Business-like, isn't he?



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    Adobe hoping to establish its latest software bundle as the suite hereafter for publishers and designers

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver March 2-8, 2004 Issue 749, The High Tech Office

     If you were using computers a decade or so ago, you probably remember life before suites. Back then, each piece of software was sold on its own (and usually cost $495). Most business users learned to cope with Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and more: each had its own user interface and its own quirks.

     Along with moving business PCs from DOS to Windows, businesses also migrated their users to Microsoft's then-new Office suite: Word, Excel and Powerpoint all promising a reasonably standardized Windows interface and all for a price that was cheaper than buying two of the previous generation of stand-alone products. Microsoft Office has had a lock on this market ever since. Other companies have tried to copy this strategy with companies like Symantec and Network Associates bundling utilities, or Macromedia collecting Web design products.

     Graphics artists and designers however, have resisted the pull of one-stop software shopping. Whether working on Macs or PCs, most use Adobe's Photoshop for working with photos and own at least one other Adobe product but use Quark's Xpress for page layout. Adobe has found this frustrating. Its would-be Quark-killer InDesign goes beyond Xpress in a number of areas such as onscreen graphics display and ensuring that the printed output matches what was intended. But only a minority of Quark users have given InDesign much of a glance.

     Adobe hopes its new Creative Suite will change that, offering a comprehensive bundle of graphics and publishing software at a price that is a bargain for what's included. The standard version ($1,259) bundles new 'CS' versions of Adobe's Photoshop, the Illustrator drawing program, and InDesign. The premium version ($1,570) adds the Web page design software GoLive. Adobe Acrobat (not updated along with the rest of the set) and a new file manager, Version Cue. Owners of older copies of Photoshop (but not the others) qualify for upgrade pricing. The new applications can also be purchased separately.

     It's a beefy package requiring fairly modern, high-end hardware: only Windows 2000 or XP or Mac OS X systems need apply. The box asks for at least 128 MB of memory; don't believe it. Plan to give this package 512 MB or more. All the CS-branded applications have been updated to play better together, sharing common font and colour support to ensure more consistent results throughout, and all can use Adobe's PSD, AI and PDF file formats, simplifying sharing files between programs. Adobe has been moving its applications towards a common interface for several versions; even with this suite, it hasn't quite gotten there yet. Still, this suite moves several steps forward giving design professionals both improved functionality and affordability.

     The new Photoshop CS beefs up the visual file browser introduced in the previous version, making it much easier to find the right picture. It can now work with RAW photo images and with Acrobat PDF files. Text, shadow and highlight handling and colour matching are improved. Photoshop's step-sibling companion for handling Web images, ImageReady, however, remains disconnected from the main program.

     Adobe's Illustrator drawing program adds a new dimension, literally gaining the ability to create 3D images. GoLive won't win over many Web designers using Macromedia Dreamweaver, but it's a worthwhile addition to this package that will appeal to Web designers who are more graphics artists than software coders.

     InDesign adds a Quark-like control panel and a Story Editor to allow for easier text changes. Adobe is hoping that bundling it together with the newest Photoshop edition will get it onto current Quark users' desktops and that its integration with the other Adobe products will convince them to start to use it. We'll see whether this is enough to convince page designers to abandon their time-tested Quark-powered workflows. 


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