Adobe Creative Suite 5 extends its graphic reach

CS5 offers a plethora of new features. We look at what's new in its five major applications.

Twenty years ago, Adobe Systems Inc. introduced a little program called Photoshop -- and launched desktop graphics as we know it.

On April 12, Adobe introduced Adobe Creative Suite 5, which includes newly revamped versions of 14 of Adobe's products -- a collection that spans video, audio, graphics, print and dynamic Web content. The changes vary across products: Some (such as Photoshop) have relatively minor changes and feature additions; others (like Premiere Pro) have been rewritten under the hood to increase performance.

Photoshop has been part of Creative Suite since 2003, along with Premiere, Illustrator, Flash Professional, InDesign, Soundbooth and a bevy of other major and minor Adobe apps. Creative Suite 5 comes in several different editions with different mixes of products in each.

* Design Premium ($1,899) focuses on print and Web media, and omits the video and audio tools.

* Design Standard ($1,299) is the same as Design Premium but omits Flash and Dreamweaver, and uses Photoshop CS5 instead of Photoshop CS5 Extended (which contains more tools for doing 3-D graphics directly in Photoshop).

* Web Premium ($1,799) is similar to Design Premium, but it leaves out the InDesign publishing app.

* Production Premium ($1,699) focuses on video and audio, with Flash and Photoshop on top for good measure.

* Master Collection ($2,599) contains everything: 15 applications plus three support apps (Bridge, Device Central and Dynamic Link) and integration with several of Adobe's online services (Story, CS Review, BrowserLab, Acrobat.com and SiteCatalyst NetAverages).

One thing that Adobe has been pushing for, based on my conversations with Adobe's product evangelists, is for content creators to see all the Creative Suite products as different facets of their entire workflow. The cynic in me says this is so Adobe can sell that many more licenses for the full suite instead of just the individual products. But in many ways, Adobe is inching toward making each piece of the suite part of a true whole, instead of just different apps corralled together under a common banner.

In this article, I've looked at the five major components of Creative Suite 5 -- Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop and Premiere Pro -- from the point of view of what's new and whether those features justify an upgrade.

Dreamweaver

If you're looking for an answer to the ongoing question of whether Dreamweaver is a Web programmer's tool or a Web designer's tool, Adobe's answer is a firm: "Both." In the past few years, there have emerged many more people who wear both Web design and Web programming hats -- blog theme designers, for instance. Dreamweaver CS5 aims to satisfy those programming for the Web from the inside out, and those designing for it from the outside in.

The program's layout hasn't drastically changed since CS4, so Adobe has preserved things like the pregenerated panel layouts for different types of users or tasks: Designer, App Developer, Coder, Minimal and the "classic" Dreamweaver layout. Where there are changes, they're for the sake of making things more immediately useful. The "New Website" dialog, for instance, makes it much simpler to create a new site without having to answer a whole bevy of questions upfront (such as "What's the site's FTP address?") that might be known only to the site's admins, not its designers.

Because Dreamweaver is used by both coders and designers, many new features are aimed at programmers and app developers. This doesn't just mean page templates and syntax highlighting for JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic and PHP, although all that is in there. It also means that if you use the popular open-source Subversion software as your version-control system, for instance, Dreamweaver can use Subversion to check pages in and out and will alert you to any compatibility issues between editions of Subversion.

One function that shows how the program has been written for both programmers and designers is the ability to store and publish files in four different locations for each site: a local folder, a repository, a staging server and a live server. A designer can stage his changes locally or on a staging server without touching live code. That said, I've never been fond of Dreamweaver's local/remote file explorer, which even after all these revisions seems really clumsy, but I suspect that's more my own pickiness than anything else.

By far the most powerful new features in Dreamweaver are contextual ones -- things that make it easier to change the design of something while it's live and in place. If you're designing a WordPress blog, for instance, you can plug directly into the blog and edit its design interactively, instead of going through that whole rigmarole of "mess with stylesheet/edit templates/upload everything/dump cache/preview in browser" most of us are familiar with by now. Minor gripe: the JavaScript engine doesn't support breakpoints or single-stepping through code, just enable/disable.

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Serdar Yegulalp

Serdar Yegulalp

Computerworld (US)
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