Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 does it again! Michelle’s Review.

Adobe Creative Suite 3 ReviewEvery spring time is like Christmas for Graphic designers as that’s when Adobe rolls out a new crop of its leading edge tools that takes Web and Video Development to new heights. First out of the gate this spring are their web design tools. Industry standards like Flash, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Acrobat, InDesign, and Contribute have all received upgrades this summer. Instead of pushing these tools as separate applications, they are bundled into conzillion different bundle packages (I think 6 different variations). 

 

As a developer or designer you only want to focus on two different bundles – Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium and Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium. Both bundles include all new versions of DreamWeaver, Flash, Adobe Bridge, Acrobat, and Photoshop. The material differences between the two packages are minor and major at the same time. For instance the Web Design bundle includes Adobe’s little content management application – Contribute which allows you to setup a web publishing system on your website, and Fireworks, while Design Premium includes InDesign.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the new bundles is how compact and lightweight the packaging is. Adobe has always used over large, heavy boxes that contained 300 page manuals for all their applications. This time around they have a slim sexy package that puts all the manuals in a nice electronic format. The installation routine this time around is the same as before but ran a little faster and didn’t involve as many disk swaps. Everything just felt more solid.

As for the applications themselves it’s real hard to do a review of these packages without delving into a 3,000 word missive, last year I focused on Adobe’s improved and streamlined production process, that has remained largely untouched. It feels better optimized and less buggy than last year’s incarnation. I can now create a Fireworks image, open the layers in Flash and add some actions to it, then import the creation into DreamWeaver as a flash movie file without my system stuttering.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find Adobe to be getting more intuitive as it grows up. I don’t think the menu bars have changed all that much between versions. After working with Adobe’s products for several years now, the learning curve no longer intimidates me. But for those who haven’t used it in the past, it’s still not for the faint of hearted. Adobe’s included video tutorials go a long way towards gently getting you acclimated to its way of doing things.

Some of the top new features in Creative Suite Design Premium is the tighter integration between Flash, Photoshop and InDesign. You can import layers into Photoshop or Transparency and other Photoshop effects into InDesign with the click of a button. There are nifty little things like the ability to place multiple images into a design document with the click of a single button. Compositing support has been greatly enhanced with more easy to use filters to make cleaning up images a snap. In the past I’ve always had a hard time trying to wrap my brain around the intricacies of Photoshop, it’s a little more logical now with the improvements made to some of it’s built in filters.

DreamWeaver can’t get much better than it already is, so this year Adobe just tinkers a bit with it, by adding support for Ajax, the new it thing for Developing web 2.0 applications. You know all those things like dynamic forms, the ability to drag drop elements on websites? All that’s done with Ajax and the new DW CS3 goes a long way towards making all of this a snap with their built in components and “Spry Widgets.” These widgets will let you add dynamically generated forms to any web application and have you go from Web 1.0 to 3.0 in no time at all, with hardly any coding knowledge.

 

Adobe Creative Suite Review - Contribute

One little known product that Adobe has, that has been intriguing to me is Adobe Contribute. This is a web server based application that serves as a light weight content management application. You can assign rights to your editors so that they can update your site’s content. The nice thing about Contribute is its tight integration with DreamWeaver. You can use Contribute to update your blogs, web pages, just about any type of site content. The drawback is its license. It’s a per use license that costs $100 each. So while the software is reasonably priced, if you are a small publisher with say ten editors it would cost you $1,000 to use, not cool. But then a real CMS system can cost you anywhere from $10,000 to a million.

As for this year’s Flash Installment, I have to say that I’ve never been a particular fan of the program. It’s overly complicated, I could never wrap my brain around its interface, and frankly I hate flash based websites. With all of those disclaimers out of the way, I will say that I really do like some of the new enhancements made to the User Interface (not enough improvements to make it easier) and the improvements to how Flash handles Video Editing are very cool. I can’t wait to see how this gets integrated with Premiere and After Effects when Adobe releases their Production bundle.

At the end of the day, while I really love the two new installments of Adobe’s Creative Suite and all of the new features, I have to ask is it worth $1,500 to $1,900 (Full version pricing, upgrade pricing is a lot cheaper) for this software? The answer is – Adobe has become like Microsoft and are a victim of their own success.

Their tools are industry standards for a reason, they are best of breed and class in each of their markets. They can no longer wow us with these bundles. This year’s updates aren’t really worth the hassle of an upgrade. If you don’t have a copy of Creative Suite Web or Design Premium and you call yourself a developer or designer? Then you are crazy, run out and pick this up for your Windows PC and did I mention, another new feature – Adobe CS is now available natively for Intel Based Macs.

Overall, I love this package, just wish it had more new meat to it.

Final Grade A-

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 06/

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