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Comparison of Differences between CS5.5 vs. CS5 vs. CS4 vs. CS3

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What are the Differences between CS5.5 vs. CS5 vs. CS4 vs. CS3?


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62 thoughts on “Comparison of Differences between CS5.5 vs. CS5 vs. CS4 vs. CS3”

    • Thanks very much Todd. We had originally written the post to focus on the quick “at-a-glance” views for version comparisons, but following your lead we have also added a column for more in-depth information in the table above, to drill down on the details for the new and improved features of CS5 over CS4…

      Thank you for your comment and for the excellent additions.

  1. I’ve been testing CS5, here are some early comments:

    The good:
    – AVCHD and Dynamic Link functionality are better
    – AE and Premiere are a bit more stable – but not much
    – Photoshop RAW camera support is better, to work on batches
    – Photoshop HDR images support is cool

    The bad:
    – AE and Premiere are still crashing quite often although not as much as CS4

    Adobe is an Industry standard, but I’m going to take a look at Final Cut Pro or Avid soon because I’m tired of rendering and application crashing issues

    • Welcome Jules, thank you for your comments. The initial release of any major new software is always going to be a bit buggy, and CS5 is no exception… But CS5 is already far more stable than CS4 was at the same age – for example, Photoshop CS5 is more than 10 times as stable as CS4 was following initial product availability…

      And Adobe has already issued their first CS5 product updates for Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, and Flash Builder. We expect After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 to be next up, and should enhance product stability. Adobe also encourages all users to submit online bug reports for any issues you may find.

      But AE and Premiere CS5, just as they currently are, have been garnering rave reviews – Videomaker Magazine calls CS5 a “must-have upgrade” for serious video producers, and OSNews says, “Overall, CS5 is a very strong release for the video side of things.”

      So hang tight, things will only get better.

    • Hello Sara, thank you for your good question. For getting started with Creative Suite 5, over 17 hours of free video tutorials were recently released for Adobe CS5 (all skill levels), and those are good to begin with. There’s also a complete set of CS5 online documentation.

      Regarding your specific question – yes, Adobe has a long and consistent history of backwards compatibility with older data and project files – so you will be able to read CS3 or CS4 documents in CS5. Hope this helps.

  2. Hey,
    right now in school I’m taking adobe photoshop CS3. I was wondering what are the changes between adobe CS3 and CS5, and is it harder to use? I really enjoy using adobe for scrapbooking, and for just for restoring pictures that look horrible.
    Hope you can help

  3. Hello (:

    I use photoshop A LOT.
    I do a lot of Photo Manipulation, Web designs, I can say i am pretty good at Photoshop.
    But i don’t know whether to upgrade, I currently use Photoshop CS3 I was going to get CS4 until i saw that CS5 came out.
    But i don’t know if going to CS5 will be a good idea?
    CS5 will and can do everything CS3 did, just better? and also have new features?

  4. ProDesignTools :Greetings Rachel, you can see the feature-by-feature differences between Photoshop CS3 and CS5. In our view, Photoshop CS5 is a better product all around. Certainly, it’s gotten good reviews. Your best bet is probably just to download a free trial and check it out for yourself. You should be able to compatibly move files between the two.
    Then because you’re a student, you can get Photoshop CS5 Extended for 80% off what the rest of us pay. Appreciate the question and good luck.

    As Elements 9 has some content aware and layers now, what are the major advantages of CS over elements for editing still photos shot in RAW. Thanks

    • Hi Christine, appreciate the question on the differences between Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop Elements 9. Both of these products have gotten better in the past six months so it’s interesting to talk about comparisons.

      It’s great that Elements 9 now has layers, but it has only one part of content-aware fill, not the full feature. This Spot Healing Brush in Elements also really only works well on small areas where the background is relatively uniform.

      Photoshop Elements also doesn’t have other major Photoshop features like puppet warp, HDR Pro, 64-bit support (for performance), Pen Tool, History Brush, Curves, automatic lens correction, Truer Edge detection technology, Warp Transform Tool, 3D objects & text, advanced text formatting, CMYK color models, and so on.

      As far as tools, brushes, filters, and the like – CS5 added some new ones (e.g., Mixer Brush, Bristle Tips, Repoussé) and Photoshop Elements in general has a reduced set with limited options available, which are more pre-fixed and oriented for the goals of home photo retouching, rather than a full-blown “do it all” professional image editor and creator like Photoshop CS5.

      So bottom line, it really depends on your needs and goals. Photoshop Elements remains a scaled down and hobbyist-oriented version of “the gold standard.” Your best bet is probably to download and run the free trials of both to see what works better for your requirements, as no single answer is right for everybody.

      BTW, if you’re a student then the discount on Photoshop CS5 is huge, and the price difference between the two products is not as large. Students get only a $10 price break on Elements (after rebate), vs. getting 80% off for the full Photoshop.

      UPDATE: See our complete new article on this question – which also compares these tools to Lightroom 3 and Photoshop Extended:

      What’s the Difference between Adobe Photoshop CS5 vs. Elements 10?

      Hope this helps!

  5. Hello,
    I design primarily for print using InDesign CS4 to pull together AI vector and PS doc’s.
    It was infuriating that InBooklet disappeared in CS4 and I’m not crazy about having to launch Bridge to generate PS thumbnails. Also, embedding photos and desiring text wrap has been a nightmare in INDD. Has InDesign progressed much with CS5?

  6. I own a small print shop and we’re currently using CS3.
    It’s time to upgrade. I know nothing about these programs. Should
    we be upgrading to CS4 or CS5? Is it too big of a jump with the
    changes from CS3? Are the changes easy to pick-up? I noticed
    a previous comment on the elimination of Inbooklet. Is it in CS5?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Hello @Steve and @Barry,

    InBooklet was a licensed product that was actually developed by a third party vendor. That vendor was purchased by Quark, who promptly killed the product. Print Booklet (which is in CS4 and CS5) was developed as a replacement. For more information, see this forum thread, Print Booklet as a PDF in InDesign.

    You can learn more about what’s new in InDesign CS5 (including a video feature tour) on our product page here.

    As for which version to buy, it makes little sense to invest in the two-year-old CS4 now, especially in a print shop… CS5 is better in every respect, and it will be able to read both CS3, CS4, and CS5 formatted files. You don’t have to uninstall your older product versions either – you can run them side-by-side with CS5 on the same computer, no problem.

    Hope this helps. You can always just download a free fully-functional trial of CS5 yourself, and if you don’t want to upgrade to continue using it ($199), just uninstall it after the 30-day tryout period is up.

  8. Hi,

    I have been using CS3 for a while, My colleague in NZ and our design house use CS4. They have to send me their files in an interchangable format and I then need to relink images etc in order to use view them. I am planning on upgrading to CS5, will this mean that I now need to send them everything in an interchangable format or is there a way I can save my work as a CS4 file so its easily transferable between my contacts.


    • Welcome Dawn, that’s a good question and the answer is that it depends on the product… With each new release, Adobe supports saving back to the previous version’s formats for Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, and Illustrator, but not for After Effects and Premiere Pro.

      Put another way, with most CS5 products you can save your files back to a format readable by CS4, if need be. Be aware, however, that if you’ve used some CS5 features in your project then they may be lost in the translation – but if you’re OK with that to preserve compatibility, then you should be OK with the applications specified above.

      As a side note, going the other way is never any problem – all CS5 products can open, read, and convert all CS4 files.

  9. Hi,
    I got Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 recently among the other CS5.0 for the office. Before purchasing, the salesperson promised me it won’t have any compati­bility problems. But is there a way to save version back to CS5.0? It seems I can’t really mix use CS5 and CS5.5 for my project.


  10. Using CS4 web premium. However, I really only see a need for the new features in PS CS5. But I hear you cannot upgrade just the one program in a suite. You need to buy the whole suite again. True or false?

    Now if that’s the case it would be cheaper to just upgrade the suite. However, they keep dropping programs which kind of makes it a rip off if you use one they dropped. (I also use Soundbooth). Thing is, can I just upgrade soundbooth to the new “audition” or am I stuck buying that full version as well?

    • Hey there Gary. Yes, it’s true that you can’t just upgrade a single product from a suite. The reason is because you’re getting a large discount on the bundle when you buy the suite – up to 65% off individual prices.

      So yes, it usually is cheaper to upgrade to the suite of the current release, rather than purchase an individual full product like Photoshop CS5.1.

      As for “they keep dropping programs,” not sure what you mean there. The only product that Adobe dropped in recent years is Soundbooth, and that was actually replaced by the much-better Audition CS5.5. So in fact, it’s actually a major upgrade to the audio tool you get with the suite.

      And yes, if you upgrade your existing suite, you will get Audition included as well, even if you didn’t own it before – and you can keep using your older Soundbooth CS5 too, if you like – there’s no problem with that.

      So hope this helps.

  11. Nope. Audition does NOT come with CS5.5 web premium. Which is the problem. So I can’t even upgrade Soundbooth from the CS4 suite. Problem with Adobe is there is so much “fine print” you don’t really know until you get burned.

    • Sorry, forgot you were talking about CS4. Soundbooth actually moved out of Web Premium a while ago, when CS5 came out in early 2010.

      Anybody who had Soundbooth in their suite since that time would continue to have an audio tool (Audition) with an upgrade to CS5.5. In any event, you could continue using your existing Soundbooth if it suited your needs, as mentioned.

      Still not sure what other “fine print” or product drops you are talking about, but that’s okay. We’re just trying to help here, so good luck.

  12. Well I did upgrade to CS5.5.  Soundbooth came with CS4, and again… isn’t included in CS5.5 web premium, nor is Audition. It was replaced with additional Flash programs and something called Media Encoder.

  13. hello
    i want to edit short movies on adobe premiere pro cs4. can i use adobe flash cs5 program on adobe premiere pro cs4 while editing, likewise just want to ask you what program or software should i use in making agic movies, like changing background surrounds and items transformations into different types.

  14. I’m a real novice at website building, I know a little HTML but mostly created my web pages through a WYSIWYG program offered by my hosting company. They aren’t offering that one anymore and before learning another difficult, free, barely adequate program I was considering investing in Dreamweaver.

    I’m going to have to hire someone to create the functionality of the website and thought to make updates to what they create, Dreamweaver is an industry standard I should learn to be compatible with what anyone else does for me. But I don’t even know if my fundraising to create this site is going to be successful, I hate to part with almost $400 unnecessarily to purchase CS5.5.

    For building basic sites like mine (,, can I get by with CS4 to start? Are the Dreamweaver products fairly easy to figure out basic functionality without classes or advanced site construction knowledge?

    • Hello Donna, thanks for your questions. The challenge is that CS4 is almost three years old now, and that is a long time in web development terms… It could get you by for simpler stuff but the web moves quite fast and ideally you want to have the most professional and compatible website with the most current and popular browsers.

      And if you do already own Dreamweaver CS4, then upgrading to the latest-and-greatest Dreamweaver CS5.5 would cost much less than the price you quoted.

      But if not, there are a few options if money is an issue. First, start off with the free trial download of CS5.5 – that will get you 30 free and full days on each computer you run it on. Next, if you’re a student, or could legitimately become one (say by taking a web design course at a local college), then you can buy all major Adobe software for up to 80% off the normal prices. Or another possibility if funding is really tight would be to rent the Adobe software via a monthly subscription for as long as you need it.

      As far as learning goes, try these free Dreamweaver tutorials first. Hope this is useful!

  15. I’ve been using CS4 very happily for for about two years now, on a Tablet PC.

    I just tried the CS5 trial version and found that my Tablet PC, (a six year-old machine, a Toshiba Tecra M4), is not powerful enough to run it without pen lag problems. I would love to be able to use some of the features in CS5, but it seems you need a dual core processor at least to run things.

    I shot a video comparison of CS4 and CS5. . .

    For older machines like mine, I would recommend sticking with CS4, (which is a joy to use).

    The reason I don’t update my Tablet PC is that nobody makes a big-screen tablet these days. The old Tecra M4 offers a 14″ 1400 x 1050 screen, which no modern tablet can touch. The single core Pentium M chip in the Tecra, while not leading edge, remains good enough to manage my design and illustration needs.

    • Thanks for your observations Mark about your 2005 tablet and Photoshop… Interesting that they state of the art in tablet screens hasn’t advanced for what is produced these days.

      Also you’re right in that software generally (not just Adobe but most programs) get bigger with each new release, adding features and functionality and relying on Moore’s Law to more-than-compensate on the performance via speed improvement of the hardware.

      We for one find Photoshop CS5 to be no problem on speed, and wouldn’t want to ever give up the new Content-Aware Fill or Puppet Warp features (both huge time-savers), but it all depends on your priorities and needs.

      Thanks again for dropping in and all the best with your art!

  16. Does Aperture or Light Room work with Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9? What are advantages of Aperture or LR?

    Or if you are considering these should you go with the professional Photoshop version?

    • Welcome DMH – yes, Photoshop (either “standard” or Elements) is tightly integrated with Lightroom, that is one of the nice advantages… Here are some review quotes on the subject:

      “Photoshop integration is different with Aperture than it is with Lightroom – for one thing, Lightroom and Photoshop share the same Camera Raw engine, while Aperture uses its own raw converter then round-trips to Photoshop as 16-bit TIFF/PSD files, thereby losing all adjustments done in the first part of the workflow. As non-destructive editing is the Holy Grail of post-processing, this is not a small consideration; the non-destructiveness of Lightroom in this process is a strong selling point for the software.”

      “Probably the most enviable thing about Lightroom is its Photoshop integration – primarily the ability to send a RAW image to PS as a Smart Object then revisit the RAW setting in ACR.”

      “My preference for Lightroom has nothing to do with benchmarks. It has to do the ability of Lightroom to export adjusted raw files to Photoshop as smart object layers, thus embedding the raw file and the Lightroom edits in Photoshop as a smart object, which can subsequently be adjusted ad infinitum within Photoshop’s Camera Raw environment (Camera Raw and Lightroom have the same editable parameters). This is incredibly useful and flexible in the retouching projects I work on.”

      “On Integration with Photoshop: I can’t open files as smart objects, or multiple files as layers, or create panos directly out of Aperture.”

      “If what you’re after is Photoshop integration, the Lightroom-Photoshop story is unmatched…”

      Lightroom has some other nice strengths over Aperture, like Noise reduction and sharpening, Lens distortion correction, and Gradient filters.

      Here also is a user forum discussion on using Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere all together. Hope this helps!

  17. Hi,

    I’m almost embarassed to ask this question…

    Amongst newer versions, we have an licence of Illustrator – version CS. Does anyone know if it’s possible to upgrade straight to Illustrator CS5?…or do we have to buy new full version?

    Many thanks


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