Designers often have a love-hate relationship with Adobe Creative Cloud. The programs are amazing, flexible, powerful, seamless, and…sometimes slow! Design files can grow quite large, consuming a computer’s HDD and RAM resources. Yet the nature of the job requires multi-tasking. Additionally, running multiple programs simultaneously with multiple open jobs back and forth between them can slow Adobe down even more. When it’s crunch time, consider these InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop performance boosters to fix a slow Adobe CC:
Optimize a Slow Adobe InDesign CC
- Downgrade Preview Quality
Adjust the preview quality of a document to favor speed and performance over quality and visual precision. InDesign defaults to “Typical Display.” If a document seems slow, check that View > Display Performance is set to “Typical Display” versus “High Quality Display.” If Typical still seems slow, consider downgrading the quality and boosting program speed with “Fast Display.”
- Clear the Clipboard
The clipboard provides short-term data storage in RAM to remember copied items. InDesign saves the data from the most recently copied item to this clipboard. If that item isn’t needed again and it’s quite large, empty the clipboard to free up some RAM again. Adobe Creative Suite programs have the option to Purge the clipboard. In Creative Cloud, simply exit the program and select the button “Clear clipboard” from the dialog window that appears.
- Turn Off Live Hyperlinks Check
InDesign runs a background program that constantly checks the live status of each hyperlink in a document. A long list of hyperlinks means this background program is working longer and consuming more resources. Additionally, some documents share hyperlinks between them. This can happen often between monthly e-newsletters as the old version becomes the template for the next. The hyperlink check background service can be turned off to boost speed, especially in large interactive documents. Go to Window > Interactive > Hyperlinks to open the Hyperlinks panel, then click the hamburger Menu icon, and uncheck “Auto Update URL Status.”
- Reduce the Size of the Hyperlinks Library
Also consider deleting unused hyperlinks and limiting shared hyperlinks to boost performance. Return to the Hyperlinks panel, open the Menu, and select “Delete Unused Destinations” to clear unused anchor links. Find any links marked red and either resolve the link, or delete broken links by selecting the URL from the panel list and manually deleting it. When adding new hyperlinks, uncheck “Shared Hyperlink Destination” to reduce the hyperlinks shared between documents. Many times, the link is only needed for the current document, but derivative documents will carry over and maintain these shared links even if the new current document no longer needs them.
- Turn Off Preflight Check
Preflight is another background process that monitors an active document and flags print production concerns. It catches issues with overset text, missing links, missing fonts, and more. This is very handy when handling printed projects; however, this preflight check can be ran manually by packaging a project and saving background resources. Go to Window > Output > Preflight to open the Preflight panel and uncheck the “On” checkbox to turn off Preflight for the current document. Optionally, go to the Preflight panel’s hamburger Menu and uncheck “Enable Preflight for All Documents” to make this setting the default in the future.
- Place Links Instead of Native Art
Creating and/or placing native vector artwork into InDesign is great for on-the-spot editing. However, if the shapes grow more complicated, they increase file size and slow down the program. If the vector artwork doesn’t require frequent updates, or a performance boost is really needed, consider saving the native artwork as an .eps or .ai file and link to it from InDesign instead.
Speed Up a Slow Adobe Illustrator CC
- Favor GPU Preview over CPU Preview
Thanks to the advancements of today’s graphics card processors, GPU acceleration is a method of using the computer’s Graphic Processing Unit dedicated to rendering images faster. The CPU, on the other hand, must split its resources to images, audio, programs, background processes, and more. GPU Preview allows users to navigate across art boards, zoom, and see details faster and with more clarity than with traditional CPU preview. Adobe explains how GPU Performance works in Illustrator CC 2015 in their Support pages. To switch Illustrator over to GPU Preview, go to View > View Using GPU. (If GPU Preview is already live, this text will say “View Using CPU.”)
- Simplify Paths
Vector artworks track paths according to anchor points. Objects with more anchor points take more time and resources to draw. Ideally, each object tracks only the anchor points needed to faithfully display the artwork. Preset shapes like the ellipses and rectangle are good examples of this. However, tools like Live Trace often export artworks with a ton of anchor points, whether or not those points are truly needed. Not only do all those anchor points consume more computing resources, they often pose scaling problems and warp paths, especially when scaling smaller, editing, or applying effects. (This is an example of why designers must exercise visual judgement instead of relying on automation to deliver final products.) Reduce the number of anchor points by simplifying paths. Illustrator provides an automated tool to get started. Go to Object > Path > Simplify and use the dialog to adjust the settings as needed and finish with a manual tweak on remaining anchor points.
- Limit the Number of Clipping Paths
Like anchor points, clipping paths also to store image data, even for portions of the image not currently displayed. Clipping paths are useful for non-destructive editing and cropping. However, avoid nesting multiple clipping paths within each other. This problem might appear in purchasable stock graphics, so double-check.
- Limit the Number of Effects
Although Illustrator is primarily a program for creating and editing vector artworks, it nonetheless provides a few raster effects such as Drop Shadow and Gaussian Blur. It also provides a few tools for 3D imagery as well, including Revolve and Extrude & Bevel. However, Illustrator’s rendering engine for processes these kinds of effects aren’t as powerful as Photoshop’s, which is tailored for raster graphics. Moderate the appearance of these effects or break up effect-heavy artwork into multiple Illustrator documents.
- Downgrade Resolution of Raster Effects
In documents where raster effects are required, consider downgrading the resolution of raster effects. Go to Effect > Document Raster Effect Settings… and tweak the options in the dialog window that opens. Lower resolutions render faster and reduce file size at the expense of higher image quality.
- Save Repetitive Items as Symbols
A symbol stores a master copy of an artwork and allows copies to be placed on the art boards as linked instances. Similar to way InDesign places external files as Links to preserve performance and reduce file size, Illustrator uses Symbols to manage artworks. This is particularly helpful when designing wireframes, UI interfaces, or anything else icon-heavy. Replace repeat objects with Symbols instead. To make an object a Symbol, go to Window > Symbols to open the Symbols panel, select the desired object, then click “New Symbol” to make it a symbol. Adobe uses Movie Clip and Graphic Symbols mostly interchangeably and both can be animated; however, Movie Clip symbols are easier to name and manipulate in code-based tweening. Users can also choose whether a symbol is static or dynamic. Later edits to a static symbol don’t update the existing ones, whereas dynamic symbols apply all changes globally. Change these customizations later simply by re-visiting the Symbols panel and clicking the list icon, “Symbol Options.”
- Work in Outline Mode
While working with black-and-white lines only in Outline mode isn’t ideal, Outline mode processes images faster without rendering the rest of the image. Making edits in Outline mode and checking the artwork back in Preview Mode can eek more of a computer with little HDD and RAM resources to spare. Toggle Outline mode in View > Outline or hit Ctrl + Y.
Boost a Slow Adobe Photoshop CC
- Place Linked Files
For simple edits, filters, text additions, or other modifications, consider placing a linked file into the Photoshop document instead. Similar to how Links work in InDesign, Photoshop linked files also preserve an external master copy of an image while maintaining an instance in the Photoshop document. Most of the image data for linked files are stored externally, so the Photoshop document’s performance is boosted while file size is decreased.
- Add Linked Media to Video Animation Timelines
Video animation documents can similarly link to external master files to boost performance. I also found that linked video files were much easier to scale when I’ve been creating iterations of holiday animations across various social media sizes. Create and save the master animation. Then in the derivative Photoshop animation, go to Window > Timeline to open the Timeline panel, if not already open. In the Timeline layers sidebar (on left), click any film strip icon to open more options, then select “New Video Group.” Activate the new layer that appears. Back in the Timeline layers, click the film strip icon beside the newly created video group and this time select “Add Media…” Using the navigation window that appears, find and select the master animation file to place it within the new animation. Repeat with new video groups and linked media as needed.
- Rasterize and Flatten Once Editing Is Complete
Non-destructive editing methods preserve extra image data even for portions of the image not displayed. For example, layer masks, layer styles, and smart filters allow designers to return for later edits. However, smaller files run faster. Consider saving a master copy, then rasterizing and/or flattening the completed layers in the Photoshop document.
- Reduce the History Cache
One of Photoshop’s most helpful tools is the History cache. This allows designers to open the History panel and back-track down a list of edits to revert changes—like a more powerful Undo button. However, just like non-destructive editing methods, a large History cache is storing image data that may not be ultimately useful. Keep the History cache going by all means; however, consider reducing how many edits the cache remembers to boost performance. Go to Photoshop CC > Preferences > Performance > History & Cache. Lower the number of history states to shorten the History list, or modify the number of cache levels or sizes. (Photoshop tool tips describe how to use cache levels and cache sizes when hovering over the “more information” icons.)
- Enable GPU Preview
Like Illustrator, Photoshop also uses the GPU to render images faster and clearer. By default, Photoshop work with GPU acceleration. However, if performance seems to be lagging, check that this is enabled by going to Photoshop > Preferences > Performance > Graphics Processor Settings > and check “Use Graphics Processor.” Also similar to InDesign’s Fast, Typical, and High Quality preview modes, Photoshop allows the GPU preview mode to downgrade image quality in favor of performance. In the same Performance section, click the button for “Advanced Settings…” and select a drawing mode from the dropdown menu.
Besides adjusting program preferences, hardware upgrades can improve speed and performance substantially. These hardware upgrades can also speed up slow Adobe programs and more. Consider a Hard Drive Disk with greater storage, Solid State Storage, expanding RAM and/or VRAM, upgrading processors, and upgrading graphics cards.
For further reading, visit Adobe CC’s official performance tips to fix slow Adobe software: