Updates: Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5, Photoshop CS5 12.0.4/12.1

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 box shots

It’s been a busy week over at Adobe, with the release of Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 and a free update to Adobe Photoshop CS5 12.0.4. There are lots of places on the web where you can read about specific new features, so here I’ve got a more customer-oriented take on these updates.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 is a paid upgrade, and yet it isn’t CS6, so you’ll naturally ask whether you need it. You’ll probably be happiest with the CS5.5 feature set if you want to more easily integrate the latest technologies and formats into your workflow, such as HD video from the newest digital cinema and DSLR cameras; or if you’ve wanted more efficient ways to create, preview, and publish ebooks and other content for tablets and smartphones using Adobe InDesign, Adobe Flash, or Dreamweaver. It’s primarily because of these fast-moving new technologies and delivery media that Adobe felt a .5 release was warranted. If your day-to-day work is not so cutting-edge, you may have less of an need to upgrade.

If you edit video, the upgrade may be well worth it. Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium gets quite a boost, with enhancements like expanded GPU support and dual-system sound in Adobe Premiere Pro, fast 64-bit Adobe Media Encoder with an efficient new UI and customizable presets, a first-ever Mac version of Adobe Audition pro audio software, and the advanced Warp Stabilizer in After Effects for steadying shaky handheld footage. (If it sounds like I’m more familiar with Production Premium here, it’s because I was involved in producing some of the launch content about its new features.)

If you haven’t upgraded to CS5 yet, you do get a pretty long list of new features when you put CS5 and CS.5 together. You can see handy lists of CS5.5 new features versus CS5, CS4, and CS3 on the Adobe Creative Suite web page (pick a suite, then click Features).

Adobe also announced a move to 24-month major upgrade cycles with a minor .5 upgrade halfway between those. While cynics will say that more frequent upgrades is a way for Adobe to charge customers more often, the increased frequency can be a good thing overall. Shorter cycles actually make it easier to skip upgrades since you know the next one’s just another 12 months down the road, yet if you find yourself in a situation where new client requirements or business needs require new capabilities, you’ll likely get them sooner than with a longer upgrade cycle. It’s like when a train starts running more often: You’re not going to ride them all, but when you do need one, you won’t have to wait as long.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 12.0.4 (and 12.1)

The free Photoshop CS5 12.0.4 update lets Photoshop CS5 communicate directly with other applications, such as the Adobe Nav, Easel, and ColorLava iPad apps that let you use the multitouch interface of your iPad as an extension of Photoshop. Or to enable cool new training tools like having an iPad magazine give you a how-to demo by directly controlling Photoshop on your computer. And of course, the update also includes a list of bug fixes.

The version of Photoshop that ships with Creative Suite 5.5 is numbered 12.1, which is the same as 12.0.4 except that it also works with the new subscription licensing that Adobe announced along with Creative Suite CS5.5. (Note that there is no Photoshop CS5.5.)

To get the update, start Photoshop CS5 and choose Help > Updates. If you prefer to download the standalone installer or want to read the release notes, go to:


Because Adobe tends to provide Camera Raw plug-in updates only for the current major version of Photoshop, some users have expressed concerns about whether a paid upgrade is needed to continue getting free Camera Raw updates. Because the current major version of Photoshop remains Photoshop CS5, your free Camera Raw updates will continue, presumably until CS6.