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Home > Tips February 10th, 2014

Are Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) Files Backwards Compatible w/ CS6?

Now that the Adobe “CC” release is out there with over 1.4 million paid customers, some folks are asking us whether the new versions of the applications in the Creative Cloud can read or save older file data/document formats like CS6, CS5, CS4 & CS3…

Are Adobe CC Files Backwards Compatible with CS6?

In fact, with Adobe still offering both CC (aka CS7) and 2012′s CS6 for sale at the same time, file version compatibility is some­times an important decision point in choosing which release to purchase.

In the past, new Adobe product versions have often brought different or expanded file formats to support new features – and customers want to know if their existing projects will easily carry forward with them when they upgrade, or if they will be able to save back to older formats for coworkers or clients who may still be running an earlier version of the tools…

OK then, here’s how it works. Generally, your new CC tools will be able to open and use any and all earlier CS project and data files – including CS3, CS4, CS5, CS5.5, and CS6 files – with no problem or loss of information. In other words, all Adobe software is able to read or import file formats from previous versions of the same program – and it should happen seam­lessly and automatically.

Going the other way, when wanting to use CS6 or older tools to open a file saved from a CC product, the answer is it depends…  Adobe officially states, “Each of the following CC apps support the ability to export to the CS6 version of the program: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash Pro, Dreamweaver, and After Effects” – with the caveat that, “New features added may not be supported in the exported file or implemented by the CS6 application.” And the same would go for CS5, CS4, or CS3.

So let’s take a closer look below at the inter­operability for each major CC appli­cation within the Creative Cloud, then at the bottom we’ll talk about some additional tips and best practices no matter what the circum­stance.

[ Wondering which you should get?  Compare Adobe CS6 vs. the Creative Cloud ]

Photoshop

Historically in Photoshop, it has rarely been an issue as the .PSD format is pretty backwards compatible. To help ensure this, make sure that “Maximize PSD File Compatibility” option is turned on when you save your file.

With that in place, you should be able to save back your Photoshop CC file to be opened in CS6, or even older versions (as this demonstration of moving from CC to CS5 shows)… You can even make changes to a CC file in an older release of Photoshop, and then later bring it back into CC with everything present, active, and intact.

In fact, many people don’t realize it but Photoshop’s common file format specification is openly published so that other tools can read, view, or save .PSD files… But if you ever run into any difficulties, you can always save your image as a .tif file – TIFF is a universal 16-bit format that all versions of Photoshop (and many other programs) can import, and its biggest advantage is that it will preserve layers, just as the native .PSD file can.

Photoshop CC now streamlines your life when moving around between different computers with the new sync settings feature. And since CS6, upgrading or changing releases has also been easier thanks to the the ability to migrate and share presets from older Photoshop versions going as far back as CS3.

Illustrator

In Illustrator, when you save a file it asks you which version you want to save it as. Instead of CC, you can choose a “Legacy Format” like Illustrator CS6, CS5, CS4, CS3, etc. – but be aware that you may lose some newer features and attributes when the document is read back in to the prior release. Illustrator actually has the best backwards compatibility of all programs as it can save down up to eleven previous formats!

InDesign

With InDesign, there is no automatic way to “downsave” a project like in Illustrator, and there never has been… But what you can do instead is Export your document as IDML (InDesign Markup Language). IDML files can be read into earlier versions like InDesign CS6, CS5.5, CS5, or CS4 – but again there is the potential to lose newer features that aren’t supported in legacy releases.  To go back to InDesign CS3 you would need to Export to INX (InDesign Interchange format) from CS4 instead.

Alternatively, you can use external file downsaving services which will do this for you for a nominal fee – going from InDesign CC to CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4, CS3, CS2, or even CS[1].

Dreamweaver

In Dreamweaver, file compatibility with older versions is not really a problem… HTML is HTML, CSS is CSS – the output is standards-based and similar across product releases. The one part that you’d need to migrate forward or back to a different version is your Dreamweaver site settings or definitions.

Flash Professional

Flash Pro CC has been completely rearchitected for high performance on 64-bit systems (and more), and consequently some older features have been deprecated. This means when you open a file previously saved with an earlier version of Flash Pro, you may encounter a feature that is no longer supported in Flash Professional CC. The software will show a warning to this effect and automatically convert the deprecated content into a supported content type.

When going the other direction and bringing a CC file back to an older release, Flash Pro is pretty flexible – you can save in XFL or FLA format for CS6, CS5.5 or CS5, although you may lose some newer features which would not be understood by prior versions.  Additionally, Creative Suite 5 versions of Flash Professional can save back to CS4 formats.

Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro CC does not have a save-back-to-old-version option, and in fact the .prproj file format had a major change from CS6 in that it is now compressed…  As a result, file sizes are a fraction of what they were before as textual XML, but Premiere Pro CS6 (and earlier) cannot read the new (binary) files – you’ll get the message, “The project appears to be damaged, it cannot be opened.”  Even after decompressing a CC file (with a utility like 7-Zip), CS6 will say, “The project could not be loaded, it may be damaged or contain outdated elements.”  Oddly, however, CS5.x versions of Premiere can read the file with a trick.

So then, what are your options for going to CS6? Well, Premiere Pro also works like InDesign – you can export to Final Cut Pro XML (eXtensible Markup Language), or export to an AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) file which is sort of a “universal” project format that can be read by CS6, CS5, CS4, etc.  So you can then import the resulting project file into not only an earlier version of Premiere Pro but also other NLEs such as Final Cut Pro, although some Premiere-specific settings and details may not translate.  Finally, Exporting to EDL (Edit Decision List) format is another option for saving back to prior releases.

After Effects

With After Effects you can save your project in a text-based XML format or use the “Save a Copy As CS6″ command, again with the caveat that new functionality in CC won’t transfer down.  Going the other way, there are some tips to follow to help your older project import and work in the newer release.

If you want a more automated way to export for legacy AE releases going all the way back to CS3, the third-party Open Sesame plug-in may be another option.

Audition

For Audition, it’s a similar story – standard audio file formats like WAV, MP3, AIFF, etc. are fully compatible across applications, and it’s possible to import sessions from prior versions particularly as XML files, but saving your multitrack session file in an older format would lose some of your mix. For migrating and bringing up files from Audition 3, there’s a very helpful conversion utility.

Adobe CC Compatibility with CS6 - Backsave to Older Version

OK Now: Best Practices

Once you open your older document in the newer product version, or vice versa, the program will want to change and convert your data to its native format. So the best thing to do after importing your project is to immediately “Save As…” and save a new copy with a different file name. This way, in case anything goes wrong or if you ever want to import it again, you will still have your original (archive) document authored in the other version, as well as your new document that you can continue to develop and make changes to.

The same would apply for when you go the other way and save back a copy to a legacy file format from a newer release – use “Save As…” to make sure you preserve your original.

If you’ve been thinking of upgrading your software to make life easier, keep in mind that Adobe is still offering a worldwide discount of 40% off upgrades to the Creative Cloud to existing owners of any Creative Suite product from CS3, CS4, CS5, CS5.5, or CS6.

Having Multiple Versions on the Same Computer

When installing any new Adobe release including CC, the older version(s) on your computer will not ever be uninstalled, removed, or written over. That is because people often find it helpful to continue to have access to the previous release while getting up to speed with the new one, plus as mentioned above, having those prior versions can sometimes be useful in managing older files.

And one big bonus of the Creative Cloud (which many people are not aware of) is that you can choose to download and run both the CC and CS6 versions if you want or need to… Either or both of these releases are available for you to use as a subscriber, now and going forward.

So what all this means is that you can install multiple Adobe releases alongside one another – they will coexist side-by-side without interference. But if you decide instead that you only want the latest software on your system, then the best way to proceed is to uninstall your older program(s) first – before installing the newer one(s), other­wise it’s possible that your file associations could get lost or crossed up (though this is fairly easily fixable).

Moving or Sharing Your Files Between Windows and Mac OS

Finally, customers frequently ask if they can move or share data or project files between the Windows and Mac platforms – this is increasingly common in heterogeneous environments where people have Creative Cloud applications running on both operating systems.  The answer is, this is usually possible no problem – generally with most Adobe software you can transfer and use files freely between PC and Mac, and they will work and open okay on the other platform…

For example, you can set up a cross-platform workflow with Premiere Pro CC, have a similar capability with After Effects project files, and so on.

Using the Creative Cloud to Share/View Files and Collaborate

Now comes the coolest part. With the new online storage features in Creative Cloud that are free for everyone, you can easily share Adobe application-specific files with anyone else on the web… Simply upload your file(s) to the Cloud when you want to, and choose if you want to share with others or allow them to post comments or download the original file. You and your clients and colleagues will be able to view and manipulate the files online using only a web browser and without needing to have any Adobe apps installed. Users can display PSD, INDD, AI, and other files natively – plus turn on-and-off layers, view relevant metadata, step through artboards, and more – and the viewer does not have to be a member of Creative Cloud to do this. Learn more in this video:


Was this file compatibility guide helpful?  What CC or “version conversion” questions can we answer for you?  Just use the comments below and we’ll get back to you quickly…


See Also

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  1. Glenn

    Wow, this is sooo helpful… Bookmarked!

  2. RCM

    Thanks, I’ve been looking for something like this.

  3. Sounds like files from PSE (Elements) will not be compatible, since they do not even mention Elements users in this article. Does anyone have any info about whether files/data etc on PSE can be moved to, saved and processed on CS6? Thanks!

    • Hi Bonnie, this article focuses on the Creative Cloud / Creative Suite lines of Adobe products and working or exchanging files between the two… Photoshop Elements is technically in a different software category and thus is not included above.

      However, to answer your question specifically, PSD is an openly-published format specification that is shared between the professional PS tools and the Elements programs… So yes, you should be able to open & read Elements .PSD files in either Photoshop CS6 or CC.

      If you’re talking about non-PSD image files like TIFF, JPEG/JPG, PNG, GIF, and others – then absolutely those will open on all editions of Photoshop.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Mike

    Hi,
    This is a very useful article, but I think a more extensive breakdown for a couple apps would be in order. Specifically, for Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, an article (maybe even one for each) that would explain exactly WHAT new features wouldn’t be supported in going backwards. That way, CC users can avoid using those features if they want the files to be opened later in CS6.

    • Thanks for your comment Mike, that’s a real good point. We tried to paint an overview here (which was a lot of work in itself), and we’ll put that on the list for a future article.

      Note importantly that all CC files for the apps you mentioned will be able to be opened in CS6, it’s just that some new features not present in CS6 would be ignored.

      For Photoshop in particular, here is a test of moving PSD files back from Photoshop CC to CS5 that reveals some of the types of things you are looking for and how to avoid them.

  5. Ken

    This is all very helpful, thank you. Do you know if files saved from Edge Animate CC are backwards compatible with Edge Animate 1.5 (the free version from last year)?

    • Hey there Ken, that’s a good question. The answer is there is no facility to backsave files from Edge Animate CC to previous versions of the tool – although the newer release will read the old version’s project files.

      But one great thing about Animate is the files are openable and editable outside of the application itself… So depending on what you want to do, if you have a little bit of coding know-how then you can manually tweak or change design properties, images, text, and so forth without actually needing a copy of the application to load or run a given file.

  6. Brendan

    Hello!

    I have one question.

    Is there a way to still rent Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6), per month? Or has this payment plan been completely removed? All I see is Creative Cloud monthly plans, but my class is running CS6.

    Thank you,
    Brendan.

    • Yes Brendan, definitely you can still subscribe to CS6 if that’s what you want for some reason…

      All Creative Cloud members (with any plan) receive full access to both the CC and CS6 versions of the applications; it’s automatically included.

      So it’s not widely publicized, but if you need CS6 instead of (or in addition to) CC, then it’s always available to you to download, install, and run (even side-by-side together on the same machine).

      This goes for all memberships, including CC education plans for students & teachers.

      Hope this helps!

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