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    Assessing Adobe’s pricey creative suite update

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver March 31-April 6, 2009; issue 1014

    High Tech Office column

    What do you do when your best-known product’s name is used as a verb and virtually all your potential customers already own a copy of your powerful but pricey creative suite?

    That’s the quandary faced by Adobe in upgrading and marketing the newest version of Photoshop, whether on its own or as part of its new Creative Suite 4.

    Released last fall, Creative Suite 4 comes in six overlapping editions:

    •a standard design edition (US$1,399) is aimed at print designers;
    •a US$1,000 standard web edition targets online designers;
    •premium design and web editions (about US$1,700) include varying mixes of print and web tools;
    •a $1,700 premium production edition bundles video and audio tools with other Adobe products; and
    •a $2,500 master collection combines all of the above.

    Discounted upgrade pricing is available for users of previous versions.

    Photoshop, which is a single CS4 application, costs $700 for its standard version and $1,000 for its extended release. So suite pricing is a less expensive way of buying multiple Adobe applications. (Photoshop’s extended release includes tools aimed at medical and scientific professionals and animators and is bundled with the various premium and master CS4 versions.)

    None of these are aimed at typical home or office users, but some combination of Adobe’s tools are used by nearly all graphics and design professionals, whether producing work for print, film or online publication. In the previous CS3 version, Adobe focused on integrating Flash and Dreamweaver – web design tools bought from competitor Macromedia with the rest of the suite. This time around, along with interface improvements, the biggest changes are aimed at making it easier for designers to work with multimedia-rich content, moving it seamlessly between multiple Adobe applications.

    While editing a video clip in premiere pro, a user could touch up a frame in Photoshop, tweak the audio in Soundbooth, all without having to save the file, quit one application, open it in another application, save, quit, etcetera, etcetera. Doing this, however, means multiple resource-hungry applications are all running at the same time. Graphics professionals upgrading to CS4 will not be happy working on older hardware.

    CS4 and most of its components are available for Windows and Mac. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows are supported – 64-bit Windows better supports the huge amounts of memory needed for good performance when working with multiple CS4 applications. Mac users are left behind, with only less-powerful 32-bit support; Adobe promises Mac 64-bit support with its next generation.

    Photoshop gains interface improvements with support for multiple tabs, new keyboard commands and other streamlining. The extended edition sports new 3-D and animation abilities, though only users with high-end graphics hardware will be able to make much use of them. Flash users also gain increased control over animations.

    Designers creating content aimed at mobile users can use device central to test their content on a range of virtual phone models. Web design tool Dreamweaver gets the biggest interface changes, becoming more Photoshop-like.

    CS4’s pricing, power and complexity are far above what most of us need. Even graphics professionals – if they spend most of their Adobe-time with Photoshop – may find themselves waiting for the next version, especially if they’re not prepared to buy new hardware to accompany this version.

    Designers creating rich online content, however – especially if mobile platforms are among their targets – will be wanting to keep their Adobe Creative Suite (and their hardware) up to date. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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