Moving files backwards from Photoshop CC (Updated)

Here’s one of the concerns many people have with Adobe Creative Cloud: if down the road I stop my cloud membership, can I open my files in older versions of the software. Of course there is no way to absolutely guarantee that it will work, although historically – in Photoshop at least – you can open psd files in an older version. If your psd file contains features that are not supported by the older version, the file still opens but those features cannot be edited.

So I did a little experiment and in Photoshop CC I added 3 things that are new/unique to that version: applied Iris Blur as a Smart Filter, applied Camera Raw as a filter to a type layer, and added a rounded corner rectangle (in PS CC I can now edit the corners).

Then I tried to open the file in Photoshop CS5 (going back two versions) and saw this dialog:

I clicked Keep Layers and the file opened.

Visually, it looked exactly the same as the file I saved in Photoshop CC.

But when you look at the Layers panel, there are some warning icons that tell me that I cannot edit the settings for these features, and in the case of the editable rectangle, it becomes a standard Shape Layer.

If I attempt to edit either of the smart filters, the Photoshop CC effect disappears. I can edit the contents of the smart filter – in this case edit the type or the original photo – but I cannot edit the Photoshop CC effect.

So the good news is (at least in this case) is that the file opened and the original look was preserved. But, as you would (hopefully) expect the new features are not supported or editable. Once again, this quick test in no way will take away everyone’s fears, but to me it is encouraging to see the theory in practice. And, I would advise (as I have for years) to save both a multi-layered psd file and a flattened copy – I would expect that future iterations of Photoshop CC will be able to read jpegs and tiffs.

Based on some questions I received, I thought I’d do another test. This time I did some “typical” Photoshop work that did not include any new features only found in Photoshop CC: Extraction with a mask made into a Smart Object and a couple of adjustment layers. Saved in Photoshop CC as a psd file and opened in Photoshop CS6 – not problem whatsoever.

So it appears that if you use “standard” Photoshop functions (i.e. not new in Photoshop CC) theoretically there should be no reason to have any problems opening the file in a previous version.




  1. JD

    05/10/2013 at 11:24 am

    Hey thanks for doing this work

  2. Julie McLeod

    05/10/2013 at 11:41 am

    Thanks, Dave. It’s very helpful to have a first hand example in the midst of all the mis-information swirling around.

  3. Michael LoBiondo

    05/10/2013 at 1:08 pm

    Dave. Thanks for doing this test. My question is after opening in PS5 or 6, could you have deleted the top 2 layers and started over in PS? That way you could recreate the image in PS.
    The other question is you mentioned you save a multi-layered psd and a flattened copy. Is the flattened copy also a psd and if so, how do you distinguish between the 2 psd files?

    • admin

      05/10/2013 at 1:40 pm

      When I opened the psd I had all my layers so could have edited them in any way I want – I just couldn;t access the new CC effects.
      I always save my flattened copy as a jpeg – only because at a quick glance I know that the psd file has layers and the jpeg is the flattened copy. (I could use tiff but then I feel like I’d want to add “flat” into the file name, since tiff files can include layers)

  4. Andrew Rodney

    05/10/2013 at 1:23 pm

    >>I added 3 things that are new/unique to that version: applied Iris Blur as a Smart Filter, applied Camera Raw as a filter to a type layer

    Hi Dave. I tried a similar experiment in CC which while less flexible than using Smart Objects, this test worked well. I applied Iris Blur, Shake Reduction and ACR as a filter on three actual layers. Since the pixels are ‘rendered’ using the new functionality and placed on a good old layer, no issues what-so-ever opening that document in CS6.

    Again, while having a SO is often preferable, there’s no way CS6 or earlier can edit that data using the new features found only in CC.

    For those that might consider moving from CC back a few versions (which isn’t a good idea and historically something few considered till this week), IF they think ahead, they can produce backwards compatible layered data. Of course, just flatten and save as TIFF, you can open that in hundreds of products.

    Smart Object workflows are going to be far less desirable for those that have to move back a version. If you force yourself to do this (and that’s fully your call), maybe just apply that as a standard layer, then move back.

    I think many folks are unaware that the day they started using Photoshop, they bought into a proprietary processing chain. Jumping ship from Adobe for those that have an archive of layered documents will hurt far, far more than moving back a version!

  5. Kevin Graham

    05/10/2013 at 1:25 pm

    What effect does the “Maximize PSD File Compatibility” have in this case?

    • admin

      05/10/2013 at 1:37 pm

      I don’t know – I always have that option on, so didn’t bother trying it off.

  6. Steve Guilhamet

    05/10/2013 at 5:38 pm

    Hi Dave,

    That warning is coming from the rounded rectangle shape layer (Live Shape Properties). When opened in previous versions the ability to re-edit the rounded corners will revert to being a familiar shape layer (as you noted).

  7. Robert Norris

    05/10/2013 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks Dave for your foot work on this topic. I does prove what I have said since this came about. The files I work on today will not be the same in the future if I need to edit them. That is the biggest drawback to the CC model that Adobe has come up with. If you don’t keep paying your files will have to be changed. People are yelling about the price but I see the whole story and it isn’t about paying, it’s about keeping your file editable if at some point you can’t or don’t want to keep paying. The way it is now you can always edit your most recent files since you have the software installed up to where you edited them without worry.

  8. Sami Sojonen

    05/11/2013 at 3:49 pm

    Scary future… Can’t say more. Dave your latest visit in creativeLIVE was awesome!

  9. BobSutherland

    05/14/2013 at 1:22 pm

    I’m just really glad your subject wasn’t as bald as all Y’all!!

    thanks for the work, Dave, all seriousness aside , *g* it IS appreciated

  10. Pingback: John Nack on Adobe : Test: Moving files from Photoshop CC to CS5

  11. Mike Chambers

    05/24/2013 at 12:26 pm

    Just an fyi, but we plan to continue to support the export to CS6 in in future releases of CC apps.

    This is covered in the FAQ:

    See : Can the new CC applications export to CS6?

    mike chambers

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