Adobe Creative Suite: An All-Star Line-up
The Adobe Creative Suite (CS) represents a major change in the way Adobe develops, markets, updates, and prices its design and publishing products. When taken as a whole, the collection of products is like a murderer's row of graphics applications, and nearly every one hits the ball out of the park.
This is not the first time Adobe has sold several products in one box -- the Collection bundles have been around for several years. But CS is an attempt to bind the applications together -- technically and culturally. Now Adobe's creative products use not only the same graphics engine but also the same type and color-management engines. OpenType is supported in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Files created in one application more easily open in others with all their features intact. The user interface is becoming more coherent across products, making it easier to move between applications. Even the products' brand graphics have had a facelift to reflect the new unified vision. No More Botticelli Venus gracing the box of Illustrator. In its place is a red flower (a Gerbera daisy?) rendered in the same vein as the new CS graphics.
And holding it all together is the new file-management and version-tracking technology Version Cue (more on that below).
What is new is Adobe's decision to revise all Adobe publishing products simultaneously. That means new versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and GoLive will appear at the same time. The idea is that once the products are on similar schedules, product teams will more easily work together on inter-application features. Given the fiercely competitive nature of Adobe's engineering teams, that may be easier said than done.
The all-for-one, one-for-all approach of unified release cycles may mean a longer wait between product revisions. While some users may welcome the slower pace, some fans of individual products may consider it as application abduction, with their pet software being held hostage for the sake of other products. A longer development cycle could produce more significant upgrades than the incremental ones users currently endure -- and often ignore. On the other hand, some products may be rushed to meet an arbitrary release date, but that's nothing new. The twist is the perception that one product may appear to be dancing to another's tune.
But the bottom line is the bottom line: upgrade purchasing has slowed. The unified-release strategy may be how Adobe jumpstarts sales of a mature product line.
Adobe CS: The Sum of its Parts
The across-the-board changes are only one aspect of CS, however. Each product that forms the core of the suite has significant feature enhancements. To address the individual product upgrades, we've enlisted the help of an all-star team of experts to briefly describe the new features they find exciting in their favored products.
Before we get into the individual products, a word about pricing and availability.
Adobe has made the upgrade to the Creative Suite a no-brainer. Two versions are available:
- Adobe Creative Suite Premium, priced at $1,229 list that includes
- Acrobat 6 Professional, and
- Version Cue.
- Adobe Creative Suite Standard, priced at $999 list that includes
- InDesign, and
- Version Cue.
Upgrade pricing is even more aggressive. If you purchased any Adobe Collection or (catch this) any version of Photoshop, you can upgrade to CS Premium for $749 and CS Standard for $549. Obviously Photoshop is viewed as the Trojan Horse that gets InDesign and GoLive in the hands of new users.
Of course, the products are sold individually, too. But the individual products do not have the benefit of Version Cue, which is a suite-only addition. The list and upgrade prices from the previous version for the individual products are as follows:
- Photoshop CS: $649 list; $169 upgrade
- Illustrator CS: $499 list; $169 upgrade
- InDesign CS: $699 list; $169 upgrade
- GoLive CS: $399 list; $169 upgrade
- Acrobat 6 Professional: $449 list; $169 upgrade
If the price alone isn't enticement enough to purchase the complete suite, Adobe sweetens the deal with a simultaneous, single-serial number install for the included products. For those of us struggling to locate rogue serial numbers, the simplicity of a single-installation effort may be worth it.
One sour note in this suite is Adobe's abandonment of the numerical naming convention. Instead of Photoshop 8 we have Photoshop CS. Who knows what the next version will be named -- Photoshop CSI? -- but look at what happened to Macromedia MX. The latest high-end version of Flash bears the unwieldy moniker Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 -- the year apparently refers to its "sell-by" date.
Now on to the products themselves.
Photoshop CS: A More-Productive Imaging Workflow
Photoshop CS -- hate the name, love the product. This version of Photoshop is about removing limits. Layers and layer masks now work in 16-bit per channel mode, the 30,000-pixel size limit has been replaced by a 300,000-pixel size limit (file size is now limited by the 32-bit operating systems to 4 gigabytes), you can create up to 5 levels of nested layer sets, and use up to 56 channels per image, all of which will take some growing into.
The File Browser is now a much more powerful workflow tool for digital photographers, addressing the huge bottleneck that making the initial selects from a shoot has. Custom-size previews and configurable workspaces, combined with robust support for editing, searching, and saving metadata, let the File Browser act as a virtual light table for sorting and selecting images, using previews provided by Camera RAW, now an integral part of Photoshop. Better still, you can apply different Camera RAW settings to each image for subsequent batch processing, removing the need for dedicated front-end applications to bring images into Photoshop.
Finally, Photoshop offers a complete digital workflow.
Illustrator CS: More-Expressive Type and Effects
Illustrator CS promises significant performance boosts, adds 3D and Scribble live effects, and introduces a new "type engine." While Illustrator CS's 3D is less robust than Adobe Dimensions (which won't be upgraded), Illustrator CS 3D is LIVE-so 3D elements are infinitely editable.
The new "type engine" looks to be a dream-come-true for typographers with Adobe's best support for OpenType fonts with its own OpenType palette and a glyphs palette to easily access the extended character set. But because the type engine is entirely new, this affects text from legacy documents and could cause reflow -- which makes some users who work with a lot of "legacy" text (such as mapmakers) wary. However, if you're a typographer, have been waiting for 3D integration or if you've been waiting for Transparency and Live Effects to mature--Illustrator CS signals that it's time to get that upgrade.
And I can't resist adding about creative improvements in Photoshop CS: If your creative workflow relies heavily on experimenting with blending modes and turning layers on and off -- Photoshop CS's Layer Comping feature will change your life.
InDesign CS: A Must-Have Upgrade
InDesign CS is not just a good upgrade, it's an astonishing upgrade. Adobe began by adding the features that QuarkXPress users held out as reasons not to switch: multi-ink colors, custom dashes and stripes, and a "measurements palette" (here called the Control palette). Then Adobe surged forward with a host of other brilliant features, including a Story Editor (PageMaker users will be pleased), nested styles (which can automatically apply a different font and size to a drop cap or run-in head), the ability to save palette configurations and recall them quickly with a keyboard shortcut, a separation preview palette (see your seps before film!), and multimedia tools (adding buttons and importing movies, for example, for building rich-media PDF files). Plus, InDesign CS is actually faster at many tasks than version 2 was.
One look at InDesign CS and I forgive Adobe's marketing department all their silliness in coming up with the "CS" moniker. A deep look at InDesign CS and I'm hooked. InDesign 2 was better than QuarkXPress 6. This upgrade makes XPress 6 look like Microsoft Word 6.
GoLive CS: A Return to Web Creativity
GoLive CS swings the pendulum away from competing directly with Dreamweaver feature-for-feature on the geeky stuff, and straight back into the graphic designer and production fray through tighter integration with other Adobe CS applications. You can crop images within GoLive CS instead of round-tripping with Photoshop, and packaged files in InDesign can be directly previewed and elements extracted for Web pages. PDFs can be edited for links, and generated directly, too.
The Adobe Web Workgroup Server, a collaboration and multiple-revision storing engine that appeared with GoLive 6, has migrated into the core of the Creative Studio as Version Cue, allowing all Adobe CS apps to adeptly handle revisions. Co-Author, a new program, allows a non-designer to edit pages on a Web site created by a GoLive user and marked with templated areas for updates. Finally, Cascading Style Sheets can be previewed as they're created.
PDF: The Structure of Adobe's Creative Platform
Although Acrobat 6 Professional doesn't carry the CS label, it's the puppet-master pulling new feature strings of the CS products. Every one of the CS products has added important features which enhances or improves the application's integration with Adobe Acrobat or creating PDF files.'
InDesign CS lets you add movies, sounds, and interactive buttons to layouts for playback in Acrobat. Photoshop CS has several new features for converting Photoshop files and layer displays into PDF pages -- a great way to send images out for review. Illustrator CS has enhanced its PDF output, although the lack of multiple pages in Illustrator still hurts some of its ability to play well with PDF. And finally two CS applications -- InDesign and Illustrator -- can create layered PDFs for Acrobat 6.
But the best news for PDF creators (and perhaps a glimpse of the future for Adobe products) is that GoLive displays PDF documents right within its document windows with no Reader or Acrobat necessary. This is something I'd like to see added to the other products in the CS suite.
Version Cue: The Glue that Binds CS Together
Version Cue is the first step toward an integrated file-management system for single users and small workgroups. As most content-management products target enterprise operations, Version Cue brings version tracking and simple asset management to a market that's often overlooked. The technology lets you manage creative assets on your own hard drive or across a network.
After installing Version Cue, an icon appears in the Open and Save dialog boxes of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and GoLive. You can choose to open a Version Cue-saved file or save your current file into the queue. You can add notes about what changes were made to the file, and Version Cue automatically names the files and stores them in a database with the most recent first. Should you decide to return to an earlier version, you simply promote it to the top of the stack.
Files stored in the Version Cue database can be checked in and out, meaning that in a workgroup, a Photoshop artist can modify a graphic then check it back into the system for use by an InDesign compositor. When changes are made to the Photoshop file, Version Cue informs the InDesign user so the graphics can be updated.
Version Cue has a ways to go -- one can think of many possible additions, such as more detailed file info and synchronized font management -- yet it's a promising start in what could be a revolutionary way to work creatively and efficiently.
Liked This? Read These!
John Nack, senior Photoshop product manger, reports the following on his blog: "With the CS3 product cycle, Adobe instituted a '3 versions back' policy on upgrades. That is, you can upgrade to the... Read More
Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced that Adobe® Acrobat® 8 Professional software will be integrated into Adobe Creative Suite® 2.3 Premium. Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional enhances... Read More
Strata, the company adding the power of 3D to the designer's toolset, announced today three new plug-ins for Adobe® Systems' Photoshop® CS3 Extended software. Each of these 3D[in] plug-ins will be... Read More
Managing Editor Inc. (MEI), a Philadelphia-based provider of software solutions for the publishing industry, today announced that K4 Publishing System version 5.5 has been released, providing full... Read More