ups the graphics ante yet
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
2-8, 2005; issue 823
High Tech Office
A little more than a year ago, this column looked at Adobe's then-new
Creative Suite, a bundle of that company's powerful tools for graphics,
print, and Web publishing, including industry standards such as
Photoshop and Acrobat ("Adobe hoping to establish its latest software
bundle," March 2-8, 2004). A year later finds a new edition, Creative
Suite 2 for Windows and Mac users.
Like the first edition, it bundles a lot of first-rate applications at
a bonus price, at least compared to buying or upgrading two or more of
the applications. This time around, there's a modest price drop (about
$1,500 full purchase price, or $725 for those upgrading from the
earlier version), and better integration between the various components.
A new application, Bridge, runs on its own or can be called from within
the Creative Suite 2 applications. It offers thumbnail views of the
various supported graphics and publishing formats, along with lots of
other features such as keyword search, drag-and-drop file import, batch
processing, and more to let users manage large collections of documents.
The downside is that Bridge, like Creative Suite 2 in general, can be
sluggish unless you're prepared to feed it lots of computer memory.
Think a gigabyte or more RAM to comfortably use this suite.
Creative Suite 2's Web development program, GoLive (not included in the
lower-cost Standard Edition) adds the ability to repackage
standard-sized Web pages for better display on small-screen portable
devices, such as PDAs and smart phones. Designers working full-time
within Adobe's product line will find it easier to bring layouts from
Adobe's InDesign into GoLive.
The new version of Illustrator, Adobe's line-art program, is perhaps
the most improved component of Creative Suite 2. Live Trace builds on
Adobe's old Streamline application, taking bitmap art such as photos
and converting them into Illustrator-style outlines. It's fast, easy to
configure and experiment with, and fun to use. It makes it easy to move
sketches originally created on paper into digital equivalents.
The new Live Paint feature intelligently colours those tracings. A new
interface makes Illustrator feel more familiar to Photoshop jockeys.
InDesign is Adobe's page layout application, still trying to unseat
industry-leader Quark XPress. This new version also sees significant
enhancements, including the ability to export pieces of pages: text
blocks, tables, graphics as separate, easily reusable files. A new
Object Styles palette makes it easier to keep appearance consistent
throughout a document. Imported Photoshop graphics now keep their layer
comps, letting you view a variety of choices within a single imported
By bundling InDesign with Photoshop, Adobe smartly makes it more likely
that current Quark-users will give it a try.
Photoshop Creative Suite 2 gains perhaps the most dramatic new feature
in the suite: Vanishing Point. Once a perspective grid is defined, text
or images pasted in are automatically warped to fit, a neat way to,
say, realistically add a sign or new windows to a photo of a building.
New Smart Objects can be scaled while keeping the original information,
so they can be restored to the original size with no loss of quality.
Additions from Adobe's consumer-oriented Photoshop Elements include
that program's red eye tool, spot healing brush, and noise reduction
Also included in Creative Suite 2's Professional version: Adobe
Acrobat. As in the Suite's first incarnation, this powerful program for
creating PDF files remains poorly integrated with the rest of the suite.
While the new features in Creative Suite 2's components, the lower
price, and the improved integration are all worthwhile, some customers
may want to wait for the next edition; shortly after releasing Creative
Suite 2, Adobe announced that it was purchasing long-time rival
Macromedia. That company's product line includes best-of-breed Web
creation program Dreamweaver and the Flash Web animation standard. A
future Creative Suite featuring the best of the combined Adobe and
Macromedia product lines would be many graphic and design
professionals' must-have package.