Creative Suite: Upgrade, Wait for Creative Cloud or ???

by James Cook on November 22, 2011

 Important Note: Adobe has announced a revised Creative Suite CS6 upgrade policy which includes owners CS3 and CS4. I'll revise these recommendations as soon as I"ve had the opportunity to fully consider the new policy.

This article is part of an ongoing series about Adobe Creative Cloud.

The recommendations

Here’s a summary of my recommendations along with links in case you prefer to skip the background information and jump directly to the recommendations relevant to your situation.

Owners of CS4 and earlier programs and suites: DECIDE BY DECEMBER 31

Owners of CS5 and CS5.5 programs and suites: WAIT

Current subscribers to Adobe products and suites: WAIT

If you’re considering buying an Adobe product: WAIT

If you absolutely have to have an Adobe product now: TRY, SUBSCRIBE AND WAIT

Behind the recommendations

Users of Dreamweaver and other Adobe Creative Suite programs often ask me if it’s worth purchasing the latest upgrade. In fact, some of the most popular posts in this blog deal with upgrade issues.

In the past, I’ve based my answers on a number of factors:

  • New features: Will new features save time or allow you to do your job better? For example, the much-improved handling of CSS in Dreamweaver CS4 made that a “MUST UPGRADE” while the focus on new mobile-related features in CS5.5 earned that upgrade a “PROBABLY NO” for the average user.
  • Cost: Upgrades offer significant savings over new purchases but are still a significant investment for most users. Adobe’s past policies often made skipping an upgrade cycle an attractive proposition.
  • The user’s current software: Single cycle upgrades often don’t add enough functionality to justify either the upgrade expense or the learning curve associated with them, offering more reasons to skip an upgrade.

Apparently a lot of folks have adopted the skip-an-upgrade policy. It’s become common enough that Adobe has announced a couple policies aimed at ending the practice: Creative Cloud and Single Cycle Upgrades. I’ve already written about Creative Cloud here and here. As for Single Cycle Upgrades, it’s worth quoting from Adobe's announcement:

For customers who prefer to remain on the current licensing model, we will continue to offer our individual point products and Adobe Creative Suite editions as perpetual licenses. With regards to upgrades, we are changing our policy for perpetual license customers. In order to qualify for upgrade pricing when CS6 releases, customers will need to be on the latest version of our software (either CS5 or CS5.5 editions). If our customers are not yet on those versions, we’re offering a 20% discount through December 31, 2011 which will qualify them for upgrade pricing when we release CS6.

Clearly Creative Cloud and Single Cycle Upgrades significantly change the upgrade equation for many users so I’ve decided to revisit my upgrade advice. Depending upon what programs or suites you own or subscribe to, it can get a bit tricky. But bear with me, I’ll offer the best advice I can based upon what we currently know and, as more information becomes available, I’ll update this post to stay current.

Owners of CS4 and earlier programs and suites


If you own a pre-CS5 version of an Adobe Product, you are faced with some difficult decisions and, to date, Adobe hasn’t offered sufficient information for you to make them. I recommend waiting until late December in hopes that Adobe will offer additional guidance for its current users before then.

While you wait for Adobe to offer more pricing guidance, I can offer some rough numbers for you to consider.

As mentioned earlier, Adobe is offering a 20% discount on products upgrades through the end of the year. In addition, to upgrade to CS6 when it is launched you will have to pay an additional upgrade fee. Let’s take a look at what that means for owners of Creative Suite Master Collection, Creative Suite Web Premium, Photoshop Extended and Dreamweaver:

Product Upgrade to CS5.5 Upgrade CS5.5 to CS6
Total cost of CS6 upgrade
Purchase of CS6
Creative Suite Master Collection CS2 $1,119 $600 $1,720 $2,600
Creative Suite Web Premium CS2 $649 $400 $1,050 $1,800
Photoshop Extended CS2 $279 $200 $480 $999
Dreamweaver CS2 $159 $100 $260 $399
Creative Suite Master Collection CS3 $1,119 $600 $1,720 $2,600
Creative Suite Web Premium CS3 $949 $400  $1,349 $1,800
Photoshop Extended CS3 $279 $200 $480 $999
Dreamweaver CS3 $159 $100 $260 $399
Creative Suite Master Collection CS4 $759 $600 $1,360 $2,600
Creative Suite Web Premium CS4 $949 $400  $1,349 $1,800
Photoshop Extended CS4 $279 $200 $480 $999
Dreamweaver CS4 $159 $100 $260 $399

Estimates are based upon Adobe’s current prices and past update pricing.

Arguments for upgrading: Clearly, if you expect to stay on the upgrade track, it makes sense to upgrade now and take advantage of the 20% discount. Keep in mind that you won’t have to upgrade to CS6 right when it debuts (or anytime for that matter). You can delay that purchase until the next full upgrade cycle is imminent (about two years) or until Adobe changes the rules again.

Arguments against upgrading: If you believe your current software will remain viable for another couple years it may make financial sense to delay upgrading and then subscribe to Cloud when upgrading becomes necessary.

If you feel that the currently announced $49.99 per month Cloud plan or the yet to be announced changes in the subscription pricing structure will make sense for you, there’s also no reason to upgrade now. The best strategy is to wait until Cloud is officially released and see what incentives Adobe offers to encourage people to transition to Cloud.

You should also keep in mind that, when a new version of software is announced, older versions tend to be discounted sharply. So, if you’re a gambler, you might want to wait and bet that, when the time comes to upgrade, you’ll be able to score a copy of CS5 and upgrade it to CS6. Of course, not all bets are winners.

Bottom line: Owners of Adobe programs who don’t upgrade regularly face a difficult decision. The new policies Adobe has put in place make it likely that you’ll end up paying more to be their customer. You need to gather all the information you can prior to the end of the year in order to make an informed decision.

Important: Things get hectic during the holiday season. If you plan to upgrade, make sure you don’t miss the end-of-the-year deadline.

Owners of CS5 and CS5.5 programs and suites


You will qualify for upgrade pricing when CS6 is released. At that time you will be able to make an informed decision about whether to upgrade to CS6 or purchase a Creative Cloud subscription.

Bottom line: You have nothing to lose by waiting for the launch of CS6 and Creative Cloud before making a decision about whether to upgrade or convert to Creative Cloud.

Current Subscribers to Adobe programs and suites


In its Creative Cloud FAQ Adobe states:

There will not be any immediate impact to your existing subscription. You will be able to continue to enjoy your subscription to the software titles you have selected. We will announce more information about Adobe Creative Cloud as it becomes available.

Adobe has indicated that current subscribers will be transitioned to some form of Creative Cloud and that current subscription pricing (Master Collection is $129 per month, Photoshop alone is $49 per month and Dreamweaver is $19 per month) will be adjusted to reflect the announced Creative Cloud pricing.

Bottom line: You have nothing to lose by waiting for the launch of Creative Cloud.

If you’re considering buying an Adobe product


If you are planning to purchase an Adobe product but can delay the decision there is no incentive for you to act before Creative Cloud and CS6 are announced. At that time you can make an informed decision regarding the licensing model that is best for you.

Bottom Line: If you purchase a CS5.5 product prior to the launch of CS6, you’ll end up paying an upgrade fee to move to CS6. On the other hand, if you purchase now and then decide to move to Creative Cloud, you’ll be writing off your investment in CS5.5.

If you absolutely have to have an Adobe product now


Since the launch announcements for Creative Cloud and CS6 are expected early next year, you’ll want to delay and minimize your expenses until the announcement.

  • Step one:  Download a trial of the software you need. Trials are full versions good for 30 days.
  • Step two: After 30 days convert your trial to a subscription. While you’ll pay a few months of subscription fees while you wait, that will likely be less costly than purchasing now and upgrading or subscribing later.
  • Step three: Once Creative Cloud and CS6 are launched decide which licensing model works best for you and purchase it.

Bottom Line: As much as possible, avoid purchasing Adobe creative programs until the launches of Creative Cloud and CS6.


Clearly the best path for most Adobe customers is to sit tight and wait for additional information and the official launch of Creative Cloud and CS6 next year. In fact, a lot of users may decide to postpone the move to Cloud or CS6 until it becomes a necessity rather than jumping on board at the launch.

For owners of CS4 and earlier versions of Adobe software the decision is much more difficult and Adobe has so far failed you by not providing the information you need to make an informed decision. The time is now for this group of Adobe customers to demand more and better information from the company NOW!

Next up: Frequently Asked (and not always answered) Questions about Creative Cloud

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