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I manage IT for my company and generally try to stay out of our designer's way. We are an eCommerce company, and our designers spend a lot of time shooting, cropping, and cleaning images for display of products on our website, so heavy use of Photoshop. We also make product demo videos, so we rely on Premier as well as InDesign and Illustrator for other tasks.

We own several copies of CS2 and CS3, but that is the newest we have. I've looked recently at Creative Cloud as a possible upgrade path for us, as well as just plain old CS6.

The problem is, I'm not knowledgeable enough on this subject to know if we do actually need an upgraded/newer CS or if the ones we have are just fine? I've heard of fancy new features such as de-blur in CS6, however we take images from a controlled environment, so de-blurring is not useful, etc.

To aide me in my purchasing recommendation, is there an actual need for a newer product? What new features are available that we may enjoy, or what work-flows are improved, etc. Basically, I"m trying to decide if I should pursue getting approval for upgrades or not.

I should also mention, our designers don't seem to care — however I believe this isn't because they have assessed the new options and decided what we have is fine — instead I believe they "know" their current setup and resist change. But, if the new options will help them be more productive, work more efficiently, work more easily, etc, — then it's worth the upgrade. Simply not having to learn a new program isn't a good reason - the company would pay for training if needed, etc.

Question Summary: What new features in CS6 and/or CC necessitate an upgrade? What things in CS6 and/or CC make it superior to older versions (people have to upgrade for some reason besides buttons looking fancier, etc).

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I think this question is not really answerable in a decent way. It is too broad because it has a lot of variables and it covers multiple applications. Not all of the apps have grown in the same way. Maybe it is better if you focus on each application separately and start by researching the additions per version. –  Bart Arondson Dec 13 '13 at 23:46
    
@BartArondson thanks for the input. I tried to narrow it down with my summary at the bottom, but I understand if it's broad. I was hoping there was something revolutionary in the newer versions that made CS2 and CS3 totally obsolete. It appears there are significant performance advantages, among a more refined/matured product. I'll check the link for specific details. –  SnakeDoc Dec 13 '13 at 23:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Here's the big deciding factor based on the hardware you are running...

CS6 and CC apps are 64Bit aware. CS2/3 are not.

Disregarding feature sets, that alone should be enough to make the choice to move the CS6 (I'm not a fan of the subscription model of the Creative Cloud). You're probably aware that 64Bit means faster applications, more access to RAM, etc. (Illustrator CS6 is much more stable than previous versions.)

However, be aware... if you are running CS2, your hardware may not meet the minimum system requirements for newer apps. For example, any Mac capable of running the Creative Cloud apps, can not run CS2 apps. The system architecture is too different.

It is difficult to recommend any upgrade based upon features. Each and every person uses different feature sets. You would need to know what features are in use and if improvements are worth the upgrade.

For example, if you're making and retouching photos there's not a great deal new in Photoshop for that. Well content aware fill is a nifty feature for retouching. And if you are using 3D models, there's a ton of new stuff since Photoshop CS2. Same holds true for Illustrator, if you're creating simple paths, objects, and text, then there's not a great deal of difference. But if you're creating perspective drawings, do a lot of symbol-based work, or use a lot of raster effects in Illustrator, there have been big improvements. InDesign has added electronic file creation to it's feature set. So you can use one file for press and epub delivery. If your'e doing that.

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I should mention we are running current gen hardware. All workstations run Windows 7, at least 8GB's DDR3 ECC Fully-Buffered RAM, RAID 10 hard drives, etc. The systems are more than capable of running CS2 and CS3, as well as the current CC or CS6. I don't really think simply using a program version that is 64bit capable will yield massive performance increases, the program has to be capable of utilizing the additional resources it now has at it's disposal, and I'm skeptical editing an image would consume 4+ GB's of ram. Now, Premier, maybe lol... –  SnakeDoc Dec 13 '13 at 23:39
    
Windows is different. The Mac was cut off at CS2 for newer systems. You may not think 64bit makes much difference, but it does. It saves countless hours every work week because users aren't waiting for the app to finish processing something. It's not about editing an image that takes up 4GB of RAM, it's about not waiting for RAM to be free so the app can finally do what you've asked it to do. 8GB of RAM with 32bit apps generally means you've got ~4GB of RAM doing nothing. Why not put that wasted RAM to work? –  Scott Dec 13 '13 at 23:43
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All I can tell you is, from someone who spends all day, every day in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign, The 64Bit aware apps have made all operations vastly better. And that has absolutely nothing to do with any feature set. –  Scott Dec 13 '13 at 23:47
    
The Mac thing may have been when they switched from PPC cpu's to x86 cpu's, different arch cpu's require different program binaries, and it gets to be a lot of work to maintain those. Anywho... performance may be a good reason. Has anything else major changed? Such as the horrible Premier scratch files bloating until they corrupt, etc.? ie, M$ rolled out Office 2007 with the new file format of .docx, etc, the new format is more stable, robust, and offers more features for current gen users. What about with CS and CC? –  SnakeDoc Dec 13 '13 at 23:49
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Basically what I'm getting at is, if I go to management and say, "hey this is faster, but it will cost us X thousands of dollars and our output will appear the same", they are likely to not approve the purchase. However, if I have that in addition to things like "it will be more stable, less maintenance, less disk usage, easier to do X, etc. and our production will increase because of all this" , they are likely to approve it. –  SnakeDoc Dec 13 '13 at 23:53

An earlier comment about Hardware compatibility is very important.

I was using CS3 and very happy with the product for graphic design and website design projects. I like the idea of Creative Cloud and had clients using newer versions of the Adobe products, so I decided to upgrade to Cloud. Unfortunately I have had nothing but problems from day one, particularly with Photoshop and Acrobat. Product freezes and extremely slow performance. 5 different support calls with Adobe did not fix the issues. In fact the last support person made things worse. I upgraded graphics cards twice but that didn't help.

I have come to believe that the only way I can run Creative Cloud is to replace my computer with a newer model. I am crossing my fingers that that will be enough. If not, I am prepared to dump cloud and go back to CS6 (or CS5 if I can find a copy from a reseller). This experience even has me thinking about open source alternatives for Photoshop and Illustrator. IT has been very frustrating. Hope this is helpful as you consider your options.

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As a person who does what your designers do, let me tell you what a few of the most important real differences would be.

  1. Better RAW image compatibility. I'm assuming all shoots are done in RAW, and depending on the ages of the cameras used, updates to the Adobe softwares means more support for various RAW files from different camera manufacturers. IF your cameras won't be replaced with the latest cameras any time soon, then staying with CS2 would be the greatest option.

  2. If the designers at your company have not expressed problems with documents becoming too big for the amount of RAM accessible to them, then there's no need to use a 64 bit version of anything Adobe. If they're happy with documents up to a few gigabytes and that's all they need, why upgrade now?

  3. Upgrade individually if you do. It honestly sounds like your photographers don't even need Photoshop. A good photographer never will unless he's making something else, other than a photograph. (Photo editing and management is what Lightroom is for.) Like you said, shoots are done in controlled studios. A good photographer takes an almost perfect image the moment he presses the shutter button, and uses a program to edit the RAW file or film scan. Your photographers just need to do the basics it sounds like, something you could do with CS2 just fine. Your page layout designers (if you have any) may want the latest InDesign to keep up with changing file formats and such when sending things to press or to keep up with new features that could change the way they design. I remember when the newspaper I worked for changed from InDesign CS3 to CS4. It ran more slowly on our machines, and offered absolutely no new benefits to us, and our print company accepted the file format we already used in CS2. The IT department thought they were being helpful, but ended up just causing slower production for us as we adjusted to the new software to do the same things we were doing in CS2. Premier is one of the programs you should consider updating, as that's something that introduces features they may not have even known about but could use.

  4. Keep in mind, programs don't make productivity higher quality, they just speed up the process and sometimes, even the latest software can't make good design any better.

  5. I'd beware of CC. Really understand what it is and what it could do, positively and negatively besides the IT aspect. It can seriously harm workflow or it can boost it.

  6. The Adobe suite is composed of programs that mostly copy what most seasoned designers can do by hand and have done by hand. Burning and dodging in photoshop are just the same as what happens when you burn and dodge in a darkroom. Cropping is just like what happens by hand. Lasso tool. etc. All these things a good designer can do by hand, if they attended proper courses at a good school. If your designers aren't doing anything they can't do by hand, then upgrading to CC or CS6 is no real benefit over CS2 really, most of the time.

These are just thoughts!

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Go CC. You never have to upgrade again. If you go CS6. It will look like CS2 in five years.

Scott hit the nail on the head: 64bit.

If you do any video work, it will save you hours of time. There has been A LOT of performance improvements, especially in AE & Premiere. InDesign will also stop crashing if you have large files.

This assumes you have a decent workstation - which is even more critical IMHO. Personally, I refuse to work on a system with less than 2 full-HD 23in monitors, 16+ GB RAM and at least a quad core. Anything less and you are wasting a lot of productivity opening and closing and switching views etc. Going PC will give you a much better system for your buck also.

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