Can you buy Adobe software without a subscription?

The Adobe transition to a subscription-based business model has been successful by many measures, although it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. If you want Adobe software but you don’t want to pay a regular subscription fee, do you still have options? Depending on what you need, the answer is “maybe”…although as of 2017, the non-subscription options from Adobe are fewer than ever. (Update: As of 2019, nearly all Adobe professional software is now available only through a Creative Cloud subscription.)

First let’s make sure we understand the two common types of software licenses for consumer single-user software. The older way to pay for software is called a perpetual license, because you buy the license once and it doesn’t expire. With Adobe Creative Cloud and some other newer applications, you maintain your license to use Adobe software and services by paying a subscription fee every year or every month, as you might with Netflix or Spotify.

Creative Suite 6 no longer available at retail as of January 9, 2017

As of January 9, 2017, Adobe Creative Suite (CS6 or earlier) perpetual license applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe After Effects are no longer available for sale from Adobe (see below). They are now available only as part of a paid Creative Cloud subscription. Many Creative Cloud applications have a Single App subscription option in case you don’t want to pay for them all. If you read an earlier version of this article that talked about how to buy CS6 without a subscription, I’ve now had to bring this article up to date to account for Adobe taking CS6 completely off the market.

How to get applications such as Photoshop

Between 2012 and 2017, some Adobe professional applications were available by both subscription and perpetual licenses. This led to confusion about which version to get, especially as Adobe began to hide the perpetual license options. After CS6 went off the retail market in 2017, the choice became clear only because all Adobe pro applications became available exclusively by subscription. Still, I’ve included information on how to get current versions, how to know the difference between the two versions of Lightroom, and whether you should consider the second-hand market.

Photoshop

The king of Adobe software is, of course, Adobe Photoshop. Now that Adobe no longer sells CS6 applications, you can get Photoshop only through a paid Creative Cloud membership. The most affordable membership is the Photography Plan, which for USD $9.99, includes Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom as well as a range of online services, including Lightroom cloud storage and syncing across devices as well as an Adobe Portfolio website (All of that may change, so read over the current offers carefully.) If you use Photoshop for business reasons this is probably going to be one of the smallest business expenses you have. The relatively low cost of the Photography Plan subscriptions means that many of the objections to it are not economic. (The full Creative Cloud plan, which includes nearly all Adobe pro applications, is much more costly.)

The only non-subscription version of Photoshop currently for sale is Photoshop Elements, or you can use a non-Adobe Photoshop alternative. See below for more information about those options.

Lightroom

On October 18, 2017, Adobe announced the 2018 releases of Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC under a choice of Creative Cloud plans; it was also announced that Lightroom 6 is the last version available through a perpetual license.

If you’re not sure about the difference between the subscription and perpetual license versions of Lightroom, it’s this:

  • Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are available as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, including the inexpensive Photography Plan. Lightroom is the newer form that stores all of your images in the cloud; Lightroom Classic is the current version of the original Lightroom that stores all of your original images on your own local storage. These versions have Creative Cloud-specific features, such as the ability to sync with Lightroom in the cloud and on other devices. They are eligible for all Lightroom updates, which can contain new features or bug fixes. (These applications were formerly called Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, but Adobe dropped the CC after it was no longer necessary to distinguish the subscription and perpetual license versions.)
  • Lightroom 6 was sold as a perpetual license. The last perpetual license version of Lightroom was Lightroom 6. Introduced in 2015, Adobe stopped selling it in 2019. In terms of features, the main difference is that Lightroom 6 didn’t connect or sync to any Creative Cloud services such as Lightroom Photos. Lightroom 6 received bug fixes as they become available, but new features added to the subscription version of Lightroom were not added to the perpetual license version. Lightroom 6 will not receive any further major upgrades; the equivalent of Lightroom 7 was Lightroom Classic CC (version 7) which is subscription-only.

For several years you could buy Lightroom 6 (perpetual license, no subscription) from Amazon.com, B&H, and Adorama. But when I checked on March 31, 2019, the only one of those three links that still worked was for B&H. Finally, some time around October 10, 2019, B&H withdrew Lightroom 6 from sale and listed it as Discontinued. Again, Adobe has stopped selling new or upgrade licenses for Lightroom 6 directly from their website.

If you find a copy of Lightroom 6 and are thinking about buying it, keep the following in mind:

  • Lightroom 6 is no longer supported or receiving updates, so raw files of newer cameras may not be supported.
  • The Lightroom 6 feature set is falling further behind Lightroom Classic. For example, it lacks features such as Dehaze and Texture, and does not include the performance enhancements and improved GPU support in Lightroom Classic.
  • After November 30, 2018, the live map view in Lightroom Classic 7.5 and earlier no longer works because the connection to the map server has changed (The rest of the Map module still works). The live map view has been updated and continues to function in the current versions of Lightroom Classic (version 8 or later) and Lightroom (version 2 or later).
  • On macOS, some Lightroom 6 components won’t run on macOS 10.15 Catalina, preventing it from being installed or uninstalled. Lightroom 6 may work if it was already installed before upgrading to macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Acrobat

Acrobat 2017 is still available as a one-time purchase, but it isn’t easy to find. Go to https://www.adobe.com/products/catalog.html, expand the PDF & E-Signatures category, and select PDF. Or go to this direct link:

https://www.adobe.com/products/catalog.html?filters=de_252Fpdf

Acrobat Pro 2017 perpetual license

When this article was written in January 2016, Adobe was still offering perpetual licenses of Acrobat Pro DC. This was true throughout the first half of 2016, but when I checked the Acrobat Pro DC page at the end of August 2016, the perpetual license options had been removed.

Buying a used copy

There may be copies of Creative Suite software available for sale through the used market, but if you are interested in buying it that way you should exercise extreme caution to avoid scams, pirated copies hacked with malware, and serial numbers that Adobe has deactivated. If you’re buying software that has been previously opened and installed, it’s a good idea to make sure the seller is willing to do an official transfer of license to ensure that you become the new legal owner of the software.

Also, CS6 applications were released in 2012, so they were not written for the latest operating systems and hardware. They are no longer being updated, so if you upgrade your hardware or system and a CS6 application now has a problem running on it, a fix is probably not available.

Non-subscription alternatives from Adobe: Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements

Years ago, hobbyists and non-professionals used to buy the full version of Photoshop because it was one of the few applications that could do a good job of editing images. Today many of those users may be satisfied with recent versions of Photoshop Elements. It’s sold from many retailers as a perpetual license for under USD$100, no subscription needed or available.

Over time many advanced features in recent versions of Photoshop (such as healing, hair selection, camera shake reduction, and panorama merge) have been handed down to Photoshop Elements, so some areas of Photoshop Elements are more powerful than older versions of Photoshop.

Here’s an intriguing option: A non-Adobe plug-in called Elements+ unlocks a long list of Photoshop features that are present but hidden in the Elements version. Elements+ is not free, but using Elements+ with Photoshop Elements gets you a lot closer to the full version of Photoshop, and the combined non-subscription price of both is still reasonably low.

For video editing, Premiere Elements serves a similar consumer audience, and is also sold as perpetual license software.

Alternatives outside Adobe

Photo editing software has matured greatly since the days when Photoshop was the clear standout. On the Mac, hobbyists and others needing something more advanced than Apple Photos can turn to Acorn, Pixelmator, Polarr, and others. However, photo editors at that level tend to be missing features that advanced and professional users rely on in Photoshop. If you do need more advanced features such as support for true camera raw editing and non-RGB color modes (such as CMYK and Lab) and ICC profile conversions, take a look at Affinity Photo. That affordable application seems much closer to Photoshop than most other alternatives. GIMP is also a frequently mentioned Photoshop alternative; it’s mature and powerful but can be challenging to learn.

Affinity is the developer to watch here. Before Affinity Photo they released Affinity Designer, a legitimate alternative to Adobe Illustrator. In June 2019, Affinity released Publisher, a potential alternative to Adobe InDesign. This means Affinity now has a trio of perpetual license desktop applications that covers much of the same ground as the old Adobe Creative Suite. Serif (the parent company of Affinity) certainly has the background to build it, as they are the developer of the long-established PhotoPlus, DrawPlus, and PagePlus applications for Windows. Affinity has also said they are working on a digital asset manager, which could compete with Adobe Lightroom or Bridge.

For pure raw processing, alternatives to Lightroom and Camera Raw include Capture One, DxO Optics Pro, ON1 Photo Raw, Skylum Luminar, and the free/open source Darktable, Lightzone, and RawTherapee. These are generally very capable raw processors. If you value the organizational features in Lightroom you should evaluate the alternatives carefully, because in general their photo organization features are not as strong as their raw development features.

Some enjoy using Apple Photos enhanced with editing extensions made by Skylum, DxO and others. These extensions bring the image-editing capabilities of Photos closer to Lightroom. But because these extensions are created by multiple developers, the editing experience is less integrated and consistent than in Lightroom. Another problem is that the organizational abilities of Apple Photos fall well short of what Lightroom can do, and so far, it looks like extensions are not able to improve that area of Photos.

Some history: The transition to subscriptions

After the launch of Creative Cloud in 2012, Adobe originally stated that CS6 applications would remain on sale “indefinitely” (A word that does not mean “forever,” although many read it that way). Through most of 2015 Adobe provided a web link where you could still pay once to buy a perpetual license of CS6 applications. But in late 2015, Adobe redirected the link to a web page, shown below, where ordering by phone was the only option:

Adobe web page for ordering Photoshop CS6

The web page http://www.adobe.com/products/cs6.html  before January 9, 2017

Then, on January 9, 2017, the content of that web page changed to this:

Adobe web page for ordering Photoshop CS6

The web page http://www.adobe.com/products/cs6.html  after January 9, 2017

Note the text that my arrow points to, which says:

As of January 9, 2017 Creative Suite is no longer available for purchase.

The big picture

There’s no question that Adobe Creative Cloud has been successful for Adobe. Since switching to a subscription model, Adobe has reported many quarters of record revenue growth partially driven by Creative Cloud subscription rates that exceeded their projections, year after year. When people ask “Why doesn’t Adobe offer a perpetual license option for their professional applications?” the short answer is that Adobe doesn’t have any motivation to. Subscriptions bring in more revenue than perpetual license software did, and by an extremely wide margin.

Remember that Adobe Creative Cloud isn’t just about subscriptions. It includes features that perpetual license software usually doesn’t offer such as online services, online storage and portfolios, and links that tie Adobe desktop and mobile apps into a single continuous workflow. These benefits tend to have the most appeal for highly mobile creatives who work daily with the latest workflows and need features that support them. For example, if you frequently prepare graphics for websites that are Retina/HiDPI enabled, you’d probably want the Adobe Generator, Export As, and Artboards features that are in the current version of Photoshop, and were not in Photoshop CS6.

If you have a more modest or occasional workflow, like weekly processing of a few images for prints or a simple website, one of the non-subscription alternatives in this article might be all you need.

70 comments

  1. Hi Conrad,
    Thank you for all the wonderful and informative information you provide. I am always pleased when I find an email from you in my inbox. It is full of useful information and has helped me navitgate through topics and questions that have caused me great confusion. Your latest article on Creative Cloud subscriptions, and if one can still purchase CS6 was extremely helpful and very timely. I don’t happen to need or want a subscription as I am not a professional and it isn’t financially feasible for me to pay per month.
    Thank you for providing some of the best information on the internet.

  2. I just called the number to buy a perpetual license. I was referred to third party resellers, including Best Buy and Office Max… as well as Amazon.com.
    I was told that Adobe will no longer sell Photoshop CS6, due to Adobe no longer offering technical support for the software.

    1. Wow, that’s a strange answer from them since I think it’s difficult to find CS6 at any third-party resellers these days. The Adobe web page still says “Yes, you can still buy CS6 products” through that phone number, but if I get more comments saying that doesn’t include Photoshop, I’ll have to update this blog post.

      1. I just tried to purchase Illustrator CS6 only to be told individual products are no longer available and I must Purchase Master Suite for £2500. So technically you can still buy CS6 products as long as you want all of them.

  3. Why when you do a google search on buying Adobe Photoshop about 95% of the posts are from 2013 or before?

    This is the only recent article under that search. I’d like to learn how to make gifs and thought photoshop would be the best bet, but I am rethinking it now. What would be your suggestion? I’m not looking to be a professional, just someone who makes funny gifs on the weekends for friends and my local website forum.

    Thank you,

    1. The reason that you see al lot less information about buying Photoshop after 2013 is that Photoshop CS6, which came out in 2012, was the last version that you could buy in a store.

      In 2013, Adobe made all future versions of Photoshop available only for Adobe Creative Cloud members, which requires a regular payment. And you can only download it from Adobe, not any other store. Today, if you want the full professional version of Photoshop, you can get it from Adobe for US$10 a month under the Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

      If all you need to do is learn how to make animated GIFs, you can use many other inexpensive image editing applications such as Photoshop Elements, which is still available in stores for less than $100. I mentioned some other ideas (Mac software) near the end of the article.

      You can also make animated GIFs with Gimp, which is free for Mac, Windows, and Unix; here is a tutorial:
      https://www.gimp.org/tutorials/Simple_Animations/

  4. I just wanted to add as of 2014, no you can’t get photoshop CS6. There was a time I tried to upgrade, did the process calling and the person on the other end more less flat out said no. They weren’t going to offer CS6 when you can do so much better getting the CC subscription.

  5. While with services like Netflix it makes sense to have subscription service as you use it probably quite regularly, with software this is ridiculous. It may work for digital studios, or professionals, but what about amateurs that need to use the software from time to time only? Why should I pay monthly fee, I want to pay once and use it whenever I need to. For the price of the annual subscription you would normally own the software, but now – no, you pay for a year and still have nothing.

    1. Sigh…I was hoping this wasn’t the case. I’m a student learning and was trying to focus on Adobe products mostly, but yet another subscription-based SAAS monthly drain on my bank account is getting untenable.

      1. I was wanting to buy photoshop for my grandson,who is at college, for his 18th birthday present now I find this is no longer possible. Very, very disapointed as I use both lightroom and photoshop.

    2. I share your sentiments also. Adobe needs to become more user friendly. For persons who are hobbyist and will want to use photoshop from time to time this subscription fees are not worth it. Come on adobe you can do better. You are running potential customers from all over the globe.

      1. i agree with the comments concerning the subscription. I love Photoshop and use it sporadically! It does not pay to subscribe to something I do not use Photoshop everyday!!! I am used to owning the suite but I have just upgraded my computer and can no longer use my older version. This is very greedy on the part of Adobe. I do hope they rethink this business plan or a developer comes up with a a comparative application!!!

  6. I am in the process of writing a history book with pictures and was encouraged to use InDesign. This is the first I have heard of your program. I am new to this and am not sure where to even start, from what I have read on this page, the program is in a virtual cloud, is this correct? I also was hoping I didn’t have to have a subscription that lasted for a long time as I was hoping I would be done in four months. Can you please reply, thanks.

    1. Hi Grace, InDesign is an excellent and widely used program for creating books; I used it to lay out all of my print books. The way Adobe talks about Creative Cloud can be a little confusing; although they talk about “the cloud” a lot, the Creative Cloud applications like InDesign are not that different from the other programs you use.

      If you use InDesign or other Creative Cloud programs, a complete copy will be installed on your computer, like most programs. Except for an occasional check-in with the server, you do not need a continuous Internet connection to get your work done. Creative Cloud programs can only be installed by downloading them from an Internet server; there are no discs available (similar to how phone apps are installed). So installation is one of the “cloud”-based aspects of InDesign. Another “cloud” aspect is that Adobe uses Creative Cloud services to connect InDesign to other Creative Cloud programs and phone/tablet apps, but those are optional. If all you want to do is use InDesign to get a book printed, you can do just that and not get involved with the rest.

      The other aspect of Creative Cloud is how you pay. You can’t buy the software with a single payment, but you do have different subscription choices. Go to the link below and look at the “Single App” option, the second from the left. Make sure InDesign is selected in the top menu, and then click the menu below that to see your payment choices.

      https://creative.adobe.com/plans?single_app=indesign

      If you only need to use InDesign for your one book project that might take four months, you probably do not want the first two options, “Annual plan, paid monthly” and “Annual plan, prepaid.” Those $19.99/month options would tie you up for at least one year at $240, which sounds like more than you need.

      The option you probably want is the third one, “Monthly plan.” If you select that, you will see that the price goes up to $29.99/month since you’re only committing month to month. But the monthly plan gives you the option to stop paying immediately after the book project is complete. If you subscribed to InDesign for five months, that would be about $150 (before tax). For a short-term project that would be a better deal than before Creative Cloud existed; back then it used to cost around $700 to buy InDesign on disc.

      If you think you’ll need more Adobe software like Photoshop or Illustrator to work on graphics for the book, you might go for the All Apps plan, but that is $75/month for the monthly option. If you already have good graphics programs that you can use to prepare photos and illustrations for your book, you can use those with InDesign and keep costs down.

  7. Online subscriptions suck when they are the only option. I don’t like the cloud. I will never like the cloud. Why shun a large portion of their clients?

  8. I never use the apps that let me store and organize online, as I personally, don’t care for the idea of my creative, or personal info floating out there on somebody else’s ‘server’ that you are required to log-on to.

  9. Darn, I guess I just missed the 1/9/17 cutoff. I use CS4 at work for small projects and the license allowed me to install onto two devices as long as only one at a time was used. I will be retiring soon and have to leave that license to my successor. So now I’m left with needing something at home for my personal use. I’m definitely not a fan of all the cloud aspects and have to now be more budget minded. If I subscribe from my PC, can I use use it from my laptop as well? What if I can’t connect to the internet from the device I want to work from?

    1. Hi Marsha,

      Adobe has answers to both your questions at

      http://www.adobe.com/creativecloud.html#top-questions

      They’re actually a little more flexible on the multiple computer use than they used to be. For CS6 and earlier, you could use the software on up to two computers, but only on the same platform. Currently, with Creative Cloud you can use the software on up to two computers on different platforms (two PCs, two Macs, or one PC and one Mac), if that matters.

      Below are answers I copied from the Adobe link above.

      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

      2. Do I need to be online to access my desktop apps?

      No, the desktop applications in Creative Cloud, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, are installed directly on your computer, so you don’t need an ongoing Internet connection to use them.
      An Internet connection is required the first time you install and license your apps, but you can use the apps in offline mode with a valid software license. The desktop apps will attempt to validate your software licenses every 30 days.
      For annual members, you can use the apps for up to 99 days in offline mode. Month-to-month members can use the software for up to 30 days in offline mode.

      4. Can I use the software I download from Creative Cloud on multiple computers?

      Yes, you can install and activate Creative Cloud desktop applications on two computers, regardless of operating system, for use by the individual associated with the membership. See the product license agreements page for more information.

      1. This subscription model is awful. I’ve been using photoshop since CS2, so for 13 years, and am starting to have compatibility issues with CS6. If I would have been paying the current annual subscription price for as long as I’ve been using PS, I would have spent a total of $3120 so far on it, which is far more than i spent on CS2 and upgrades, and I’d be continuing to spend money on it. Total rip off. Whatever happened to buying and owning a product? Also, the limited number of days between online verification is an issue, considering I use Photoshop as my primary stress relief during long Naval deployments. It screws over those of us who are in the military who actually legitamitely purchased the software just because Adobe doesn’t trust it’s users.

        1. I’m running CS5 on my 2010 Mac (my 20th Mac) running 10.7.5. I haven’t been able to upgrade due to the issues of subscription. I have since acquired a 2011 iMac to run newer applications under a newer OS, but my main work horse is the older Mac. Although I have purchased my software legally, since I am disabled and have been for years, not only can’t I afford a subscription service, nor want/need it, but think it’s unfair for long-time end users like myself. I’ve been using After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator since the beginning. I understand the rationale behind Adobe’s decisions for the subscription service. But even if I was making money, it would still be hard to justify because as someone who has been at the pro level for over two decades, what they offer is of little use to someone like myself, regardless of what their marketers tell you.

  10. I just got a CS3 web premium and inputted the serial number, but it didn’t active unless I get the authorization code. Can I still use the photoshop, and illustrator without it? If not what should I do?

    1. I just tried my copy of Photoshop CS3 on Sierra, and it was able to deactivate and activate again using the Internet with just the serial number; it didn’t ask for an authorization code. Were you using the Internet method of activation? I thought the authorization code was only needed for phone activation, which no longer works as far as I know.

  11. Hi, so i just bought the dvd version of lightroom 6 and i have an iMac that no longer has a disc drive. So i was going to borrow a family members disc drive to install the program, but my question is do i need to have the disc in the computer at all times while i am using the program?

    1. You don’t need the disc with you at all times. From what I have read, you don’t even need a disc drive to install. If you use a computer with no disc drive, I think you can download the trial version of Lightroom from adobe.com and enter your serial number into it from the box you bought, and that should turn the trial version into a regular working version. All you should really need from the box is the serial number.

  12. Ugh this subscription model stinks. I signed up for Creative Cloud in 2013 and I only ever used Photoshop & Acrobat and only occasionally Illustrator or Premier. I’ve dumped $~2500 into that subscription. I could’ve bought Photoshop and Acrobat and still have money left over *siiigh*

    1. Totally! Thanks Rob. Here’s my rant:
      This CC crap is unbelievably Hitler-ish. I have older (CS2) but NO LESS BETTER BECAUSE THEY”RE OLDER versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, and hello grinchy old Adobe—they’re 13 YRS. OLD and they work JUST FINE. Definitely as good as anything more recent. Yes, we visually creative people like Photoshop, and Illustrator (Illustrator sidenote: however limited and unintuitive it certainly is, unfortunately it’s now the only decent art vector program out there so we have to use it—FreeHand was SO much better: fuller-featured, easier and quicker and way less hassle than Illustrator, why the f#ck did you buy it and then kill it? Probably just for that reason. Assholes.) But just because we like and use those programs, DO NOT HOLD US FOR CC RANSOM. I would NEVER pay for a robo-butler to hold my paintbox and take it away, even if I’m in the middle of a painting, if I don’t pay a monthly fee. Wtf?! Artists know what they’re doing. Adobe, however, obviously isn’t concerned with people being original, they just want to exploit, to MAKE MONEY OFF FOLKS WHO KNOW LITTLE ABOUT ART, offering nothing but unimaginative (to say the least) blah presets. Well, we want to tell these startin-out folks: y’all DO NOT NEED TO UPGRADE, THERE IS NOTHING TO “KEEP UP” WITH. If you let yourself be talked up into the Cloud for reasons that aren’t really reasons at all, if you let yourselves be patrolled like that, the only thing new will be paying a monthly fee to use software! ??!! DON”T DO IT—JUST BUY THE APP, then it’s yours. The only improvements made to Adobe’s made to their art programs are NON-CREATIVE, just Web compatibility, which you don’t need anyway. Hello, just save a file as a PDF and email it; that’s what it’s all about anyway. I love Photoshop, like Illustrator and adored FreeHand, but fuck you Adobe, thanks for sh!tting on creative people and making us feel nothing BUT CONSTRAINED. I mean it! What is wrong with you? You wouldn’t actually care to encourage innovation just even slightly, would you? Let people create from their imagination instead of using it all just to run the limited tools? Didn’t think so. You’ll be sad in those castles!

  13. Hi Conrad. Thank you for a very informative article. But I have a unique situation that so far I’m not finding a solution for:

    I’m running CS5 on an 2010 Intel Mac Pro running 10.7.5 (Lion). At the time of purchase, I’ve sunk in in the neighborhood of $20k in hardware and software. I was working mostly with Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator. I’ve since become disabled due to injuries and no longer can work nearly at the level as I have in the past. I don’t have the financial means to upgrade my CS5 due to limited fixed income, and have been unsuccessful finding a possible solution online. I don’t care for any of the extra features that the updates now offer nor need them since I write my own macros whenever needed. But I simply can not afford an upgrade. I know support from Apple and Adobe for the OS and the software package isn’t available, and my software in the most part works fine. But my choices of using some other software, such as Final Draft will no longer be available soon. As it is, I can’t even update my OS because I can’t run CS5, and I can’t even update my iOS because my iPhone won’t be readable on iTunes. Any honest suggestions? Thank you Conrad!

    1. Hi Bob, that’s a tough situation because you must simultaneously keep running CS5 while also upgrading your operating system beyond 10.7.5 so that newer software will work. I’m not sure there’s a perfect solution here, but I can think of a couple of options.

      Option 1: Mac Pro upgrade
      There are ways to get an older Mac Pro to run newer Mac systems up to OS X 10.11 El Capitan. This option would let you modernize your OS so that you could run current software such as iTunes for your iPhone, because El Capitan is the second-newest Mac system and still widely supported. The problems with this option are:

      • It requires moderate technical experience with OS X.
      • It’s completely unsupported by Apple, so you’re on your own if there are problems.
      • Depending on the graphics card in your Mac Pro, you might have to update it to run well on a newer system, which would be an expense.
      • Adobe does not support running CS5 applications on the last few versions of OS X. Illustrator CS5 has some known issues on the more recent Mac system versions; I think Photoshop CS5 is mostly OK but I don’t know how well After Effects CS5 runs.

      If you want to look into the Mac Pro upgrade option further, there is a long thread of Mac users who have done this and worked out the issues:
      https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/os-x-el-capitan-on-unsupported-macs.1889851/

      Option 2: Cheap second Mac
      It’s worth thinking about picking up a used/refurbished/discounted Mac just to run a new system. Say a limited budget of just a few hundred dollars to get a more recent but not new Mac capable of running 10.11 or 10.12. For example a mid-2010 Mac mini is supported by OS X 10.11 and 10.12, seems to be available used for under $300, and can easily be opened up and upgraded with cheap hard drives/SSD and RAM. It would be ready to run, and the new OS would let you run the latest software so you can upgrade your iPhone. But you wouldn’t install CS5 on the newer Mac; you’d keep your old Mac Pro on OS X 10.7.5 so you can keep running CS5 smoothly as it is.

      Here’s why I like Option 2. You need to keep your CS5 applications running if the Adobe Creative Cloud plans for the current versions are outside your budget. If you try to go with a single Mac solution (either keep the old one or replace with a newer one), that doesn’t resolve the known and potential issues with running CS5 on a recent Mac system. Adding a used newer Mac to run the latest software while keeping the old Mac on 10.7.5 to run CS5 lets you do both with the fewest complications.

      Sorry I can’t think of a better solution than those, because both involve some expense and/or hassle, but it is a big challenge to use the same Mac to run a newer Mac system while at the same time keeping old CS5 running reliably.

      Good luck!

      1. Hi Conrad. Thank you very much for your suggestions.

        Option 2 has been something I’ve been considering but wasn’t sure which way to go. A Mac mini may be a good option. I can run Final Draft and other programs that aren’t too CPU and RAM intensive with a newer OS, and that also would resolve issues with my iPhone. I can always connect both systems to one another when I need to. The mini would be also be used for most online tasks, especially since Safari is near useless now on my current system as well as Firefox is becoming a bear with it’s own set of issues. I have 20TB of disk space now, so file management won’t be an issue. The only other issue I see is about affordability with large monitors. Some loss of vision makes working with smaller monitors than 23″ a big difficulty for me. Would you have any suggestions on an affordable 23″ monitor that won’t break the bank, nor make me go blind from ghosting or other “cheap” monitor issues? Or do you think finding an inexpensive (if I can find one) used iMac may be the way to go?

        Conrad, thank you again for your suggestions. It’s very much appreciated!

        1. Hi Bob,

          Sorry for the late reply, I wasn’t on WordPress over the holiday weekend. The only reason I mentioned a Mac mini is because you said you had a Mac Pro, which means you already have a separate display and you’re on a budget, and the built-in display in an iMac might make it cost more than a Mac mini for similar performance. But otherwise, if you find a good used iMac with the specs and OS compatibility you want, it’s certainly an option.

          On your question about which display to get, I’m not sure. I’m more familiar with the displays used for professional photo editing like the NEC SpectraView series, but those aren’t cheap. You might try the reviews at the TFT Central web site. First enter the features of the display you want into their selector (http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/selector.htm), then in the results check their reviews for things like color accuracy, ease of calibration, uniformity, etc. Because you’re working in Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects you should probably require a display with an IPS panel, because it reproduces color better and colors/tones don’t change as much when you change your viewing angle.

          If your budget is under US$500 you probably won’t find displays with wide gamut color or 4K resolution. But within that budget you might find a good standard (sRGB) gamut, conventional resolution display, and those still get the job done as well as they ever have.

          The site does try to differentiate between gaming and photo monitors, because if what you need is a photo editing monitor, you don’t need to pay for gaming features. Hopefully that website will help you find a good monitor. I’m not connected to them in any way.

        2. Hi Conrad,

          Thank you once again. No worries man, it’s cool.

          I’ve done some research and I think I may go for a mid-2011 iMac with a 27″ screen. I can run Sierra which would be ideal for some of the now discontinued applications, (sans the Adobe suite). The 21″ with 1920×1080 is too small due to the loss of vision I now have. 2560×1440 on a 27″ is probably the smallest I can go. I’m running 2-27″ Cinema Displays now on my Mac Pro (They discontinued the 30″ models just prior to my purchase of these two) and need them both to be efficient in After Effects. With a head injury, having everything in one small work space to toggle back and forth between is confusing for me now unfortunately. Otherwise, I’d just get the Mac-mini and use one of these. I don’t need a 4k or greater monitor.

          The least expensive I’ve seen mid-2011 iMacs with a 27″ screen selling on eBay.com starts around $450 which isn’t bad but seem to all have issues… Discoloration in screen, or missing hard drives seem to be somewhat common. I don’t care about scratches or chips at the edges as long as the screen is clear with no damage going across it or inconsistencies in color or luminance. For something decent, it may be closer to $550-$650, another $60 for a keyboard and mouse, plus another $50-$80 on shipping… Unfortunately this blows my budget.

          I know with the physical constraints I have makes finding something that would work tough, and the limited budget makes it near impossible. But I must remain hopeful and keep looking. You never know what someone has to offer at any given time.

          Conrad, thank you again for your suggestions and all of for help. It’s very much appreciated! I can keep you updated once I’ve found a working solution. – Bob

        3. This is probably way too late a reply. I think Dell Ultrasharp full gamut IPS “U” series monitors offer quite a bang for the buck (32″ used on ebay for $600, 27″ way cheaper)

  14. hi, I am reading this post because I need AI for vector a pencil drawing. Can you recommend me any other product without subscription?

    1. Hi Eileen, if you’re on a Mac take a look at Affinity Designer, if you’re on Windows maybe try Corel Draw. There is also a free program called Inkscape on Mac and Windows. There are more options than that, but those are the ones that immediately came to mind. I think all these programs can save in a format that Illustrator can read, but if that’s important to you, you’ll want to verify that.

  15. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are offered both for Mac and PC. I have been using the Affinity tools for over a year now on a Mac platform. Wonderful apps and if you an old Macromedia Freehand guy like me, Affinity Designer has many features consistent with Freehand. Both apps you purchase with NO SUBSCRIPTION! Each app will set you back only $50 USD. Highly recommended from this designer 30 years in the biz. https://affinity.serif.com/

    1. Right on! Right on! Thank you! I’ll check out Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo for Mac.

      On a different note, I was planning on picking up a mid-2010 27 inch iMac when my sister gave me her 21.5″ mid-2011 iMac. I’m going to have to get a second larger monitor since I don’t see so well, but at least it’s a solution. I’ve updated my Final Draft yesterday. I’ve been messing with getting everything to sync together for days and I got it as close as I’m going to get.

      Thank you Conrad, and everyone!

  16. Hi, I am running Adobe Photoshop Version: 2014.0.0 (20140508.r.58). This was released back in June 2014. According to Wikipedia, there were few updates to this before they went to the subscription model ?! But I could not find any updates to download from Adobe. Or did Adobe go to the subscription model right after this version? I am not sure.

    Either way, do you know any way I could update my Photoshop without paying the subscription?

    Also, I am due for a computer upgrade soon and no longer have the 64 bit software. If I decide to keep the version I have and not go to the subscription model, Adobe only offers the 32 bit version of what I have on their website. Any ideas on how I can keep running the 64 bit version?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Vish, the last non-subscription version of Photoshop was Adobe Photoshop CS6, released in 2012. All versions after that are available only as part of a Creative Cloud subscription. Is your application named Adobe Photoshop CC 2014? If there is a CC in the name, that means it is a Creative Cloud (subscription) application. Do you remember how yours was originally installed?

      The only way to upgrade to a Photoshop version after CS6 is through a Creative Cloud membership. Adobe doesn’t sell any one-payment upgrades any more.

      As far as updates, all updates released after the introduction of Creative Cloud are distributed through the Creative Cloud application (which manages all Creative Cloud software), not as downloads from the website. Regarding the 32-bit download you found, that was a rare exception. You’ll find the explanation on that download page, where Adobe says:

      “In order to optimize download and install time, we no longer package both the 64-bit and 32-bit version in the same installer when installing from the Creative Cloud application. If you have a 64-bit version of Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 and require a 32-bit version of Photoshop for compatibility with legacy plug-ins or device drivers, you can download the 32-bit version of the 2014 release of Photoshop CC below.”

      In other words, like all other Creative Cloud software, the 64-bit version of Photoshop CC 2014 is available only through the Creative Cloud application. The 32-bit download on the website only exists for the few users who have a reason why they can’t run the 64-bit version.

      If you choose to subscribe to Creative Cloud, you will be able to install any version of Photoshop between CS6 and the current version (CC 2017 at this time). As far as I know, that’s the only way to get an update or upgrade for Photoshop.

  17. A problem with CC versions of Adobe software is that they require a high speed internet connection to even boot the application. I was in Costa Rica in January 2017 and my internet connection was not fast enough for the Adobe authentication and so I could not use Lightroom CC during my trip.

  18. I really hope Adobe creates a custom subscription package for video professionals like it does for photographers. I don’t need all 20+ apps from CC, but I do work with Premiere Pro, After Effects and Audition. As of now, the only option for me is to go for the “All Apps” purchase which seems wasteful (and is also really expensive).

  19. Nice of Adobe to shun all costumers under finance regulations not allowed to use cloud options due to compliance reasons and protected environments not allowed direct internet access. Great thanks think its time to find other products or yellow pages for second hand license key.

  20. I have a Mac mini late 2012 and have a legacy version of creative suite 6. Will CS6 run on OSX El Capitan? I’m afraid to upgrade OSX 10.8.5.

  21. Adobe photoshop is going to die soon with programs like Krita that are free, offering 95% of what photoshop makes you pay $10-20 a month for. I have used photoshop for close to 10 years now and when they went to a sub plan I signed up for it(I had no choice like most). I had CS6 and like to own what I buy so the subscription crap pissed me off enough to go looking for other produces. If you are an illustrator like me I would recommend Krita. It’s free, the layout is like photoshop,has way more drawing/painting options then photoshop, I would say it’s photoshop,illustrator, animate, and corel painter all mixed together. I love krita and that’s with 10 years of hardcore photoshop experience behind me. It can do drawing/painting as good if not better than anything out there, plus vector and animation really well, so there are 3 adobe products I will never buy again. Get Krita, play around with it for a week or so and I’m 100% positive if you use photoshop to draw or paint professionally you will love Krita like I do.

    1. Hi, I am reading through this thread with some concern, as I am in the same boat as most of the respondees– older MacBook, older OS, complete CS6, hate the cloud, want to own my stuff, etc. I am going to look into Krita as you suggest. Wanted to ask what you are finding as far as compatability with others. Are you able to save and send and import and work with tiffs, jpgs, pdfs, all of the normal, accepted formats, interchangeably? If someone sends you something can you open and edit it? If someone sends you something can you open and edit it? I am sure I will find some answers in researching Krita and other options: just wanted a bit of feedback from someone who is in the trenches as I am. I do all of the web and graphic design for our websites, product packaging, design of flyers and collateral, am on these programs daily, etc. for my wife and myself, so am more toward the professional end. Thanks.

  22. Adobe is a pure rip off, it should be qualified as thief and consumer abuser. Cancelling valid license transfer from a machine to another when you have a 2 machines install license is a pure joke. I bought 2 design and production packs with 2 computer install rights a while ago through a reseller, it was not cheap but now that my original pc is dying and the original adobe reseller is out of business, I’m not able to reinstall and validate my license on the new machine.
    Common…
    72+ box per month for your complete suite I’m not going to use half of it…
    Make it more affordable and more customisable and you’ll have more customers.

    1. If you installed, activated and registered the software with your Adobe account, you should be able to deactivate it (again on-line) and install and activate it on another computer, provided you actually own the perpetual Adobe license for that software. Check your Adobe account to see what products are registered there. If you got the software from someone who had a volume or enterprise license, that could have worked on your machine for a while, but you won’t be able to use it the same as you would if it were yours for the simple reason that you don’t really own it. It is not legal for volume license holders to sell individual licenses. They are for use within the licensee’s organization. Adobe keeps records of all their registered licenses.

      If you purchased the software license, you should be able to deactivate and activate it per the end user license agreement. Contact Adobe either by phone or on-line. Give them your product SN/activation key numbers and they will tell you how to activate the software, or will tell you exactly why you cannot do that.

      I don’t know the details of your purchase, but some unscrupulous people offer for sale what they claim to be legitimate Adobe products that can be used by the buyer exactly as if the buyer had purchased the software at retail. Then there are crooks, who sell pirated software, which of course is completely illegal.

      If you call Adobe I’m pretty sure you will be able to resolve your problem.

  23. Be it Microsoft, Intuit or Adobe, they are not getting a free pass into my credit cards. Anyone with a bit of sense understands the security risk of corporate breaches. To me this subscription system is admission that the next version is just not good enough for most customers to upgrade to.
    P.S. A happy user of CS5.

    1. The subscription model is an unapologetic money-grab, especially since a large portion of their users are individuals and some mom-and-pop shops that don’t want, or can’t afford, a subscription. Sometimes people just want to buy a thing ONCE, and own it indefinitely (or until they CHOOSE to upgrade). Apparently that doesn’t jive with Adobe and other hyper-capitalistic business owners.

  24. Hi Conrad, thanks for the in depth information here. I have an opportunity to buy Photoshop CS6 extended in an online store (flipkart.com) but in the description it says “Software for personal use, No Commercial Serial Key”. Now I do not quite understand the implcations here, does it mean that I can not sell any of my own images that I create or enhance with the software? Or does the term ‘çommercial license key’ apply to something else? Thanks for your answer, Michiel

    1. Hi Michiel, that does not sound like a normal Adobe license. Normally, you are free to sell whatever you make with Photoshop. The license you’re reading is probably that of flipkart.com specifically. The store may be questionable if it is not a full legitimate license.

      1. Hi again, Well, the shop itself is one of the largest Indian online stores which is odd, but I do think you are correct. This type of license is not a license at all I saw this ‘version’ on ebay where one of the sellers discloses that the product can not be registered with Adobe. Thanks for your swift reply Conrad.

        Greetings, MIchiel

  25. I’ve used Adobe for 20 years. I don’t like this move. I’ve read that you can’t keep your files on your computer. They are stored on the cloud. If and when you unsubscribe, you loose your files. Is this true?

    1. Hi Janx, that is absolutely false. You can use most Adobe applications, like Photoshop, Lightroom Classic CC, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, InDesign, etc. without storing a single document in the cloud. The applications continue to work like they have — installed locally on your computer, opening and saving documents locally on your computer. It is possible to do all your work even if you are completely cut off from an Internet connection. Use of cloud storage and services are optional. Personally, I store very few of my files using Creative Cloud storage. I still keep them on my computer and back them up at my location.

      If you stop subscribing, the applications stop working, but the documents remain with you. If I stopped paying for Photoshop, I would open the files in other programs that can open Photoshop files, like Affinity Photo.

      If you use Lightroom Classic CC, much of the program still works after you stop paying. You can still see, organize, and print photos, but the editing module is disabled.

      The new Lightroom CC (not Classic CC) does default to storing all your photos in the cloud, so that you can reach them from any of your desktop or mobile devices, like the way Google Photos works. If you stop paying, you have one year to download all your photos from the cloud, and Adobe provides a free bulk download tool for you to retrieve all your Lightroom CC photos in one step.

      There are two main differences between Creative Cloud and the old Creative Suite. All desktop applications are now installed from the cloud installer; installer discs are no longer available. Also, Creative Suite was just a set of desktop applications, while Creative Cloud is a system of desktop and mobile applications tied together with cloud services. But again, it is possible to subscribe to Creative Cloud, use only the desktop applications, and ignore everything else, if you wanted.

  26. SaaS reminds me of how King Gillette made his money with razors – long term purchases of proprietary products.

    I was able to download copies of the Adobe CS2 Installers (with serial numbers) that Adobe accidentally released into the wild when the CS2 activation servers failed. I have copies of the installers on both a flash drive in my safety deposit box, and my desktop RAID 1.

    I’ve found that these programs meet my needs, so I’m sticking with them for the time being. My only caution is that they do not work under Win10, so you’ll have to stick with Win7 for the time being.

  27. Hi, I just installed Photoshop CC, without lightroom or any other apps. The thing is I didn’t pay for it I just installed it and Adobe has no info about my credit card so they can’t charge me for it, nor did they ask me for payment info. I just have the app for free now and I don’t know if that’s a free version or what. I’m confused. When I open the app, it says 6 days left in trial. Are they gonna ask me for payment info after those 6 days or what? Because I didn’t give them any.

  28. It’s 2019 but anyway here goes… I use LR6 after each vacation which is about 3 times per year. Has anyone tried to use CC one month at a time? Can you pay for just one month at a time? If it is not a huge hassle it might be worth not having to learn a new program like Affinity.

  29. Hi Conrad, First, thank you for all the informations.
    I’m a non English native speaker. Forgive me for further errors.
    Did you hear about any new option nowadays for who doesn’t trust in share clouds plan? I check the Adobe website and they are no longer offering the perpetual license for anything. 2 years ago I lost my computer in one update from windows. At the time I was travelling to another country and can’t get a new one (like promised) just because I was out of my country (where I bought it). And my experiences travelling a lot abroad taught me don’t trust in “out of there datas”. Even in my IPhone I don’t use Icloud service. And I’m just tired to lost money and data with this kind of things. Now that I back to invest in computer again and technologies I wish to know about other options to continue use Adobe service (they are the best in their category) or if someone knows news options available. Options for who doesn’t trust in clouds sharing plans.

    1. Hi Raquel, unfortunately, there is no longer a way to use Adobe professional software without a cloud subscription. The only software remaining that Adobe sells without a cloud subscription are the consumer (non-professional) titles such as Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. All of the professional creative software titles are available under a Creative Cloud membership only.

      Because Adobe no longer offers non-subscription versions of their professional software, if you want to use similar software without a cloud account, you’ll want to review the “Alternative outside Adobe” section of this article. For example, you can use Affinity Photo instead of Photoshop, and Affinity Designer instead of Illustrator.

      If your main concern is not the subscription but about keeping documents in the cloud, using Adobe Creative Cloud desktop software does not require you to keep your work in the cloud. The main computer applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Lightroom Classic are installed on your own computer, and you can keep all of your documents on your own computer. The internet connection is required only to validate the license. Online document storage is available, but you don’t have to use it.

      The Adobe Creative Cloud mobile apps do store their documents in the cloud.

  30. Thanks for the great article, it’s nice to finally have confirmation of being screwed over by Adobe for a product I paid money for and they refuse to support or update.

    One note for possible addition to the article: the maps module in Lightroom (at least version 6) will actually work, and was deliberately broken by Adobe. I realise this may sound a little paranoid, but it’s true. They did that because they didn’t want to pay Google their fees for using their Maps API.

    You can actually fix it, by creating and using your own Google Cloud Platform API.
    I can’t remember where but I did find a really great write up on creating your own API, and modding LR6 to access your own API instead. It’s a little tech heavy and may be beyond the abilities of some people but it was a really easy to follow guide.

    1. Regarding the Google Maps pricing, I found this online after a quick search:

      —–
      Earlier this year, Google revamped the pricing model for embedding Google Maps into 3rd party applications, changing from free access or flat fees to transaction based pricing. The number of requests to the Google Maps APIs are counted, and after a threshold, a small fee is charged for every request.

      Google’s new pricing is not compatible with products that are licensed perpetually. With classic Lightroom, Adobe only got money once, but would have to pay Google each time you use the Map module. For Adobe, this is not a sustainable business model.

      The Google Maps API key embedded in old versions of Adobe Lightroom expired on November 30, 2018.

  31. Adobe got really greedy. That’s why I see most people (except companies) like to use their cracked software, or alternative ones. Also, that allows other software developers to make alternatives, even much better ones. I would say that Affinity Photo will be the next standard.
    Ask yourself a question: would I like to use expensive Adobe leasing, or buy better alternative?

  32. Hi Conrad, I was thinking of going for Lightroom Classic to just edit raw photos from my Nikon D750 camera, but after reading some comments on your blog think that these subscription deals may not be right for me. I am not a professional, nor a heavy user. What would you suggest would be best for me please?, Thanks, best wishes, John

  33. I’m just sad that software I bought now is telling me it’s license “broken” and will deactivate in 5 days unless I use things that no longer work to fix it. I bought the damn software on discs, Adobe shouldn’t be able kill it to get me to subscribe. I love the products but I don’t want to reward shitty behavior. We are all doomed.

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