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Home > Tips October 27th, 2015

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

Now that the Adobe CC release is becoming widespread with over 7 million paid customers, some folks are asking us whether the new versions of the tools in the Creative Cloud can read or save older data/document/project file formats like CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4 & CS3…

Are Adobe CC Files Backwards Compatible with CS6?

In fact, now that Adobe’s flagship creative toolset CC 2015 (aka CS9) is three major releases past CS6 from 2012, file version compatibility can some­times be an important decision point in moving forward.

In the past, new Adobe product versions have often brought different or expanded file formats to support significant 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 revision of the programs…

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. The only exception to this is Premiere Pro, where it’s best to open/edit projects in the same versions that created them.

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, “Many of the Creative Cloud desktop applications can export files to the older Creative Suite 6 version of the same tool. Each of the following CC apps provide 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 2015 appli­cation within the Creative Cloud, then at the bottom we’ll talk about some additional tips and best practices no matter what the circum­stance.

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Photoshop

Historically in Photoshop, it has rarely been an issue because the .PSD format is pretty portable and compatible (forwards and backwards) between different releases. To help ensure this, make sure that Photoshop’s “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 lower 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, even third-party software (for example, free utilities like XnView)… 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 sync settings feature. And since CS6, upgrading or changing releases has also been easier thanks to the the new capability to share and migrate presets from older Photoshop versions going as far back as CS3.

Illustrator

How to Downsave an Adobe Illustrator Document to an Older Version

In Illustrator it’s very straightforward – when you save a file, the program asks you which version you want to save it as. Instead of “Illustrator 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 into the prior release. Illustrator actually has the best backsave capability of all tools 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 2015 to CC 2014, CC 2013, CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4, CS3, CS2, or even CS[1]. There’s also a file conversion plugin available that enables lower versions of the InDesign application (such as CS5 and CS5.5) to open all native .INDD documents that have been saved by newer releases like CC [2015] or CS6.

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, and those you can easily import and export.

Flash Professional

Flash Professional 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 2015. 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 lower release, Flash Pro is pretty flexible – you can save in XFL or FLA format for CS6 or CS5.5, although you may lose some newer features which would not be understood by prior versions.  Additionally, Flash Professional CS6 (which is included free for CC subscribers) can save back to CS5 formats, and CS5 versions can downsave 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 back to CS6? Well, Premiere Pro works like InDesign above – you can export to Final Cut Pro XML (eXtensible Markup Language), which is the most commonly-used technique – 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 Premiere-specific settings and details may not translate.  Finally, Exporting to EDL (Edit Decision List) format is another possible option for saving back to prior releases.

After Effects

With After Effects you can save your project in a text-based XML format, or you can use the save back to prior version command in the File menu. The latest CC 2015 (AE 13.5) release can “Save A Copy As CC (12)”, and then you can take that output and move it over to the CC 2013 (AE 12) release and use that to “Save a Copy As CS6” – again with the caveat that new functionality in CC won’t transfer down to CS6.  When 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, then the Open Sesame plug-in may be another option. This third-party utility converts After Effects files to a fully editable, human-readable text-based format, and can create backwards-compatible projects that open in older versions. It currently supports CC 2015, CC 2014, CC 2013, CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4 and CS3.

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 does offer discounted pricing for some CC plans and customers.

Having Multiple Versions on the Same Computer

When installing the new Adobe CC release, you can choose to keep the older version(s) on your computer so that they will not be uninstalled, removed, or written over. Often folks 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, install, 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).

The ability to run more than one version is also helpful if you receive a file created in a newer release that you don’t have on your computer. In that case, you can download the free trial for the file’s version and then save it back to an older format using the techniques described above.

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 fine on the other o/s 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 then be able to intelligently 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 recipient 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 leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you promptly…


See Also

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  1. I have the latest Illustrator CC 2015. There is no problem saving files down to lower versions of Illustrator. Some newer functions will change the artwork. For example lines created with the width line tool will become fills and not editable lines. So be aware that some of the newer features when used will not be editable in the same way.

    You can easily open old Illustrator files in it. Where there is a problem is with Freehand files. As a former Freehand user who has old files in Freehand, I can tell you they do not open in CS6 or CC. You can however open them and resave them as .ai’s in CS5 and lower. Then you can open them in CS6 and CC.

    • Hello Paulette, welcome back and thanks for sharing that! And you’re right about FreeHand, which is a dozen years old now – Adobe discontinued support for opening FreeHand files back in Illustrator CS6. However, if you want to convert your files then you can use any Illustrator version prior to CS6, and resave them as .ai files as you noted.

      If you need a prior CS/CC release for any conversion project like that (another example would be for saving back several releases in InDesign), then check out our Adobe software direct download links, where you can access and install all trial versions going back to CS3… The free 30 days usage that you get will hopefully be enough to take care of your files.

      If you have or use Illustrator CS4 (even as a temporary trial), then you can even use automated scripting to convert your FreeHand files to Illustrator files.

  2. Hello,
    I purchase the Design Master Package of CS4 and am still using it. But from time to time, I have the need to use a recent version of Illustrator. If I purchase you Illustrator Cloud on a month-to-month, will it cause issues with my CS4?

  3. Kevin Stohlmeyer

    Why did you put (CS) after every version of CC? No one is calling this (AKA CS9). Seems to put a negative spin on an otherwise great and informative article.

    • Hi Kevin, why would that be negative? There’s still a significant portion of customers out there using the older CS versions, and mentioning that CC 2015 would correspond to a CS9 in the old terms helps emphasize that there are three major releases between the current tools and CS6…

      Those of us who work with the software every day may realize that – but with Adobe’s recent name change and release history, it can still can be confusing for folks who don’t follow it quite as closely.

      Thanks for the compliment otherwise and for stopping by!

  4. Kevin Stohlmeyer

    @ProDesignTools
    I guess I wouldn’t consider a change three years ago as “recent” and using common vernacular helps everyone understand the proper terminology. If someone came up to me and wanted to know about “CS9” if have no clue they meant CC2015. It’s not like Adobe started calling Photoshop 14, 15 and 16 even though the version is still there, everyone knows it as CS6, or CC XX. Not trying to troll or anything just different perspective I guess.

    • It’s interesting you should bring up the version numbering for the individual tools. Those all keep to their separate cadence, and still move along one at a time with each major release… So even though Photoshop CC 2015 isn’t called “Photoshop 16” by most people, that version “16” is still right there in the installer package filename!

      But good point about using common vernacular. We’re not trying to start a new trend, but rather connect to the old one for illustrative purposes… It was widely considered that the first CC (2013) was the equivalent of CS7; we just extended the analogy to the current day.

      Of course, Creative Cloud contains a lot more than Creative Suite ever did (including many bundled services), so they are not truly comparable.

  5. Bob

    None of those techniques work for a Macbook Pro converting from Premiere Pro CC => Premiere Pro CS6.

  6. Christine Hummel

    Considering that I’ve been subscribed to the ProDesignTools e-newsletter for some time, why do I keep getting requests to subscribe? For example, the newsletters provide a link for free Adobe books. Thinking there might be something new to download, I click on the link. I’m then instructed to subscribe by adding my email address. Don’t you have a sign-in option for those already subscribed?

    • No, sorry Christine, and we apologize for any inconvenience. However, we do regularly add new books to the collection (like these), which you may not have seen or received previously. Also, it does no harm to the system if you resubscribe by just typing your email address.

      Again, thanks for the feedback and if this is not 100% perfect to everybody’s desires, at least it still does work and gets readers the helpful downloads and resources they need and can use.

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