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Black Friday 2021 Adobe Creative Cloud deal gets you up to 40% off now through Nov. 26

It's a great deal, but watch that you don't get mired in an expensive ecosystem.

Adobe Fresco is one of the cloud-based apps that's taken up about 50GB of my storage with no easy way to find the largest files, in order to archive locally or delete them, to free up space. Instead, I get the perpetual nag message to buy more storage.
Lori Grunin/CNET

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Adobe's deals on its Creative Cloud All Apps plan is a regular event -- so much so, that if you need to subscribe and have the luxury of waiting it's worth delaying to get the discount off the first year.  This time around, now through Nov. 26, new subscribers can get 40% off the All Apps plan for individuals ($30 a month or $359.88 paid annually), 70% off for students and teachers ($16 a month) and almost 40% off the Creative Cloud Teams plan ($50 a month per license). 

After the first year, it goes back up to the normal prices, which run from $53 a month for individuals, students and teachers to $80 for teams.

If you were planning on subscribing for the first time or upgrading from your dependable old (old, old) perpetual-license version and you qualify, this is a good time to do it. As attractive as the Creative Cloud pricing sounds, though, you may need to do some strategic thinking before plonking down your credit card.

What's the deal?

That's 20-plus Adobe apps, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Lightroom and Dreamweaver. You also get access to all of Adobe's fonts, along with 100GB of cloud storage, and all the mobile apps, including Premiere Rush, Adobe FrescoAdobe SparkPhotoshop on iPad and Illustrator on iPad.

What's the catch?

A few important things to note:

  • The Creative Cloud Individual Plan offer is for a year's subscription paid in monthly installments of $30 or for 12 months paid up front for $359.88. The Student and Teachers plan is for a year's subscription paid in monthly installments of $16, or for 12 months paid up front for $191.88. The Teams plan is for $60 per month per license.
  • If you opt to continue the subscription, the price goes up to $53 per month ($635.88 annually) for the Individual plan and students and teachers, and to $80 per month for teams.
  • At the end of the year, it will automatically renew at the full price. And full price is what you'll be paying in perpetuity, because I've never seen a discount for existing customers.  
  • The discounts are available in other regions, including the UK and Australia. Check Adobe's regional sites for details.
  • The discount is only available to new subscribers, and it's limited to one subscription per customer. 

What's not to like?

If you just want to see whether you'd like the CC ecosystem or give the 2022 applications a go before committing, you may be better off getting the seven-day free trial and taking it for a spin before the promo ends on Nov. 26. You can then subscribe if you want to. Or better yet, see if Adobe Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements are good enough to meet your needs -- those each have 30-day free trials and still offer low, one-time prices.

Why isn't a year better than a few days? The tar pit problem. If you really use the system, which is the only way to figure out if it's worth the not-insignificant sum, trying to extract all your work if you choose not to continue is at best an aggravation and at worst impossible. Remember, if you opt not to subscribe you can't run the applications at all. 

Once you've got a couple thousand photos cataloged in Lightroom, getting them out with all the metadata -- ratings, keywords, captions and so on -- is a pain. You can save the metadata for a whole catalog into the individual photos' sidecar files, but it takes a while. And having Lightroom save the metadata to the file as you update them bogs down the software -- choose your poison. Plus, if you take advantage of the coolest new features, like range masking, those don't travel with the file. You only keep the basic adjustments.

If you give the latest Lightroom Classic a shot as an upgrade from an earlier version, it converts the database -- you won't be able to go back to the version you own. (Back it up, people!)

Love the libraries? I do. But you can't download anything in them or batch-convert and export them to portable format. You can only export them one at a time, and not to standard formats (as opposed to Adobe's formats). Shapes produced by the Adobe Capture mobile app go straight into libraries, and they're standard SVG files. But to get them out of CC, you can only save them one at a time, to AI (Illustrator) files. The cloud documents used by Fresco, Photoshop and Illustrator on iPad? Thankfully, you can download them -- but only one at a time. You can't even sync them locally.

You get the idea.

Is any of this unusual? Lots of companies lock their best stuff within a walled garden. But that's the caveat you have to watch out for before sinking a lot of time and money into an expensive year-long trial: It may not be as easy to move on as you'd think.

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