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Has Adobe Creative Cloud Become Bloatware?

Has Adobe Creative Cloud Become Bloatware?

Since moving to the Creative Cloud software-as-a-service model, Adobe has been providing several feature updates per year to its software. But these features have come at a cost of ever-increasing system requirements, begging the question: Is it worth it?

As some background, I’ve been teaching college students to edit video for the better part of a decade. I’ve used everything from Final Cut Pro 7, to Final Cut Pro X, to several iterations of Adobe Premiere Pro. While through the universities I’ve worked at, I’ve been able to run all of this software on the latest and greatest machines, my home setups more mirror what mere mortals can afford: a humble Macbook Air and a mid-range PC and iMac.

One of the great changes I’ve seen since I was professionally shooting video for newspapers is the democratization of the tools. Since non-linear editing software became easier to use and more cheaply available, video editing became a tool for the masses, not unlike pen and paper. Final Cut Pro X was derided for its interface change, but in reality, it dumped old conventions for a sleek and modernized interface that just worked. And several years later, on the same Macbook Air I installed it on seven years ago (and paid for once, without a subscription), it still works just as well and mostly as fast.

Apple's Final Cut Pro X.

I can’t say the same for Adobe Premiere Pro, and this is what’s baffling. If you take a look at the minimum system requirements for the latest version of Adobe Premiere Pro, you’ll see that it even outpaces a brand-new Macbook Air in some areas.

This is where the commenters chime in and tell me that if I’m serious about editing video, I shouldn’t use a Macbook Air or that video editing doesn’t come cheap. Except that it has for a decade, and the creep upwards has only been in the last few years. I used to run Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 on an Acer Ferrari One netbook. And really, if Apple can keep Final Cut Pro X humming (even on 360 video) on a 6-year-old Macbook Air like mine, there’s no reason Adobe can’t find a way, though it doesn’t seem to be able to do so even with key software such as Lightroom either.

Adobe seems to recognize this, releasing “lighter” software such as Adobe Premiere Rush CC, but all this does is further fragment the video editing landscape even within Adobe’s own tent.

Since locking users into its Creative Cloud, it seems that Adobe is less concerned with making its software run well and more concerned with what features it can use for marketing purposes to suck more customers in. Any other company engaged in this practice would have their software labeled as “bloatware,” but it seems users are content with spending thousands on upgrading their hardware to work with the software rather than the other way around. Younger and new users can’t do that, and so in the long term, this approach will cut out the beginning user base. If young people don’t start on the software, they won’t continue on the software. It’s the same reason why Canon and Nikon seed themselves into schools around the country, to grab students at the start of their education and hook them into a system early on, a smart play.

What do you think of Adobe’s software? Are the hardware requirements getting out of control? Is that just the price of admission? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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I'm waiting on the next installment of the IMac. So, until then, I do LR and PS on a 13" Macbook connected to a big monitor. There are times, I swear, when these two packages run just fine until the latest update. Thereafter, postprocessing becomes a mine field: i.e., right after a critical/sweet edit, PS crashes!!! The recovered file never contains that sweet edit either! Software requirement are kind of a joke in that they're just the bare minimum meant to get the software package running. They can't possibly gauge my requirements for smooth running software.

On PC LR is running terribly slow for me, just like it always did, I have no 7000 USD monster machine, just humble i7-8700k, 32GB RAM and GTX 1060 6GB, but it should be enough to run LR smooth .. or perhaps it is just how it is for everybody and it is me .. sticking to Capture One .. PS runs just fine, even on Asus Zenbook .. at least for 36 and 45mpix photos usually with no more than 10 layers ..

For $52 per month I can process/edit photos, make videos, make special effects for videos, animate a cartoon, create vector art, write print or digital books, record a podcast, and host a portfolio website. It's not a bad deal if you're into mixed media, which is pretty much a requirement these days. There's also an entire network of free education and resources for those products.You can certainly use the cheaper options, it will cost you in time though.

This is not about the cost though, it's about how the hardware requirements make no sense when Apple can accomplish the same things without the steep requirements.

So we should just give them our money, and not care about the performance of the software? Nobody is asking for a free or even cheap suite. Just asking for whatever we pay for to work adequately. Which is not the case, even with something as simple as LR, on a very recent and powerful machine.

52 a month is WAY too much to spend on something like the cloud. Something you can do yourself with a couple hard drives.

I am not made of money and software companies like Adobe need to understand they will lose market share when new companies come out with product as good or better for much less.

Creative Cloud isn't a real cloud. It's just a SAS. As long as you have to install the product on your computer, you'll need your HDDs... ;)

i'm sure when that actually happens, Adobe will actually worry. As it stands, it hasn't happened and it doesn't look like it's likely to.

My PC is around 4 years old and it struggles with Premiere after the last few updates. I will hold out on an upgrade for another year or so.

Funny - I'm about to publish an article on my own site about how I just went Adobe Free after CS5 stopped working for me. (long story...)

I agree about the bloatware problem - I'm always hearing about performance problems, especially in Lightroom and Premiere.

I'm using Capture One Pro + Affinity Photo + Final Cut Pro X. Everything is super fast on my Macbook Pro and it costs me next to nothing.

Here's all my software spending from the last 5 years.

May 21, 2015 - Apple Final Cut Pro X: $299.99
March 28, 2015 - Capture One Pro Upgrade: $30
August 26, 2016 - Capture One Pro Sony 10: $50
January 27, 2018 - Capture One Pro Sony 11 Upgrade: $62
March 10, 2019 - Capture One Pro Sony 12 Upgrade: $54
March 17, 2019: Serif Affinity Photo: $49.99

That’s a total of $545.98 -- less than the cost of one year of the Adobe Creative Cloud. And Final Cut Pro X and Affinity Photo are one-time purchases. I don’t have to pay for future updates.

I have nothing against Adobe CC, but it doesn't align with my workflow -- I don't care about the new bells & whistles, but I do care about performance.

I have switched from LR to C1 2 years ago, no way going back to Adobe. Never had their cloud subscription and I am still fine with my old PS CS5 expanded which works great for what I do.
It cost me $500 10 years ago to purchase it, it does everything I will ever need and if it does not then I have already Affinity installed on my macs to have a back up solution for that time... Adobe Cloud is nothing else then taking you hostages and with constant updating software to torpedo your hardware so it cannot keep up with requirements it is a new age piracy of this era :(... Digital era is great for photography , I would not even try to think to go back to darkroom times but we are being sucked for software, hardware, new bigger sensors etc... these days instead of buying films, emulsions and lab paper :) Interesting trade but we have chosen it so happy shooting... I hope other players starts to become more competition for Adobe guys since they are too spoiled and have to follow shareholders agendas of fast $$$ for last years , it will need some type of Godox type company in software engineering to compete and shake Adobe bit more :) Cheers.

For me, the insidious way Adobe gets me to upgrade is Camera Raw support, and they know it. I can't use any raw files from cameras 2015 and newer on CS6 without converting to DNG first. For personal stuff that's no big deal, but when I'm on deadline with a client, I often have to have stuff in during halftime or right after a game, I don't have time to do a conversion. I don't see why they can't extend camera raw support for any other reason than to force people to upgrade.

So first, Adobe's software isn't fast enough and they charge too much, so now they're putting out too many updates? Just say you don't like Adobe and thats' fine too. Do you just need/want a reason to complain about something? I have the entire suite (b/c I get a discount), but generally only use LR and don't have any performance issues and haven't in a while, but I guess everyone's milage is different.

No performance issue with Lightroom? Have you ever tried applying 1, let alone 2 brush filters?


Try Capture one and you will forget LR for ever :)

Rhetorical question?

They're creaming it in from us Adobe Tax subscribers and doing very little to actually improve things. Adding features we didn't know we need until they tell us we do.
I moan a lot about it, but I use a lot of their software, it's all integrated into my workflow, applications talk to each other.
I'm sort of used to the retarded nature of it all and to be honest, LR ingesting and creating previews is usually times with my tea breaks.

Adobe hasn't released a 'good' update since Adobe Photoshop CS 6. Seriously. Oh man, here comes the rant... I can't restrain myself.

Everyday I experience their apps crashing when doing fairly routine basic things. Every update they release breaks vital plugins, fixes old bugs, adds new bugs. Most of their 'improvements' are 'horse shit', for lack of a better term.

Some examples:
Things like the new window that pops up in Photoshop every time you close all your other windows. Does anyone actually use that? It's slow and Or better yet, their New... window that pops up in Photoshop every time you try and create a new document. It literally takes SIX SECONDS to open that stupid window on my 2018 Macbook Pro quad i7 machine. That's just trying to create a new blank document! Sometimes it's quick, but lots of times it's slow as all get out. Luckily they finally added options to turn those two things off, but why make them defaults with an update? Or, the best one yet: After using Photoshop for 20 years I'm very used to holding the shift key to constrain when resizing or cropping. Yet with the last major release they switched it so now it's always constrained UNLESS you push shift to de-constrain. What the actual f!#k. Why?

Other apps? There are bugs (or lack of capabilities) that have been major problems for years... or all time. A few good ones:

InDesign only support one processor. ONE PROCESSOR... in 2019. Ever try to run a script that colors table cells based on cell text in a 100 page catalog? Yeah... don't. It takes 60 minutes even on a brand new very fast computer. You could damn near update all the colors by hand faster than waiting for that to work.

Premiere. You know how you can select a portion of your timeline to export? Why isn't it frame perfect? The in/out trim points can vary by up to 10 frames. I regularly deal with video exports from editors that start or end with 5-10 frames of blackness. Brilliant. It's been like that for years. And h.264 export times from Premiere? Don't get me started.

Illustrator. What used to be a fast sleek app is now a slow and kludgy POS. Open a floorplan DWG from a CAD software and all those little lines bring AI to its knees... sometimes. No rhyme or reason, but some files with lots of paths can literally take minutes just to select and move a few thousand points.

I could go on for days, but the main problems with the whole CC thing are:

1) It's expensive. $57/month doesn't seem like much for the 537 different applications they make (I joke, but it's a lot and I can't keep track of them all!). But considering I only use a few of them with any regularity it's a bit ridiculous.

2) Every time Adobe updates something, it creates new bugs or changes how the application has worked historically. Brilliant.

3) Very little has changed or improved with every additional 'feature' they provide. Rarely does a new tool or function radically change how we all use their apps. And of course the addition of these new 'features' makes for a bloated, slower, more buggy application.

4) Bizarre pricing schemes. Single apps are $20/month, all apps are $57/month... or Lightroom and Photoshop are $10/month? Wait, why is Photoshop CC half the price if you bundle it with Lightroom? Because of the difference in CC cloud capacity? Forget about it. Too bad I'm locked into an annual contract to get a more affordable price. Nice to know that if I cancel my account prior to the renewal date it will cost me 50% of the remaining service as a penalty. Sounds like Comcast Business!

As soon as my yearly contract is up I'm cancelling Adobe CC. That's all there is to it. I might still maintain Photoshop, but that's all. Considering you can buy the Affinity applications for a mere $50 each—one time payment—you can completely replace Adobe's 3 primary design applications for less than 3 months of CC payments. The Affinity apps are great. Fast, modern, lightweight, and most importantly they provide a vast majority of the core features of apps like Photoshop and Illustrator.

For video editing, Premiere may be the 'industry standard', but it's honestly a steaming pile. Sure it can do everything under the sun, but almost nobody needs the ridiculous level of parameter control that it provides. Most editors I know barely touch more than a few of its base capabilities.

If you want pure speed and can bring yourself to think about editing in a more modern way, FCP X is fantastic. Is it perfect? No. Is it great? Yes. Most importantly it's fast as all get out. I regularly edit h.264 or h.265 4K content without transcoding. It exports h.264 at 2-4x the speed of Premiere. It offers all the tools you need when you need them, not as a prerequisite to doing a basic edit. And it smokes on just about any machine you put it on. If you want a more traditional nonlinear edit system similar to Premiere, use Resolve. It does just about everything Premiere does, and more (particularly in regards to color workflow). AND... it's free. Fricking free! Or $299 for the extremely featured Studio edition.

So yeah... Adobe's day of reckoning is coming.

This. I still have one of my computers running the CS6 full suite that I paid for years ago and aside from adding 360 support to Photoshop and Premiere Pro, I can't see any functional differences in the software on my computers that run CC, only some fresh coats of paint on the interface, which hasn't changed all that much. It's a bit disappointing. If I didn't interface with clients and other folks that used CC, I'd be just fine without it, but the files aren't backwards compatible all the time seemingly without reason (I'm looking at you, InDesign).

Most of the differences have been quality of life improvements that add up to a better experience if you're using the software a lot.

Don't forget, Mac users...CS6 will STOP working on Apples next release of macOS. If you are running Mojave, you are getting those warnings now. Last read was the new macOS will release in June or sometime thereabout. Bloatware, definitely. I am transitioning to Resolve now and after the Ps/Lr subscription is up next year, I am looking to at least transition to CaptureOne from Lr. Audition is another disaster. While I was still running CS6, Au would not let me add plug-ins. Come on Adobe! It's not just me, check out the forums, they ticked everyone off running Au CS6 and it was a hassle since I use it extensively for podcasting and voice over work. So, had to add Au CC to the mix. So, in my opinion it is not only bloatware (software wise) but it bloats your budget as well. I don't feel I am getting what I paid for.

Damn I do need to think of something. I still run CS6 on one of my Macs because CC only gives you two licenses and I have three computers. Thanks for pointing that out.

Yet with the last major release they switched it so now it's always constrained UNLESS you push shift to de-constrain. What the actual f!#k. Why?

That pissed me off as well.

Still use my CS6 and I don't plan to switch anytime soon. Was well invested money.

Honestly, is there any video editing suite whose minimum requirements are met by any generation of MacBook Air?

My Macbook Air has been running FCP X fine for years and was running Premiere Pro fine until recently.

That's the price we pay for companies not releasing competitive solutions to the Creative Cloud bundle. Sure, there are alternatives to just about every piece of Adobe software, but most of them come with some caveats even if they might outperform their Adobe counterpart in certain aspects and there is, to date, no single solution as all-encompassing as Adobe CC.

Also, if you take into account that certain pieces of software are just industry standards (eg. Photoshop and Illustrator), then it doesn't really make sense not to go with the whole CC subscription since you're already paying for half of it anyway just by subscribing to any one or two programs.

As far as the software, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with it. There is certainly a lot of bloat there and performance could certainly be improved, but I would imagine that would require re-building these programs from the ground up the way you might with actual version releases vs. a continually updating model. Another source of it seems to come with the fact that the lines between the programs seem to have become quite blurred over time. In the past, there was some clear lines between the function of each program, but now they're all stepping on each others' toes. It's cool for any single piece of software to have increased capabilities, but when you're selling a suite of programs that are all designed to work together, I think it's less important for multiple programs to be capable of animation or 3D rendering.

"Has Adobe Creative Cloud Become Bloatware?"

Does a bear shit in the woods?...

I think that Adobe Cc is too expensive personally. It seems bogus to pay so much to get all of the apps, when just about everyone pays for it nowadays.

Also, with how much it takes to build computer's nowadays, I personally think that hardware is never a problem. (Unless you stick to just laptops that is, because then you are very much limiting your choices.) It only takes $1,000 to build a gaming style computer if you do it right, and that is a full fledged gaming computer. (And for normal people who have better than standard jobs, that is pretty good. Unless you work minimum wage, no offense.)

I edit tons of things using audition now, and would really love to do it as a profession for churches, but it's too much to pay for, when I can just get a video editor for $2 month on my phone and do just about everything an editor needs.

If you're doing serious video editing, then it actually takes quite a bit of money unless you want to deal with your software constantly being bogged down by hardware limitations. A gaming computer isn't going to cut it for anything resembling professional or semi-professional use.

Depends .. if you only need Photoshop .. which is pretty much only adobe product I dont see how you can replace with alternative than those 12 bucks per month are not that bad .. specially if it makes you money and you are sitting behind it every day .. I just dont like the subscription concept.

I'm working on a huge project, lots of AE projects embedded in Premiere. I'm on a 2016 Macbook Pro, never had any problem with FCPX/Motion/Logic. However, quite often freeze or locks with Adobe suite, bought eGPU, same difference as the brilliant AE only use the CPU, no matter what, so basically if I want to work relatively fast, I would have to invest in an iMac Pro... I'm sorry, but this is so messed up, it is a shame on the whole industry, I really hope they will be bankrupt soon...

I do a little bit of video production, and after reading reviews opted for Cyberlink PowerDirector. It is easy to use but on a late model desktop occasionally flogs the CPU and almost grinds to a halt.

So...I just looked again at Adobe and reviewers say the CC gives you constant updates.

Blah blah blah. I just want the furkin thing to work! Just give me basic cut, fade, lighting corrections, simple audio etc. I don't care about 15 million video effects that most of us should never use.

Bloat? Blub blub gurgle, the whole plot sinks under feature overload. I'll stick with what I've got for now.

<gathers himself up> Okay thanks I feel better now. Ahem.

I love the creative cloud! For those who say it slow, how many of you know how to create proxies? You don’t need a lavish computer to use all the bells and whistles. You just need to know how to create proxies. It’s why LA film school was able to give a Sony FS5 and a 13 in MacBook containing adobe creative cloud. I can edit 4K 100mbps on a i5 8gb ram 2017 13”MacBook Pro. Also after effects are amazing for creating holograms. I’ve been at La Film school for almost two years and find the creative cloud to be amazing.

It's not the proxies that are the problem. It's the software in general. But speaking of proxies, why can DavinciResolve and Final Cut Pro fly through 4k files even with filters and effects applied and Premiere chokes on them?

I agree 100%. I have a 2013 MacBook Air that is dying in recent months when trying to edit photos. Using Photoshop is becoming a pipe dream and merging multiple photos in Lightroom takes multiple tries and restarting the computer. It's frustrating. Great article.

Hi Derek, I don’t know what kind of merging you are doing, but if it is focus stacking or something similar, I found owning Affinity Photo to be much better for this purpose than Adobe CC, so you might want to give that a try.

Thank you, Wasim. I'll look into it.

Short answer, yes I'm slowly phasing out my new projects with alt software and hope to be off the cloud by next year.

What will you replace Photoshop/Illustrator with?

affinity, painter, inkscape, draw ect.. depends on what i need

Yes is the answer. Every time people complain about sluggish programs, they just throw a new gadget at us as if they know they can't fix these programs to work in 2019. Stuttering playback in Premiere? Just convert all your 4k videos to 720 and they should work fine as proxies. Say what? So basically they are saying Premiere only works well with over a decade old resolutions? Lightroom is fast for about a week and then slowly falls back to the sluggish shite it is. After Effects has never been a fast program. Move something, render, add fx, render then render render render again just for the hell of it. This is old software code that needs to be rebuilt.

"This is old software code that needs to be rebuilt."

I think you hit the nail on the head. The Adobe suite reminds me of the old Microsoft Office Suite for Mac. Until they did the complete re-write it got to a point were it was pretty much unusable.

I starting to wonder if Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro are actually using some sort of OS specific interpreter under the hood with the same codebase used on for both Mac and Windows.

Does anybody here have experience with ON1 and/or Luminar? I only do still shots, so video is not my conern. I have the sub to Adobe, and it seems they continually promise it gets faster with each update, but in my experience it gets slower with each update. It's super frustrating. My computer itself, not just LR, completely crashed the other night. My computer meets Adobe's minimum specs, too. In the 3 years I've been using the LR & PS subscription package, the Range Mask tool is the only useful addition Adobe has made beyond some simple UI tweaks.

I tried ON1, but couldn't manage to get proper noise reduction on my images (I shoot a lot at night) and in that respect, LR was a gazillion times better. I gave up at the end of the trial period. Next I will try Capture One.

When was Adobe software not bloatware? By the time I got involved in Adobe, especially Photoshop - Photoshop was already a humongous, monolithic beast of a program...about 20 years ago, and has only gotten increasingly larger and more complex since then.
My current large issue with Creative cloud is that they are continually developing and pushing out new features almost constantly to various apps. These new features are somewhat rough, and buggy, and can possibly at times damage the clients' data/content. Then, rather than working on making these new features more stable and reliable and even functional, They instead move on to new features and work on developing them, based on software that now contains an ever increasing number of buggy unstable features. They really need to have a second team, or larger second team of developers, who's purpose is to refine recently released, new features and work out the kinks that are sure to be discovered soon after release.
Entering the realm of fantasy, they should perhaps modulerize all their apps, starting with Photoshop. One program should not need to have the ability to develop and refine images, develop models for 3d modelling and perhaps even generate forms for animation, as well as undertake pixel based drawing and painting. That sounds like it should be at least 3-4 integrated, but separate programs to me.

I started working with Adobe Premiere a year ago but was very disappointed early this year to see that I was not able to preview H.265 footage from a Fujifilm X-T3 without stuttering, while the hardware is a 2017 iMac (32GB, SSD). After starting to play around with Final Cut Pro, I was pleasantly surprised to see how smooth the software runs, even on a (new) MacBook Air, so I will stick with FCP. I am also experimenting with Capture One, but so far I prefer the catalogue system of Lightroom and I cannot live without Photoshop for sure.

I've been using Abode since 1988 I think, when Warnock was drawing daisies on the original illustrator. Adobe has become an awful company. They are the banana republic ported electronically into your home. Inept and extremely disingenuous. They seem smug and complacent in the belief that if you want to do digital art you have to kiss the ass of the third world.

I guess I don't get it. Everyone is crying about Adobe CC as if there are no alternatives out there. If you hate it that much, then why are you still using the product? Got try On1 or Capture Pro and stop giving adobe your $$$. IJS

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