Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud Applications (Podcast 672)

Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud Applications (Podcast 672)

For many years, I’ve used Adobe’s Master Suite, and when the Creative Cloud was introduced, I gladly started a subscription. Due to my style of travel, sometimes not having access to the Internet for up to 7 weeks, I also helped Adobe to shape their license checking and grace period lengths, so as not to leave photographers in the field high and dry.

I have huge respect for what Adobe has done for photography and indeed many creative areas, but for a number of reasons I’ve decided to reduce my Creative Cloud subscription to the Photographer’s Plan, and today I’d like to walk you through my reasoning and decision process.

Before I go on, I’d like to mention that I am one of the relatively few people that really used many of the Creative Cloud applications. I used Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Audition, occasionally After Effects, and until 2016, Lightroom was my goto photo editing and asset management tool. I was getting value from the Creative Cloud, and when I was paying ¥5,378 which is about $51 per month, I felt as though it was a relatively good deal.

So what happened?

Well, it was really a collection of things that started me thinking that I wanted to move away from the Creative Cloud. The first thing was a price increase that happened without me noticing, until after I got back from this year’s Namibia Tour. I might have received a notification email, but I didn’t recall seeing one, but then I noticed as I did my accounts that the price had been hiked to ¥6,134 which is about $58.30 at the current exchange rate.

Alternatives?

The price increase started me wondering if I had any alternatives, but before I thought much more about that, I noticed a new product from a company that I’ve been watching closely, and that was Affinity Publisher, a direct competitor for Adobe’s InDesign, which is the product that I have been using for many years to create ebooks and my tour guidebooks etc.

Affinity_Publisher_Screenshot

I have taken Linda.com courses on InDesign, as it’s a pretty complicated program to use, but even so, every other week or so, as I was creating my weekly eBook for the MBP Pro members, I found myself stuck on something, and what I could do in an hour when things go well, would all of a sudden take me three hours, and I have frankly counted on being able to make these ebooks in around an hour, not three, so from a business perspective, this hits me pretty hard.

So I decided to pick up a copy of Affinity Publisher and see how it faired against the industry-standard eBook designing software package, InDesign. I opened Affinity Publisher and very quickly got started creating my weekly eBook, and although I literally could not do very much at all in InDesign before taking an online course, I finished my eBook in around two hours in Publisher, and that included deciding on my layout and figuring out how to do the very few things that weren’t completely obvious.

A Revelation!

Most of what I looked for was exactly where I would have expected it to be. It felt so natural to use, that I felt myself chuckling to myself a number of times as things just came together so easily. At least 10 times I mentioned to my wife that this is how InDesign should have been designed, or why didn’t Adobe do it like this. Affinity Publisher is worlds more intuitive, and I believe my weekly eBooks look better for it as well.

This revelation got me thinking. I started to wonder how many other Creative Cloud applications I could realistically replace, and pretty much straight away bought Affinity’s other two products, Affinity Photo, which is a Photoshop replacement, and Affinity Designer, which replaces Illustrator. Not a bad start!

I Have Audacity!

The other Adobe application that I relied heavily on was Audition, as I’ve been using that to record the Podcast audio each week for the last few years. I had a really good look around for some alternatives, and even tried to record into some of the music production or DAW software that I already own, but none of it really suited my needs. Then I decided to check out Audacity, which is a free, open-source application for recording audio. I’ve been aware of Audacity for many years, but never thought to really give it a try.

Audacity_Screenshot

Having taken it for a spin, I found myself once again wondering why Audition didn’t work like that. There are things that Audition does better, and it’s probably now taking me a little longer to produce my podcast because of that, but as a means to an end, I don’t mind, and I am gradually improving my workflow again, so all is good on the audio front.

Switched From Lightroom 3 Years Ago

As I mentioned, I jumped ship from Lightroom to Capture One Pro three years ago anyway, so that was now out of the equation, and the reason for switching was pure and simply better image quality, but if I was still with Lightroom, I’d have probably been looking for an alternative anyway as Adobe move Lightroom to the cloud and make the regular Lightroom “Classic”. I understand that they are saying that Lightroom is not being end-of-lifed, but I simply do not like anything that gets termed classic when it really isn’t. Although this may be just my impression, I’d have moved away from Lightroom before now anyway.

Video Production Alternative

The final thing that I needed to replace was Premiere Pro and After Effects for video production, and for the record, I have at this point not actually replaced them, but because I haven’t had a project that requires me to invest in another package yet, my current plan is to buy Final Cut Pro if I need something in the near future. Final Cut Pro is a very expensive package though. At this point, I have been able to replace the first four products for less than the cost of one month of the Creative Cloud for each product. Although Audacity is free, I actually donated $50 to the team to help with future development, so that’s again about how much I was paying for the Creative Cloud for one month.

I actually have a feeling that the Affinity team is probably working really hard on their next Creative Cloud killer, which will probably be a Premiere Pro alternative, so I’m hoping that they release that before I have to pay for Final Cut Pro, or any other package that I might decide on later.

The Stinger

So, the stage was set. I had an alternative solution for everything either already purchased or decided but waiting to pull the trigger on. I then went over to Adobe’s web site to see how easy it was going to be to cancel my subscription and was horrified to find that not only had I missed the email about the price increase, but I believe I never received notification that June was my yearly renewal month, and Adobe wanted around $333 before they’d let me cancel my Creative Cloud subscription. I was kicking myself for not looking earlier, but this actually helped me to not rush the decision.

The Solution

After spending another few weeks trying to live without Photoshop, I realized that I rely on it a little too much for certain plugins, like Canon’s Print Studio Pro for some of my printing workflow, and a few other things, so although I can use Affinity Photo for my editing work, I decided that it was probably better to keep Photoshop, so I went back to the Adobe website to check the prices of their subscription with just Photoshop.

I imagine there is some kind of a marketing campaign behind this, but I found that I could get the Photography Plan for just ¥12,700 for the year, which is about $121, just a hair over the cost of two months for the full Creative Cloud. This also comes with Lightroom which I do not need, but it was half the price of the other plans with just Photoshop in it, so I tried to see if I could switch, and I was able to do so without a penalty. In fact, after paying for a year of the Photography Plan, I received a refund of ¥613 or $5.83.

I was quite happy to be able to do this and would imagine that this would have been a cheaper option than paying the $333 to simply cancel my subscription. Conversely, I remained pretty annoyed that Adobe wanted to charge me this penalty after being a Master Suite user for well over ten years. I realize that they are running a business, and appreciate that a customer that is leaving is less important than one that is staying, albeit on a lower plan, but the whole thing just seemed cheap and completely disregarded the loyalty that I have shown to Adobe up to this point.

I’m also somewhat saddened to see Adobe making what I believe to be some strange marketing decisions. Whether you believe that they are gradually killing off the standalone version of Lightroom or not, their pricing strategies for the Creative Cloud seem to be annoying many more people than just me. Until a few years ago I would have banked on Adobe being around for at least a few more decades, but if they continue with their current strategies while their competitors continue to hit it out of the park, I’m no longer so sure of that.

Anyway, at this point, I’m happy that I do get to continue to use Photoshop as a plugin host, and I now have four of my five necessary programs covered for the price of just four monthly payments for the full Creative Cloud suite. I feel somewhat liberated, and I’m looking forward to not having to pay my monthly subscription to Adobe anymore. Whether I renew my subscription for the Photography Plan next year will depend on how much Adobe want for it, and also if the companies that create the plugins I use will release versions for other software like Affinity Photo. I actually doubt very much that this will happen, and imagine that Affinity will just gradually improve their support for Photoshop plugins instead. Either way, once that happens, I think I’ll stop my current Photography plan as well. I will also be careful to keep in mind that my subscription renews in June so that I don’t miss that again.

Of course, if you are using the Creative Cloud and still happy with it, I hope you continue to enjoy it. I have nothing against Adobe as such, but for me, I feel that it’s time to move on, and if you are feeling the same way, maybe the programs that I’ve decided on will help with your own search as well. Also, if you aren’t aware of which month your subscription renews in, it might be worth checking and making a note, so that it doesn’t creep up on you like it did me.

Mentorship Program Almost Ready!

Before we finish, I know that some of you are looking forward to the new MBP Mentorship program that I’ve been working on. Although I had to put this on the back-burner as I worked through a few personal issues this year, I’m now working on it again, and hope to start taking people on board over the next few weeks. The system will kick Mentees off with a short Getting Started course that helps to give me an idea of your level of understanding, while working towards you selecting a Primary Mentorship Path, which also includes one-to-one consultation sessions as the Mentee works through the various stages.

MBP_Mentorship_System_Screenshot
Mentorship System Screenshot

I’m building something that I think will be quite special and very helpful for anyone that wants to take your photography to the next level, so I’m really looking forward to opening this up for sign-ups over the next few weeks. If you are interested, please sign up for our newsletters, and I’ll be sure to mail out when the program goes live.


Show Notes

Get Affinity Software here: https://affinity.serif.com/

Audacity is here: https://www.audacityteam.org/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Why I Have to Dump the Adobe Creative Cloud!

Why I Have to Dump the Adobe Creative Cloud!

Excited by the release of Adobe Creative Suite 6 and the prospect of instant access to new versions of the products it contains as they are released, I jumped on the Creative Cloud subscription soon after it was possible to sign-up. I own a full CS5.5 Master Collection license, so I had the option to upgrade to a normal license for ¥64,500 ($825 as from Japan I am not able to buy from the US store for just $525). With the Creative Cloud discounted down to $30/month for the first year though, it made financial sense to use the subscription model, despite my knee-jerk reaction to want to own a license, and not rent one.

Today, I was looking at my plans for the rest of the year, and noticed that I sail for Antarctica on Nov 10, for the first of three trips that will take me out of Internet reach for a total of six weeks. I wondered what would happen if I could not get online during the first month, and called Adobe Support here in Japan to ask them.

Creative Cloud Web Interface

Creative Cloud Web Interface

It turns out that because I sail on the 10th of November, even if I have internet access on the morning that I leave Ushuaia, if the authentication check to see if I’ve paid my subscription fee is not automatically processed while I’m online, the next time I start Photoshop, or any other Creative Suite application, they will stop working. [UPDATE: I have since received confirmation from Adobe that there is indeed a 7 day grace period before the software stops working.]

Even if I am able to authentic on that morning, I’m actually in Antarctica on Dec 10, when the next renewal will be due, so it the CS6 apps will stop working for the last week of my third expedition. After my chat with Adobe, I read online that some people believe there is a 7 day grace period if you don’t have an Internet connection, which would get me back to dry land on Dec 14, but only if I am able to authenticate on Nov 10. And, that assumes that the Adobe person I spoke with today is wrong, in that he clearly stated that there is no 7 day grace period.

I am the resident photographer on these three expeditions, giving presentations to the group on Color Management, Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik Software, and of course I will be processing some of my own images in Photoshop too. Thankfully I own my license of LR and Nik Software’s plugins, so I’m OK there, but without Photoshop, I’m basically screwed.

Hurumph!

Hurumph!

I did wonder about this when I signed up, but honestly thought that Adobe would build in some way to pre-authenticate before longer trips, but I was wrong, foolish, a total idiot, to sign up without confirming this. Why can’t I just call Adobe and say “Hey, I’m going away for six weeks — bill me now for the next two months, and push a longer license to my computer before I leave”?

Hell, there isn’t even a way to force the authentication process on that morning before I leave Ushuaia to ensure that I get that month’s use of the software that I would have automatically paid for!

The support engineer’s advice was to buy a full license of Photoshop, the part of the Suite that I cannot live without, and cancel my Creative Cloud subscription. I told him that I also use most of the other suite products too on a regular basis and own a CS5.5 Master Collection license, so we came to the conclusion that my only realistic choice was to cancel my Creative Cloud subscription and upgrade my Master Collection to CS6.

Of course the other option is cancel my Creative Cloud subscription and NOT upgrade to the CS6 Master Collection. My CS5.5 license is still valid after all! The only problem with this, is that as an educator as well as photographer, I really have to present using the current version of the software.

I’m a bit quick of the mark sometimes, but I’m generally a prudent business owner when it comes to finances. I calculated that based on an 18 month upgrade schedule, which is what Adobe seems to be on, I would pay the discounted ¥3,000 for 12 months (¥36,000) and the full price of ¥5,000 for a further six months (¥30,000), a total of ¥66,000, by the time a CS7 or whatever was released. This is like $25 more than the price to upgrade my Master Collection, and I’d have the benefit of rolling upgrades, so it was going to be a win/win situation.

Lose/Lose

So far I’ve paid three installments of ¥3,000 in subscription fees. If I cancel that subscription right now and upgrade, I’ll have paid ¥73,500 to be essentially where I would have been three months ago had I simply upgraded and bought my license, not the subscription. This isn’t a huge amount of money but I resent paying that difference for such a stupid reason as a flawed subscription model.

My other options are to hope that the request I made today to ensure that this functionality get’s built into the system before I leave for Antarctica, but while waiting I’ll pay another ¥9,000 in subscription fees, and I honestly don’t think that will happen, at least not in the next three months, so I’ll end up upgrading my CS5.5 license anyway, taking the final price of the CS6 Master Collection to ¥82,500. Sheesh!

I have to make up my mind over the next couple of weeks before my next subscription payment, but I’m pretty sure my only realistic option is to cut my losses, dump the cloud, and go back to the original license model. Of course then what will happen is Adobe will fix the subscription model, and I’ll be stuck with my full license, and no rolling updates, cursing Adobe again until CS7 comes out. 🙁

Don’t get me wrong, I love Adobe products, and don’t like to feel this way, let alone air these negative views publicly, but Adobe’s handling of this relatively foreseeable and not uncommon use case is just not right. I hope someone from Adobe reads this and puts the gears in motion to fix this. Unfortunately, unless I get an email in the next week or so with good news, it will probably be too late for me.

June 20, 2013 – UPDATE: Adobe have just released their Creative Cloud, the next generation of the Creative Suite, and they have built in a grace period of up to 99 days before you need an Internet connect! Read more about this in my follow up post – Why I’m Back in Love with Adobe and the Creative Cloud!