge Code, built on the Brackets open source Web editing tool. This is built in HTML and JavaScript, and you can use it to quickly preview changes to your HTML and CSS, opening all your current documents in Chrome. A built-in CSS quick editor makes it easy to see how a new stylesheet will affect a page design.

Reflow screenshot

Edge Reflow makes it easier to layout pages on a live WebKit-based surface. You can build a fluid grid, and resize layouts to see how different screen sizes will affect your designs. Once you’ve built your apps, Creative Cloud lets you use Adobe’s PhoneGap service to compile HTML/CSS/JavaScript code developed in Dreamweaver and the Edge tools into apps for most mobile platforms. You also get the Digital Publishing suite for creating iOS apps.

Of course the cloud storage and workflow features of Creative Cloud help designers and developers working together as a team. Designers can work with design tools, developers can edit code, and it all comes together in an app or an electronic magazine, ready for users. That’s the real benefit: a workable designer/developer workflow – something we’ve been waiting a long time for.

New releases of Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and the other desktop packages appeared in June this year. Illustrator CC had a mix of small but useful features, such as placing multiple files into a layout at the same time, or searching for the font you want by name, style or family. It also gained two powerful new tools in that you can turn a photo into a paint brush, and then reshape the strokes later. You can also treat individual characters in text as objects that you can move, scale and rotate while still keeping them as live text that you can edit or switch to a different font. This feature in particular makes text in Illustrator far more powerful and means you don’t need to drop into InDesign or Photoshop just to work on the text side of an illustration.

Despite coming out just six months after Photoshop 13.1, Photoshop CC included major new tools like Smart Sharpen, which fixes photos that don’t look quite in focus far more effectively than before. The most useful feature might be Camera Shake Reduction which analyses the movement of the camera and subtracts that from a blurred photo: ideal for images where slow shutter speed or long focus mean you didn’t get a good shot. This is one of those tools that doesn’t work every time, but when it does it saves photos you would otherwise discard. Intelligent up-sampling lets you enlarge images and keep sharp edges and detail, instead of the usual artefacts and blurring.

Being able to edit and resize shapes after you’ve made them, even if they include effects such as rounded corners, is going to be a big time saver. Smart Objects are also getting smarter; you can try out blur and liquefy effects to see if pulling, pushing, puckering, bloating or just blurring your image gives you the effect you want. If they don’t, you no longer need to step back through your undo history, or have the forethought to save a version before you started, as these effects are now non-destructive so you can simply remove them.

Photoshop 13.1 comes with version 8 of Adobe Camera Raw which puts the Advanced Healing Brush right in the RAW interface and gives you RAW tools like Clarity, Noise reduction and colour temperature as filters you can use on any layer, whether or not it started as a RAW file.

Premiere Pro CC has a new timeline that lets you copy and paste effects from one clip to another, an audio mixer that lets you adjust each clip in your timeline separately, and a link tool for keeping track of all your clips across multiple drives. There is a new Deep Colour engine for applying pre-set colour grades, and improved GPU support for giving you real-time performance and far faster export times. And then just as we were going to press Adobe announced a host of new features, like right-clicking the clip in the Source monitor to jump to that location in the Project panel, which immediately became available to Creative Cloud subscribers.

From a business point of view, Adobe Creative Cloud for teams combines the flexibility and agility of cloud subscriptions with the central management of familiar desktop applications. Designers get their new features, and you don’t lose control of software budgeting and licensing.

Find Out More

Creative Cloud for teams comes in two versions. There's the complete plan that gives you full versions of all the Adobe desktop applications plus extra services, such as the admin tools you need to manage and deploy Creative Cloud, and up to 100GB of storage space per user. Alternatively, if you only need one of the Adobe applications for your team, the single-app plan give you the application you need, plus the services and admin tools, with 20GB of storage per user. There are also plans for the individual user, which also come with 20GB of storage. Fur further details see greymatter.com/Adobe/Creative-Cloud-for-teams/842063.

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