Adobe shoots for the clouds but leaves key features grounded at launch

Last year’s Creative Cloud review advised that Adobe would have to work fast to keep users hooked after the first year, especially for those invested in packaged CS6 software. Little more than a year later, Creative Cloud is now mandatory—and the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

While Adobe has mostly delivered on updated desktop applications, the glue holding the whole subscription-based service together remains a work in progress, with key features MIA at launch. Unlike last year, customers are forced to be patient as Adobe catches up, or retreat to yesterday’s Creative Suite.

At the heart of Creative Cloud is a new Desktop menu bar application where subscribers can install or update applications, interact with other creative types on Behance, or see a unified history of what they’ve been doing. Switching from Adobe Application Manager (AAM) to CC Desktop was a bit rocky at first, as the newer application refused to install, but restarting AAM forced an update and it was smooth sailing after that.

CC Desktop is a big improvement over the finicky AAM, but the launch version omits two key features the company promoted heavily: Cloud file sync and Typekit fonts. While both are likely to have rolled out by the time you read this, their exclusion at launch is a disconcerting sign that Adobe may have trouble keeping up with the faster pace of development.

Though CC Desktop makes it easy to install or update desktop applications, users still have to rely on crusty uninstallers to remove apps no longer needed. Why not offer a contextual menu item to perform this task from the menu bar instead? On the Mac, CC Desktop lives in the menu bar, faithfully delivering notifications for new updates or completed downloads.

The dedicated Behance tab offers a quick view of account activity or posted work as well as the ability to discover others’ projects or works-in-progress, but doing much else requires a trip to the web browser, largely diminishing the convenience of having it in the menu bar to begin with.

Since Creative Cloud allows applications to be installed on two machines at once on either Mac or Windows, Adobe added the ability to sync settings between computers. We installed a second instance of Photoshop CC on Windows 7 and were immediately up and running with the same presets, preferences, color swatches, and more from our Mac.

At the MAX 2013 launch, Adobe also showed off Creative Cloud Touch for iOS, offering mobile access to the included 20GB of cloud storage, complete with file versioning, layer support, and private folder sharing. Sadly, this app was also a no-show at launch— another black eye for the company’s grand subscription-based ambitions.

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