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January
2004

How Suite it is: Adobe Creative Suite

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Mac

Last month I discussed Adobe Photoshop CS, the latest version of Adobe’s indispensable photo-editing program. I also noted that Photoshop CS is available as part of the Adobe Creative Suite. The two varieties, Standard and Premium Editions, add a great assortment of tools and are worth considering when thinking about upgrading.

The Standard Edition of the Adobe Creative Suite consists of Photoshop CS, ImageReady CS, InDesign CS, Illustrator CS and Version Cue. The Premium Edition adds GoLive CS and Acrobat 6.0 Professional. There is a single installer for the entire package (Fig 1) unlike Adobe’s previous collections; and there is a greater regard for the reality that users need to move fluidly from one program to another on each project. These applications represent the cream of the crop in today’s graphics industry and it is unfortunate that Adobe chose not to include actual printed manuals with the Suite. Manuals do come with the versions of the programs when they are purchased separately, however there is complete documentation on the CDs in PDF format along with a CD of video training and two containing extra content and resource files. Printed manuals can be purchased at an additional cost from Adobe. Photoshop and ImageReady were discussed at length last month so let’s take a look at the Creative Suite’s other components.

Fig. 1

After a long struggle for notice in the page layout field, Adobe InDesign is finally getting its props. A great alternative to QuarkXpress, Adobe PageMaker or Microsoft Publisher; InDesign CS (or version 3 in non-marketing speak) adds some excellent features. The workspace is now organized more effectively, with a new Control palette (Fig 2) for editing common attributes of any object on the page. This palette hangs out at the top of the screen similarly to Photoshop’s Options bar, and it is implemented much like the Measurement palette in QuarkXpress. There is also a new separations preview to allow you to see how the document will output at a service bureau or commercial printer.

Fig. 2

Simple things in InDesign CS have been improved. Things like double-clicking a text box automatically switches to the Text tool. Or the new Story Editor that lets you edit text like you were in a word processor, a feature that was almost indispensable in PageMaker. Styles can now be nested to let you create more complex text formatting, like having a custom drop cap at the beginning of each paragraph. These are the kind of enhancements that can add up to actual time saved every day.

Fig. 3

Adobe Illustrator is a vector illustration program and it is used to create everything from signage to logos to illustrations for print, the Web and other media as well. Illustrator CS (that would be 11) adds a very cool 3D tool (Fig 3) to extrude, rotate, revolve or bevel an object or some type. You can customize the lighting and these objects remain live and you can even edit text after it has been thusly transformed. This effect is simple to use, but very powerful and responsive. Graphics can even be mapped to the face of an object.

Illustrator CS features improved type controls and a greatly enhanced PDF creation ability. There is now tighter integration with Microsoft Office allowing easy export Word or PowerPoint with better display and printing. In general, the program feels much faster and more efficient than Illustrator 10.

Version Cue is a completely new program that, unlike the other members of the Creative Suite, is not available separately. Version Cue is simply an integrated file management system for individuals or work groups. Open and Save dialogs can use Version Cue to search for component parts of a project without the user having to know exactly which file server or hard drive contains the actual files. Versioning and comment information is saved with the files, and users are automatically warned when opening a file that is being edited by another member of the group. Version Cue looks like a great way to help those right-brained creative types keep track of their files and projects. 

Adobe GoLive CS (aka version 7) is a graphical web-authoring program. GoLive now has a look that is more consistent with other Adobe programs, although the interface is customizable if you were happy with the way it worked in previous versions. GoLive can place native Photoshop, Illustrator and PDF files into a web page. This brings up the Save for Web dialog box to generate a linked JPG or GIF. If the native source file is changed, the web file will be updated automatically. GoLive now comes with a variety of professionally designed templates to facilitate the process of building pages. 

Acrobat 6.0 Professional increases the utility of Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format) creation tool. PDFs can be easily created from Microsoft Office, and for Windows users from AutoCAD, Microsoft Project, Visio and Internet Explorer. You can build PDF forms, create layered PDFs and include comments for easy client reviews. 

More than ever, the individual applications share as common an interface as possible. Tools, menus and even concepts are largely the same from program to program. Keyboard shortcuts are customizable throughout. Core Adobe technologies are also shared including the Adobe Color Engine and the display system leading to greater consistency when moving between applications. Adobe’s PDF workflow is implemented throughout the Suite, with greater control over PDFs and preflighting of PDF files to catch problems before they snowball. 

Adobe Creative Suite Standard Edition (Photoshop, ImageReady. Illustrator, InDesign and Version Cue) retails for $999, with upgrades available for $549. The Premium Edition (the aforementioned apps plus GoLive and Acrobat 6.0 Professional) lists for $1,229 ($749 upgrade). 

To run the Creative Suite you will need Windows 2000 SP3, Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.2.4 or higher with 192 MB RAM (Adobe recommends at least 256MB) to run any one component. You will want additional RAM to run multiple components at the same time and an extra 128MB to run Version Cue. The Suite will want 2GB of free disk space (1.4GB for the Standard Edition), and if you are a Windows user you’ll need an Internet connection for product activation. You can get all the dirt and all the hype on Adobe’s web site (www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite).

If you are looking at upgrading one of these applications, you really should consider the Creative Suite. These programs work well together and compliment each other nicely.

Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. The Creative Suite is sweet indeed. If you would like to see the Graphics Guy address a specific topic email Paul Vaughn at paulv@mac.com.

 

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