I've downloaded the 30 Day trial version of Photoshop 5.1, but need to buy a license for it.
Adobe no longer sells licenses for CS5.
You'd have to try and find old stock from a reseller if you're absolutely stuck with that MBP and 256MB vRAM.
If we buy a license for CS6, can that be used for earlier version?
From other discussions, I get the impression that CS6 will work with 256 MB vRAM as long as we don't need to do any 3D work. Is that correct?
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That's correct. 256 MB vram is enough for OpenGL features like flick panning, animated zoom and use of the rotate tool, but no 3D. 512k vram is the minimum. As long as that is not iimportant to you, CS6 and even CC will do just great with 8 GB.
I have a mid-2009 Macbook and that what I can get out of my NvDIA 9400M.