May 15, 2013

Can you open a Photoshop CC file in CS6?

Over the last few days I’ve seen numerous questions about what data, exactly, is backward-compatible when opening a Photoshop PSD file in an older version of the app. The Photoshop team has worked to keep things as compatible as possible even with 20+ years of evolution. Just for reference, here are some points that might be useful to know.

  • Generally speaking, features that don’t depend on new functionality (e.g. bitmap layers) open just fine in older versions. (In theory an 8-bit layered PSD full of images should open in Photoshop 3.0, released in 1994.)
  • Photoshop makes a point of storing rasterized copies of layers (e.g. text) to avoid cases where the appearance could get lost (e.g. when a font is missing).
  • In cases where a previous version of Photoshop doesn’t support a newer feature, it tries to retain the appearance of the file, but the behavior may vary case by case. Some examples:
    • A Smart Object layer that depends on a newer version of Camera Raw would be retained as a Smart Object, but the older version of Photoshop wouldn’t be able to open & edit the layer’s contents.
    • Text layers retain their appearance, even if the underlying text engine has changed, unless you try to edit them. At that point you may receive a message saying that layout & appearance changes may occur.
    • For a major change that affects multiple layers (for example, 32-bit layers), the older version may need to try opening a flattened version of the file.

 

I should also note that the PSD format specification is freely downloadable from Adobe.com so that third parties can build their own readers/writers.

What about raw photos?

When you edit the settings of a DNG file using Camera Raw or Lightroom, you can opt to update the embedded JPEG data as well as the settings themselves.  This means, as photographer Peter Krogh likes to say, that a DNG file can serve as a “job jacket”: a container that holds your negative, your development instructions, and your print. (See “The DNG Advantage.”)

Posted by John Nack at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013
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