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Adobe Surprises Creatives With Open Beta Program

Recently we took a look at some very capable but more affordable alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. It’s always a benefit to customers when developers provide legitimate competition and choice.

Creative Cloud Beta

However, if you find yourself sticking with one or more Adobe applications (not uncommon), there is another potential benefit that you can now (or will soon) get from your monthly or annual investment. Adobe has opened a public beta program that is built into the Creative Cloud desktop application and is for all subscribers. Beta builds can have some useful benefits. The most obvious ones are to see if the latest version resolves some issue currently impacting your work, or to see if a new feature can make some part of your job easier. Best of all, you can have both the production version of an app and the beta version installed at the same time, with separate preferences; neither install should affect the other according to Adobe.

As of mid-April, only the video suite of applications has been made available as beta versions (i.e., Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush, After Effects, Audition, Character Animator, and Media Encoder). Going forward, Adobe will gradually add access for more subscribers and add more applications as well. To check if you have access to the new program, launch your Creative Cloud desktop app and in the sidebar look for the ‘Beta apps’ item. If it’s there and you click on it, a list of available apps will appear in the main window area, as shown below. You may need to update the desktop app itself before the betas appear.

Screen shot of Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop App on a Mac
Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop App (Click for larger view)

You can set in the cloud app’s preferences, whether each beta app should be updated automatically or not. So far, in reviewing this feature and the frequency of builds, we’ve seen daily updates (though sometimes the changes are very minor). Adobe is starting with the video suite, which is nice; these apps are among the ones receiving the most substantial improvements in recent times, as Adobe updates their “cores” to better handle the high-resolution, high bit-depth media that has become common.

Adobe Afte rEffects Icon

After Effects also happens to be an app for which there is little direct competition. So, paying the individual subscription for it still remains worthwhile if you do 2.5D broadcast animation, video compositing for TV or film, or apply various kinds of effects for broadcast and other projects. While apps like Apple Motion and Black Magic Fusion are robust and do provide affordable alternatives – especially for users of Final Cut and Resolve who want an integrated approach – they’re different enough from After Effects as to not be direct competition in many scenarios.

A few examples of beta features that have been recently added to After Effects include:

  • Copy media to a shared location
  • Automatically update audio devices when changes are detected (Mac)
  • ProRes RAW import
  • Support for Afterburner ProRes 4444/422 hardware decode

Similar and other features have been added to Premiere Pro as well. So if you’re the type who likes to try out new (albeit possibly less stable) apps, and/or you have an extra workstation where you can install the beta, check them out. You might find something worthwhile. That said, it’s a good idea to make sure any projects used to evaluate a beta are copies of the actual production version and data, so your source files and data are protected.

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  • Adobe beat Apple badly with the beta of Lightroom, which was free for a year before the release version came out —for $200 less than Aperture. So these betas may have the same affect of capturing additional market share for Adobe. Certainly it will provide them with more feedback than they would otherwise gather. Apple’s Aperture never caught up to Lightroom. Market share was so low that Apple eventually gave up on the app, abandoning a substantial user base in the process. Apple was late to the game, cutting the price and offering a trial period. By then I, for one, was hooked on Lightroom. It will be interesting to see if and how Apple responds. Though Apple may not be the only target here. Serif’s apps are hard to beat, especially with a recent 50% price cut.

    I too have the Photoshop/Lightroom CC package. At $10 a month it’s hard to resist. They already get regular updates. Whether these are betas or not isn’t clear. Personally, I’ll be looking for betas of Dreamweaver and InDesign, and, perhaps, Illustrator.

    Richard, what exactly doesn’t work with the latest update to Lightroom? I haven’t had a problem, but I may not be using it the way you do.

    • When LR 9.0 came out, my wife’s computer auto updated to version 9. She could not get photos to import. After about two hours with Adobe tech support, they rolled her back to version 8.4.1 and everything worked as before. Several sources blamed the problems on Apple’s Catalina OS; but with 90+ apps having no problems, the problem seemed Adobe released 9.0 early for Adobe Max. Other people reported similar problems with Win and Mac OS. Now that there have been a couple of updates since 9.0 I’ll try the update on my computer before trying on my wife’s (if mama ain’t happy, no one’s happy).

  • I have the Photoshop/Lightroom plan and feel like I’m already a Beta tester. I had to roll back to an older Lightroom version when the new wouldn’t work.