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.
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.
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.
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.