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Compare Versions: The Differences between Adobe CS5 and CS5.5

Adobe has just unveiled Creative Suite 5.5 – and one of the upgrade questions people are asking is what’s new, what’s different, what’s changed in CS5.5 as compared to previous version(s)? So our job here is to give you a quick “cheat sheet,” or guide to the updates. Adobe calls it “the most compelling release yet” and these kinds of answers can help decide about upgrading…

See the New Adobe CS5.5 Suites

You may be wondering, why a Creative Suite 5.5? What happened to CS6? See what Adobe’s CEO says about it, or read our launch overview… You might also be interested to know that a CS6 release won’t be out until a long time from now.

CS5.5 updates most of the individual products, but not all… The 11 upgraded applications are: InDesign, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash Pro, Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, Audition, Acrobat X Pro, Media Encoder, and Device Central.   Learn more about the new features added to these applications in detail, with our special coverage.

The CS5 tools not revisioned to CS5.5 are Photoshop (Extended), Illustrator, Fireworks, and Contribute.

While Photoshop officially remains at CS5, there is a new Photoshop Touch SDK (Software Development Kit) that allows developers to create companion apps for desktop and mobile use… Read about 3 of the coming tablet apps, or find out more and see a demo of the new Photoshop functions running on the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom.

In general, Adobe is placing a big focus on broad, multiplatform mobile content development with this release, using with the latest standards. And if you work with video, you’ll notice sweeping performance enhancements in CS 5.5 that enable you to work faster.

All of the suites – Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection – have been upgraded. Two new products have been added to the suites: Adobe Audition CS5.5 – with a new version joining the Creative Suite family for both Windows and Mac, and taking over for Soundbooth CS5 – and as widely expected, Adobe Acrobat X Pro – which was released in November and replaces Acrobat 9 Pro.

All other suite configurations remain the same – with the exception of Flash Builder, which improves from the 4.0 Standard version to the new 4.5 Premium edition in all packages.

You can also view comparisons from earlier versions of the Creative Suite, for example CS4 vs. CS5.5, or CS3 vs. CS5.5.

Read more about the new functions within each product (a detailed comprehensive list), or download a free trial instantly. Or see a review of Adobe’s “What’s in CS5.5 for Me?” Q&A session.

CS5.5 pricing across the board remains roughly in line with what it was for CS5, with slight cost increases for some upgrades. Adobe is also offering a subscription option for new purchases of full commercial products (not for upgrades or students/education).

Lastly, one of the frequently asked questions for CS5.5: If you’re still running an older version like CS2, CS3, or CS4, there is currently a grace period in effect where if you buy or upgrade to CS5 now, you’ll get a further free upgrade to CS5.5

[UPDATE (May 4th) – Also here: Our set of direct download links for all trials for all products.]

Do you have any questions about CS5.5?  Just ask them below and we’ll get you answers fast!

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98 thoughts on “Compare Versions: The Differences between Adobe CS5 and CS5.5”

  1. How long is `a long time` for CS6 to come out ? I am sure CS6 will be out by April 2012 – my prediction !!!!! Adobe people can not wait that long – do you agree ?

    Reply
  2. I currently have Adobe CS5 Design Premium. Will the new iPad apps be compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS5 (not 5.5)?

    Reply
  3. Since I already have CS5, will I be entitled to the free upgrade to 5.5 once it’s released? I purchased the CS5 in February 2011.

    Reply
    • Greetings Hannah,

      We asked Adobe and they said, “If you’ve purchased CS5 recently you may qualify for our free upgrade… Please contact Adobe customer support.”

      So you might have a chance, and could file for the complimentary upgrade online at that link… Best of luck and let us know how it turns out!

  4. Im looking to upgrade my creative suite. Maybe a dumb question but is 5.5 a CS5 specific upgrade? I have old CS3, so will I be ok getting CS5.5? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Welcome Todd, thank you for your comment. Creative Suite 5.5 is a release and upgrade for everyone, no matter which version you currently have, not just for CS5…

      In fact, starting next month Adobe will only sell 5.5, so soon it will become their only release to purchase or update to…

      So if you’ve got CS2, CS3, or CS4, there definitely exists a discounted upgrade path for you to get to CS5.5.

      One final note – if you buy CS5 (the existing release) now, it’s less expensive and there exists a grace period for a free upgrade to CS 5.5 when it’s released.

      Hope this helps!

  5. I have just purchased 3 licenses to upgrade from CS3 to CS5. None have been installed yet. Am I eligible for a free upgrade to CS5.5? How do I go about getting it?

    Reply
    • Hi Richard, that sounds promising – just see the special article linked in the comment just above yours, and that should answer all your questions – thanks!

  6. I need to be able to open some of my CS5 files into CS4 – and have been able to do that with some instructions I got from the internet. Will I still be able to do that with CS5.5?

    Reply
  7. Is it true that students aren’t allowed to update for a reduced cost, and may not have the money to buy another CS versions? I’m a college student, and that’s what I’m hearing.

    Reply
    • Yes Min, this is true – it has been Adobe’s policy for many years that you can’t upgrade from one student edition to another. This is likely because of the deep price cuts that Adobe offers on these products (up to 80% off).

      However, you can upgrade from any education version to the full commercial version and get Adobe’s discounted upgrade pricing for existing customers, which is often less than buying another academic product.

      For example, if you already had CS5 Design Premium Student & Teacher Edition, you could upgrade to the full commercial version of CS5.5 Design Premium for $399. This is far less than the regular price of that CS5.5 product of $1,899.

      This might still be out of reach for some folks, but if you can’t upgrade then your existing product will continue to work for the same reasons you bought it initially. Read more about upgrading from Adobe’s student editions to CS5.5.

      Hope this helps.

  8. My company currently does not have any design software, and I am looking to purchase CS Design Standard. Should I proceed with CS5, or is it worth waiting for CS5.5?

    Reply
  9. @ProDesignTools
    Why not release the 5.5 as an update to 5 instead of offering it as a completely new product – it sounds less like you’re supporting your product and more like you want more money?

    Reply
    • Understandably everyone wants free updates to their software, it’s only natural… However on the flip side, there have been some customers asking why this release wasn’t called CS6 instead because there is so much new in there.

      Some products have received free updates – for example, Photoshop CS5.1, Illustrator CS5.1, and Fireworks CS5.1… There have also been quite a few bug fix and performance updates for InDesign, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Dreamweaver, etc. since CS5 was released a year ago.

      But taking a look at the product-by-product feature additions for CS 5.5, most people agree it’s an upgrade and not an update. And if you read the rationale behind CS5.5, you’ll understand why they needed to do it.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  10. Ive just bought cs5 design premium student/teacher but it remains unopened. Is it worth returning and purchasing cs5.5, or do the upgrades all come automatically when I register it?

    Reply
    • Greetings Craig, thank you for your comment. The upgrades don’t come auto­matically, but if you recently purchased CS5, you may indeed qualify to receive them gratis – see the details on the CS 5.5 free upgrade policy…

      If not, there is always Adobe’s 30-day money-back return offer for all products, even if you’ve already opened, installed, and activated your software, and even if you purchased the product from a reseller or retailer. You would deactivate the software and then can initiate your return online for a refund, and then just order the new version you want.

      Hope this helps!

  11. I work for a printing company, we get so many files from customers built in different versions of Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Anyone who knows the industry, it is always best to open the customer’s files in the native program.

    My question is can you open a Indesign CS 5.5 file in the older Indesign CS 5 application, or do you need CS 5.5 to open and then export as an IDML file?

    Since Illustrator, from what I understand is untouched (is that true?) – and you can pretty much open any photoshop file with any version of photoshop.

    So should I just upgrade Indesign only? Or will this not pay off when they do release CS6 for upgrade pricing?

    Let me know what you think!

    Thanks,
    Charlie

    Reply
    • Hello Charlie, thanks for your questions. Yes, Photoshop and Illustrator are largely unchanged with CS5.5, but InDesign and most of the other applica­tions have significant upgrades and changed file formats in the new release… See more details on the individual product feature additions, as well as the file changes (open/save/compatible).

      As for your question on upgrading, that depends on which product you have (see the cost) and which applications you use most… InDesign might be the most useful to upgrade in your particular business, but if you presently have a CS5 suite, it’s not possible to upgrade just a single component application.

      Usually you’re better off anyway moving the whole suite forward, and yes, with Adobe’s tiered upgrade pricing policy, you’d get a further discount when upgrading to CS6 because you’re that much closer. And, as you probably know, you can keep all previous CS versions running on the same computer, if you want to open older data files.

  12. So, I purchased the CS5 Master Collection in January, and while it would be awesome to get a free upgrade to 5.5, I’m curious how different the programs really are from 5.0…

    I’ve been trying to teach myself Dreamweaver and InDesign, and have invested a couple hundred dollars on training books and materials. Do you have any thoughts on if these books will be still valid with CS5.5?

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • Hi sKrull, actually Dreamweaver and InDesign are probably the two applications that have changed and evolved the most from CS5 to CS5.5… We have another article with the details of what’s new in terms of features.

      That being said, most of the basic operation of the products remains similar. So you can probably continue to use the materials you have, as well as other resources like free Adobe CS5 tutorials, without any major difficulty.

      At a minimum, those should help you get you started – and you can always consult the free CS5.5 online documentation for new functions or other differences you encounter.

  13. I’m wondering if files can easily be exchanged between CS5 InDesign and CS5.5 InDesign. One of my clients is about to upgrade, but since my team is not planning to upgrade, I’m wondering about compatibility issues.

    Reply
    • Welcome Doug, good question. A native CS5.5 file, probably not… But in most cases, CS5.5 applications can save in a CS5 (or CS4) file format. Read more about how to backsave to prior versions.

      If you have a CS5.5 file in hand but not the product (i.e., haven’t upgraded and no other way to change the file), you can download a free working trial of CS 5.5 to save to the older format for backwards compatibility… The two software releases can run side-by-side on your computer without a problem.

  14. Is there a preference for operating CS5.5 on Windows vs Mac? We have Windows in our office and would prefer to have the program installed on our office computers, however, if CS5.5 functions better in a Mac OS, I have a personal laptop I’m willing to use. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Greetings Josie, Adobe CS5.5 will run well on either platform and the interface within the applications is essentially identical. Most people would say that it more depends on which system you are more comfortable with, as well as the comparative specifications of the two computers you are considering… Generally, you would want to go with the one with a better/faster configuration for best performance and results.

      See this forum thread for more interesting discussion on the topic which may help you.

      You can also get a CS5.5 license that runs on both platforms natively, if that’s useful for your needs.

  15. If I buy CS5 now, sealed in the box (assuming true representation by the seller) from an Ebay seller, will I qualify for a free upgrade? If so what kind of documentation will I need?

    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Bub, thank you for your flattering comment. It’s okay to republish an excerpt of each article up to 100 words, with credit and the link back as you mention. Thanks and good luck with your blog!

  16. Olá, na versão Adobe Premiere cs4 havia um plugin (de terceiros) chamado Elemental accelerator, que se propunha a fazer um estupendo aproveitamento dos processadores da GPU em prol da edição de video. E mais ele se propunha a aproveitar a aceleração por GPU de mais de uma placa (aproveitamento multi-GPU, mas não é usando SLI, nem Crossfire). Pergunto; há alguma perspectiva neste sentido (aproveitamento multi-GPU) para a Adobe CS5.5 e o seu motor Mercury Playback?

    Reply
  17. @ProDesignTools
    Smashing! Thanks a bunch for your fast reply.

    Yes, I know about saving backwards, however, I was unsure about going the other way – even within the CS5 range. And since 5.5 is within the CS5-zone, so to speak, I was 90 percent sure that moving files from 5 to 5.5 would be unproblematic.

    However, the remaining 10 percent doubt has been dealt with now thanks to your help. Greeting and many thanks! :)

    Reply
    • Sure, no problem Reidun – glad to help… and if you want to be 110% sure, just check that first link in the previous response to read about the topic in InDesign’s online manual.

  18. I have only done a little web design on a school Dreamweaver system. I am going to purchase Dreamweaver for myself, but I can’t find a comparison on the regular vs. the pro. Can you point me in the right direction?

    Reply
    • Hey there Charlie, thank you for your comment… Could you elaborate a bit on what you mean by which edition of Dreamweaver? We have never seen more than one available – and it’s $149 for students in the Adobe Education Store.

      The only Creative Suite software for which there is a “Standard” vs. “Pro” edition is Acrobat (although one could say that Photoshop and Premiere also come in professional and “Elements” versions) – but that’s about it.

      There are some licensing differences between the regular and student editions of Dreamweaver – perhaps that’s what you’re referring to… The CS5.5 Product Matrix may help as well.

      Please let us know if this answers your question, or if we can help further!

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