Adobe Creative Suite Pro

May 1st, 2004 DG, Software, Tech

The next evolutionary step in Adobe’s family of design and publishing products

We’re all familiar with the text of the average position vacant ad under ‘Graphic Designer’; x years experience, Quark, Pshop, Illustrator a must.’

In recent years there’s been a lot more ads reading ‘InDesign, Pshop, Illustrator a must‘, and it’s in the same spirit that Adobe made the bonds between their industry-leading software literal as well as spiritual. Since the early days of Photoshop and Illustrator we’ve been used to using the same or similar tools in more than one application; with the advent of InDesign we’ve become even more spoilt.

With Creative Suite, Adobe have taken it one step (or rather, countless steps) forward; one single purchase now gives you unparalleled ease of use across every design tool you need for creative output, with major support services and tools thrown in.

A Combined Effort

It’s not just at the interface of each application where the elements of Adobe CS are inextricably linked; some of the biggest advantages of it are under the hood.

Shifting colour and type capabilities between output applications has long been a hassle, and as printing (and computer monitor) technology improves, we can exert more control over the final colours of a job on screen or on the press.

All of Adobe CS runs under two basic engines, the idiosyncrasies of text (like ligatures) behave the same way regardless of the program you’re designing in, and you can be sure of maintaining the integrity of your CMYK, RGB or pantone values across each application because of the Adobe Colour Engine underpinning them all.

In fact, such care has been taken to ensure that you don’t feel an uncomfortable lurch between applications that even the menus have been standardised as much as they can be.

Product Placement

It was hard to get out of the habit of saving designs or images in Photoshop or Illustrator as .tif or .eps files for use in Quark, and if you’re like some page layout artists who use InDesign for some jobs and Quark Xpress for others, you’re probably still doing it. If so, get ready to go native. Create your logo or rollover in Photoshop or Illustrator, then just drop it from the Finder or File browser straight into your layout.

Sure, it isn’t a new trick, but with Adobe CS it gets better. Spent an hour designing a logo in Illustrator and want a filter for it that’s only available in Photoshop? Just copy and paste your design into a Photoshop file, apply the filter, and drag it back to the Illustrator file — where it’ll not only become a vector file again, but any text, layers etc will be left intact and editable. It takes working between applications to a whole new level of ease.

Wait For Your Cue

Version Cue is a big part of bringing all the Adobe applications together. The theory is tracking versions of your files, keep notes on what changed, who worked on it and when, etc. It works by saving versions of files on your local drive (regardless of where they’re stored on a network or server), to which you can apply notes.

It’s a sound theory but unfortunately the practice makes it sound better than it is. A philosophy Adobe seems to be getting heavily involved in of late is in using their applications to do all your organisation and filing. Photoshop 7.0’s File Browser (refined further in Adobe CS) was part of the same approach.

If you aren’t organised, Version Cue can save expensive or commercially embarrassing mistakes. But if you’re disorganised enough to not have a version control system in a commercial agency or studio, you’re going to come unstuck because of a lot more that just your electronic filing (or lack of it).

And a commercial operation where several operators share access to files is really the only place Version Cue’s controls will make an appreciable difference. A lone artist should know what’s going on with his or her own files, and to that end Version Cue (like Photoshop’s File Browser) is really a scaled-down Apple Finder or Windows Explorer with Adobe badging.

Web of Intrigue

GoLive has never enjoyed the same profile as Macromedia Dreamweaver, so what better way to entice users to it than package it with Adobe CS and try to make it indispensable?

Embracing integration once again, GoLive makes great use of the other applications in the suite. In fact, the Smart Objects feature is the best feature and really the only reason to make the switch if you’re used to another HTML editor. Firstly, you can access and work with native .psd or .ai files inside GoLive. Any changes you make to the original are updated throughout the site when you re-open it in GoLive, with no need to export a new .gif or .jpg every time.

Crop, scale and resize images in your GoLive layout to your heart’s content. Even import layered Photoshop files and GoLive converts the layers to Smart Objects data.

If you’ve been using GoLive for years, Adobe CS gives you every reason to stay with it. If you’re used to Dreamweaver, Frontpage or some of the lesser-known applications there’s going to be a steep learning curve; GoLive is a strange looking beast and the functions you know from other editors aren’t immediately apparent.

Portability

Having been released so recently, Acrobat 6.0 doesn’t have too many extra inclusions as part of Adobe CS, but its release was recent enough (and it’s so full of new features) you probably still haven’t found or used them all.

Once upon a time you’d output your job to a Screen, Print or Press PDF at the end of a job and that was Acrobat’s job. If you’re not using it for a fully-enclosed workflow manager, you’re not enjoying all it has to offer. Not only is the capability to email proofs or comps back and forth to and from the client (taking into account any changes, comments etc) built in, now it’s a virtual pre-press studio.

There are so many tweaks available in the job options it makes sense that you can package them with the file (for your bureau to extract from the job and apply at their end). Validate your PDF to the PDF/X standard safe in the knowledge it’s press ready.

Preflight the whole job, preview the overprinting or see the plates separately. Include your reports and your output bureau can extract them at the other end too. Together with some nifty security tricks, Acrobat 6.0 is handy to have at every step along the way — even if you only use a couple of features.

A Design Standard

Still nipping at the heels of Quark Xpress (and surpassing it in many users’ opinions) is the faster, leaner, friendlier page layout application, InDesign CS.

If you’re coming from a Quark background, InDesign feels a little too much like Illustrator to begin with, but if you ease yourself into it (use it for small, non-urgent jobs until you have a feel for it), you’ll wonder how you ever did without automatic drop shadows on objects inside the application, much better control over output and much nicer treatment of fonts.

A new feature of InDesign that Adobe CS brings is the ability to design your web page in a page layout application and export it as a website. Many have tried, most have failed (including Quark themselves with their most recent version). But InDesign produces a folder of XML content and images that — when you open it in GoLive (or any other HTML editor) — actually works.

And if the preflight and previewing function in Acrobat somehow isn’t enough for you, InDesign now features the separation preview palette, where you can turn plates on and off at will to make sure of what appears on them (similarly to turning the four colour process channels on and of in Photoshop.

Artistic License

As soon as you play with Illustrator CS’ 3D Effect, which extrudes objects to a whole new level of 3D perspective, you’ll wish it had been there years ago. What used to be a job of anything from 30 minutes to several hours can now happen in a few short clicks, and the results are not only fantastic but still editable — even text.

The scribble effect is another filter Adobe are pushing, but it’s more frivolous and fun than essential; you’ll be lucky to use it very much despite its cleverness.

Photoshop has also enjoyed some impressive recent additions that mean there wasn’t much more to include with Photoshop CS. The File Browser has had a considerable functionality expansion, and a handy feature is the How-To files — accessible from right within the Help menu — which take you step by step through everything from printing photos to optimising images for the web.

Some new features of Photoshop CS are beautiful toys to play with — Photo Montage creates some great effects if you’re a keen photographer with dozens of snaps you couldn’t all fit in the one frame.

There’s also the much-lauded Camera Raw plug-in, which works by accessing the image files directly from your digital camera so you don’t lose any information from the file by copying and opening it manually.

Conclusion

Adobe has always bought creative professionals of every ilk the best tools for what they do. Bringing them together in a single package was a stroke of marketing brilliance that will actually improve the user experience.

Each component and applications is sweeping in it’s scope and fairly future-proof, so you’ll be unlikely to make use of every feature, but it’s huge value for money simply because you’re buying every major Adobe application you usually use (even if you have to pay for one or two you don’t use) in a format that standardises everything you do and lets you work seamlessly.

Availability

Australia:
Adobe Systems
Ph: 1300 550 205
Price: $2,499 incl. GST


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