Adobe mulls Creative Cloud tweaks for long-term file access

The company hopes to mollify users who are worried that they'll lose files created with Adobe software if their subscription runs out.

Stephen Shankland
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Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription includes software, services, and tools for social networking and collaboration.
Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription includes software, services, and tools for social networking and collaboration. Adobe Systems

Adobe Systems is trying to address one complaint about the company's decision to sell its major software products only through subscription plans, the fact that designers can't do anything with their files if they stop paying for access to the software.

"You should never lose access to your work, period," wrote John Nack, a principal product manager at Adobe, in response to criticism that the Creative Cloud subscription is in effect an "Adobe tax."

He wrote on Thursday:

Your work is absolutely your property. Adobe fully agrees, and that's why we've worked so hard over the years on things like the DNG standard (meant to ensure that your photos always stay readable), turning PDF into an ISO standard, etc.

There are solutions here, and we'll work on sharing more details.

He also said Adobe is interested in hearing ideas from customers on how best to solve the problem. He floated one such idea, that even those without active subscriptions would still be able to open their files, print them, and export them to other formats.

That would help, in particular for people moving to competing software, but it's still far short of what people can do with a perpetual license to Creative Suite products. With that model, people can also edit the files and create new ones.

The Creative Cloud subscription costs $50 per month for access to Adobe's full suite of software; the company also offers subscriptions for individual programs such as Photoshop for $20 per month. It still sells the CS6 products, but said it won't develop them further.

Under the current Creative Cloud system, people can sign up for a single month's use of all apps for $80, including use of older versions of the Creative Suite products. The $50-per-month price requires a full-year commitment.

Another possible tweak is a subscription for photography-focused customers such as those who buy both Lightroom and Photoshop.

"We've heard there's a lot of interest in a photographer's bundle or photography cloud solution and we're actively exploring offerings we can potentially create for you," said Jeffrey Tranberry, chief customer advocate for Adobe's digital imaging products, in a blog post answering some customer questions.

Although Adobe said it's pleased with the faster-than-expected Creative Cloud signup rate and that customer satisfaction for the subscription is high, but the company is also facing a vocal criticism.

Negative feedback includes a Change.org petition against Creative Cloud, a "Stop Adobe From Forcing Creative Cloud On Creatives" Facebook page, and a video of Hitler reacting to the Creative Cloud.

Update, 4:41 p.m. PT: Added more details on Creative Cloud subscription costs.
Update, 4:57 p.m. PT: Added comment from Jeffrey Tranberry.