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Sorry I’ve been remiss in my Wednesday articles lately. I’ve been pretty busy – not only is my day job working me a fair number of hours, but I work on the side to pick up some spare change. I have written and administer a few web sites, and I do editing and proofreading. I’m in greater demand for those tasks as well. The tools I mainly use for these jobs are Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 and the Adobe Creative Suite – mostly Acrobat, DreamWeaver, Photoshop (not that I’m all that good at it!) and some InDesign. Occasionally, I also use Premiere Pro.

As you probably know, both of these packages, while still available for individual sale, are moving to subscription-based “rental.” That is, rather than pay once for the software and purchase a perpetual license, you pay a (much smaller) monthly fee and get access to the program. The programs still reside on your computer, but check in monthly to make sure you’ve paid up, If not, you can no longer use the software. This gives some users greater flexibility – if you need the software just for a few months, rent it, and then stop paying when your project ends.

Both companies offer enticements over the boxed versions – extra cloud storage, access to updates that may not be added to the boxed version for years (if ever), access to programs otherwise not available, etc. These companies are betting that most users won’t rent for a short time, but will rent basically forever – or at least as long as they are working on projects with the programs’ file formats. This gives them a revenue steam that’s more even and predictable than getting a big bump every 18-24 months with a new version release and then a trickle until the next release.

That’s all well and good, provided it works out to the customers’ interest as well. Many people were upset when Adobe announced that only the Creative Cloud versions of the programs would be getting updates going forward. Still, they continue to sell the final version of the suite, Creative Suite 6, to those not wishing to pay a subscription. A subscription can be costly to those who may be skipping a version or two. For those getting every version, it may be a savings or break even, depending on what you were getting.

I initially signed on with Creative Cloud when it first came out because I wanted to continue to get updates, and it was a cheaper (at least up front) way to get CS 6. As anyone who has used programs from the Creative Suite can attest, they don’t always work well on later versions of an operating system. To be fair, that is true of a lot of software – if the underlying OS changes, and breaks or changes services supplied to user programs, they aren’t going to work. The CS programs tend to push the boundaries of the OS they run on (Mac or Windows) because they are so powerful and full-featured.

But a funny thing happened when the Creative Cloud programs came out (initially, signing up for Creative Cloud meant getting CS 6, as the full “Cloud” versions were not yet out). The projects I use constantly – the web sites I maintain – were no longer supported. This is because for most of them, I rather (foolishly, it appears) wrote them using ColdFusion as the server back-end rather than PHP. For those of you who don’t know what these are, they are servers (each with their own special language) that are used for dynamic, database driven web sites (like eCommerce sites). ColdFusion, while expensive, is, in my opinion at least, a better server, and easier to program, than PHP . PHP is still good, and open source, so free (which is one of the reasons it’s more widely used). ColdFusion is an Adobe technology, still sold and supported by them. So imagine my surprise when it was yanked out of DreamWeaver.

Adobe wants users to switch to a specialized ColdFusion product (which, incidentally, is $300 for the full version – and not a part of the Creative Cloud). There is a free version with less capability. I can’t tell you exactly the differences, because I’m not interested in this product – it is not a DreamWeaver replacement. It only handles ColdFusion coding. So instead of an integrated solution, where I can do my coding and see how it works right inside of my web page, Adobe wants me to code in a separate program and then import the code into DreamWeaver (and of course, go back and forth as changes need to be made).

There was all kinds of talk on Adobe blogs about how it was difficult to support ColdFusion, and how Adobe wanted to get away from that type of support for servers in DreamWeaver. Oddly enough, they still support PHP, with no plans to pull it out, and apparently don’t seem to find that too hard to support, which really strikes me as odd, with PHP being a third-party product and ColdFusion being an Adobe product.

Another surprise with DreamWeaver in Creative Cloud – they took out all the database access modules. DreamWeaver previously came with great support for databases built right into the product – it was easy to get data from a database and display it in tables (or just make it available for further coding) right from a built-in panel. But that also got tossed. There is a plug-in to restore the functionality (temporarily – it’s slated to be killed off for good at some point soon), but I could never get it to install properly.

But of course, Adobe is planning on adding in something better at some point. It sure would have been nice for them to wait to yank it out until whatever this new, wondrous replacement was is ready.They won’t even say when it will be ready.

So two of the main features I use DreamWeaver for got stripped out, making DreamWeaver CC pretty much useless to me. So I decided to end my cloud experiment and just buy CS 6. Of course, since I had signed up for the yearly rate, I couldn’t just leave – I had to pay a penalty of 1/2 the remaining months on my contract. I wasn’t happy, but I knew that up front – it was clearly part of the deal. So while not thrilled, I can’t complain about paying for 5 months (of the 10) remaining on my subscription (this was into the second year). But what was galling was the email Adobe sent when they closed my account. I was informed that in the future I was no longer eligible for yearly pricing because I’d cancelled early. Hold on – you just got 5 months of money from me for doing nothing more than sending me a bill – isn’t that penalty enough? I also can never get the best rate again? Yeah, that will entice me to try it again in the future if I find it once again suits my needs.

As for Microsoft Office – I haven’t seen any compelling reason to sign on with Office 365, their subscription program. I would get some extra cloud storage from them (I hardly use what they give away for free now) and some Skype minutes (I already pay for that). I could also use Office on up to 5 machines. But the two copies I paid for are all I need, thanks. Maybe in the future, if there’s some compelling feature I need, I’ll think about it. But after getting burned by Creative Cloud, I don’t find that likely.

So I have begun my search for alternate programs. Sometime in the next few years, the CS 6 and Office programs will stop working thanks to an OS upgrade (and that’s not their fault – I don’t expect any company to update old programs forever). iWork can pick up some of Office load for me – probably enough for most things (although Numbers is not a great replacement for Excel). I picked up PDFPen Pro (although I haven’t had a chance to learn how to use it yet) as an Acrobat replacement. But I am not sure what I’ll do about DreamWeaver or InDesign (not too sure I want to get into Quark – I don’t really use InDesign enough to justify that expense). Suggestions are welcome!


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