Can You Save/Open CS6 Files on CS5, CS4 or CS3 – and Vice Versa?

How Backwards Compatible Are Older Versions with Adobe CS6?

This is one of the top questions we get.  Especially now that Adobe is releasing a new version of Creative Suite once per year – with each edition potentially bringing a different or expanded file format – customers want to know if their existing projects will easily carry forward with them when they upgrade, or if they will be able to save back to older formats for clients or colleagues who are still running an earlier version of the tools…

OK then, here’s how it works. Generally, your new CS6 tools (including the Creative Cloud) will be able to open and use any and all earlier project and data files no problem (including CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 files), without any loss of information. In other words, all Adobe software are able to read or import file formats from previous versions of the same program – and it should happen automati­cally.

Going the other way, when wanting to use CS5 or older to open a file saved from a CS6 product, the answer is it depends…  Let’s take a look at the inter­operability for each application within the Creative Suite, then at the bottom we’ll talk about some additional tips and best practices no matter what your situation.


Historically in Photoshop, it has rarely been an issue as the .PSD format is pretty backwards compatible. To help ensure this, make sure that “Maximize PSD File Compatibility” option is set when you save your file. Now with all the new features in Photoshop CS6 which prior releases don’t have, there will be some functions whose use will make your file less backwards-compatible. If you run into any difficulties, you can always save your image as a .tif file – TIFF is a standard format that all versions of Photoshop can import, and its biggest advantage is that it will preserve layers, just as the native .PSD file can.

New in Photoshop CS6 now, there’s one feature that makes your life particularly easy when upgrading or changing releases – it’s the ability to migrate and share presets from Photoshop versions going as far back as CS3.


In Illustrator, when you save a file it asks you which version you want to save it as. Instead of CS6, you can choose a “Legacy Format” like Illustrator CS5, CS4, CS3, etc. – but be aware that you may lose some newer features and attributes when the document is read back in to the prior release. Illustrator actually has the best compatibility of all programs as it can save back up to ten previous formats!


With InDesign, there is no way to “downsave” a project like in Illustrator. However you can Export your document as IDML (InDesign Markup Language). IDML files can be read into earlier versions like InDesign CS5.5, CS5, or CS4 – but again there is the potential to lose newer features that aren’t supported in older releases. To go back to InDesign CS3 you would need to Export to INX (InDesign Interchange format) from CS4 instead.

Alternatively, you can use external file downsaving services which will do this for you for a nominal fee – going from InDesign CS6 to CS5.5, CS5, CS4, CS3, CS2, or even CS[1].


In Dreamweaver, file compatibility with older versions is not really a problem… HTML is HTML, CSS is CSS – the output is standards-based and similar across product releases. The one part that you need to migrate forward or back to a different version is your Dreamweaver site settings or definitions.

Flash Professional

In Flash Pro, you can save in XFL or FLA format for CS5.5, CS5, or CS4, although you may lose some newer features which would not be understood by prior versions.

Premiere Pro

In Premiere Pro there is not an official save-back-to-old-version option (and it’s technically not supported) but some customers report fairly good success doing so anyway…  Just keep these tips in mind to help it succeed.

After Effects

With After Effects you can save as XML or Save a Copy As CS5.5, again with the caveat that new functionality in CS6 won’t transfer down. Going the other way, there are some tricks to follow to help your older project import and work in the newer release.


For Audition, it’s a similar story – standard audio file formats like WAV, MP3, AIFF, etc. are fully compatible across applications, and it’s possible to import sessions from older versions particularly as XML files, but saving your multitrack session file in an older format would lose some of your mix. For migrating and bringing up files from Audition 3, there’s a very helpful conversion utility.


Best Practices

Once you open your older document in the newer product version, or vice versa, the program will want to change and convert your data to its native format. So the best thing to do after importing your project is to immediately “Save As…” and rename it to a new file. This way, in case anything goes wrong or if you ever want to import it again, you will still have your original document authored in the other version, as well as your new document that you can continue to develop and make changes to.

The same would go for when you save back a copy to an older file format from a newer release – use “Save As…” to make sure you preserve your original.

If you’ve been thinking of upgrading your software to make life easier, keep in mind that Adobe is offering discounted CS6 upgrade pricing to current owners of CS4 and CS3 only until the end of 2012… After that point, only those with CS5 and CS5.5 will be eligible for reduced pricing.

Having Multiple Versions on the Same Computer

How to Fix Adobe CS6 File Associations

When installing any new Adobe release including Creative Suite 6, the older version(s) on your computer will not ever be uninstalled, removed, or written over. That is because people often find it helpful to continue to have access to the previous release while getting up to speed with the new one, plus as mentioned above, having those prior versions can sometimes be useful in managing older files.

So in a nutshell, this means you could install and run as many versions as you want alongside one another, and they will coexist side-by-side without interference – and many users do this. But if you decide instead that you only want the latest version on your system, then the best way to proceed is to uninstall your older releases first – before installing the later one, other­wise it’s possible that your file associations could get lost or crossed up (though this is fairly easily fixable).

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