Though small updates occur from time to time, Adobe has continued with the yearly “big update” strategy, and has just released its CC 2015 update, touching all the major apps in Creative Cloud. We’ve had a look around, so let’s take a quick tour through the new features—some of which are still experimental, and called “Technology Previews”.
Need an image? Here’s a new built-in option.
Most of the new apps gain some new features regarding CC Libraries. Essentially, when you place a library item, it now retains a link to that item. If it’s updated, your document will update too. Adobe’s new Stock service is also integrated, giving quick access to a selection of images available for individual purchase and monthly subscription.
This is how the Photoshop interface starts to evolve.
One of the bigger updates this time around, several areas that haven’t seen an update in a while have been rejigged. First off: the entire interface—well, nearly. In Preferences > Technology Previews, you can enable “Design Space”, which switches out the regular Photoshop interface for a much simpler one that’s optimized for screen designers, puts vector first, and feels like an app on an entirely different platform. The experience is not unlike an iPad app, though there are many keyboard shortcuts that you wouldn’t find in an iOS app. Because the UI has been reinvented, subtleties like scrubby sliders (dragging on numbers or property names) are missing, and in general, it’s best to treat this as a partial vision of an alternate future. Ignore it entirely if you wish, and remember to hide the Application Frame when you exit.
Output to different sizes from a single document.
Another big change is Artboards. The Layers panel now lets you create an artboard, which is essentially a clipping group set to a specific size. This means that you can contain several different sizes of artwork in a single document, ideal if you’re designing for different screen sizes and would prefer to deal with them together. One useful example: place a Smart Object on one artboard, then Option-drag to another artboard to duplicate it. You now have two objects that can be resized independently, but any edits (just double-click) carry across to both instances, on both artboards. If you design for multiple screens, you’ll probably like this a lot.
This is not really the new export wonderland I’d hoped for.
Save for Web is still there, though it’s been marked “Legacy” and will likely be removed from a future version. The replacement features, Export As and Quick Export As, don’t have all the bells and whistles just yet. The new options support Artboards, but don’t let you compare compression settings, replace spaces with hyphens when saving files, or access more advanced options like color profiles, progressive JPEG settings, or GIF matte colors. Let’s call this a step sideways for now.
Multiple strokes, multiple shadows, yes!
Layer Styles are much more flexible in this release, and it’s now possible to add multiple instances of shadows, overlays and strokes to a single layer, just by pressing the Plus button next to a style name. Far more flexible than the previous system, this is another improvement which screen and UI designers will really appreciate. Strokes can also now be set to overprint, for more flexible blending.
I’ll live with a few hairline render errors for vastly improved speed.
Boy, Illustrator is now much faster. You can now zoom live—resizing as you drag!—into documents which were slow to update before. Even insanely complicated documents are now trivial, even on my Retina iMac. The new GPU Preview (Command-E to toggle it) is not perfect just yet; I’ve seen hairlines on some artwork which disappear in the older CPU preview mode. Still, a few tiny glitches are a small price to pay for instant responsiveness.
Besides the new Libraries and Stock support, a new Safe Mode complements the new file recovery features, so if Illustrator should crash, you shouldn’t lose work. There’s also access to a preview of a web-based charting solution, but that’s very much still in progress. A welcome update.
Paragraph shading is going to be handy in Paragraph Styles.
Like Illustrator, performance has been improved, both in general redraw and page thumbnails, which is a great start. Table cells can now be filled entirely with images, making complex graphical tables much easier than before. Paragraphs can now sport automatic shading behind them, to highlight certain areas of the text such as callouts. While it was possible to use Paragraph Rules to shade behind single lines in previous releases, this is a far more capable and useful solution, though borders and rounded corners aren’t yet an option. It’s paragraph-specific, too—no word or sentence highlighting just yet.
Styles can now also be added automatically to a CC Library, which will make sharing styles between workgroups much easier. There’s also a preview of a new Publish Online feature, which promises to convert your layouts to the web, so keep an eye on its progress.
Press Advanced Options while installing to access this.
Finally, though, an important note. If you work with others, remember to keep your older InDesign CC 2014 around, because as usual, the file format has changed. You can use IDML to work with older versions, but if you’d prefer to swap .indd files, keep your previous InDesign app(s) by unchecking the “Remove old versions” checkbox during installation.
Curves and lots more in Premiere’s new Lumetri effect.
We covered most of the new features in this release in our NAB wrap-up, and they’ve now arrived. The Morph Cut transition tries to seamlessly smooth out two neighboring frames, so you can remove gaps or words from an interview without using cutaways. It’s not magic, but it’s not bad either.
Color is now faster and easier to work with thanks to the new Lumetri tools, though the Lumetri new scopes aren’t as good as FCP X’s. The Lumetri Color effect provides some solid improvements for color correction, including color-based hue/saturation corrections and curves.
Changing settings while playing the third-party Nodes effect was far more responsive in this version.
A new architecture built around performance will now allow you to work more interactively, as is common in Apple Motion. You don’t need to stop playback to adjust settings any more, and that’s huge if you’re trying to get an animation just right. There’s also a new face tracker, which will make blurring faces much easier.
A cute Red Monster, but is he a useful Red Monster?
This new app is included if you install After Effects as a preview, and could be great for some specific use cases, letting you use your facial expressions to drive a puppet. The jury is out as to how many people will actually find a use for it, though.
Drag the page bigger and smaller, and use these breakpoints to apply different rules on different screens.
There’s welcome new support for responsive design in this release, integrating the Bootstrap framework and allowing one design to work more effectively across differently sized screens. Responsive design has been a trend on the web for some time, and it’s good to see more explicit support. It’s also easier to preview a page on your phone or tablet with the Device Preview feature.
Coders will enjoy several improvements, including “linting” to catch potential errors, Emmet abbreviation expansion, easier code folding, and previews of images and colors in Code view. The new DOM panel replaces Element Quick View and allows the structure of a document to be more easily rearranged.
There’s a whole lot more to this release—Flash was updated too—and there are plenty of smaller feature improvement to all the apps above as well. For a whole lot more information, check out the full release notes linked from this page:
Want to check out a Technology Preview in Photoshop? Enable it in Preferences first.
Performance improvements are always welcome, and new features are of course welcome too, at least when they’re finished. The Technology Preview features aren’t quite done, and in some cases it shows. Check them out, use them if you want to, and definitely tell Adobe how they could improve them.
So is it worth upgrading? It’s free to Creative Cloud subscribers, so yes—just be careful to keep older versions of at least InDesign around, as noted above. If you’re still on CS6, you’ll have to weigh up the specific changes in each app, and certainly Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver have moved on quite a bit since those versions. Unless you have a deep aversion to subscription (and many still do) then it’s worth jumping aboard.