On 4th April 2005, at 12pm precisely, The Technofile delivered a world exclusive preview of Adobe’s Creative Suite 2, based upon very late official beta software. Since then the code’s gone gold master, the product’s shipped and the verdict’s in…and it’s a good one…in fact the best, because not only does CS2 deliver some excellent new functionality; thanks to Adobe’s vision of a ‘unified design environment’…which is not just a sound bite…but also a sound byte…CS2 offers far tighter integration of its constituent parts than ever before.
With the exception of GoLive CS2, which Adobe admit still needs some work, most of the applications in CS2 now share a common interface. There are also new and improved suite wide tools that help to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts including Adobe’s visual file browser, ‘Bridge’, which provides an excellent means of searching for, filtering, classifying and visually previewing files, metadata and keywords, that makes Windows Explorer and the finder, a thing of the past. Much more than just a classy browser, it also provides a very effective means of colour synchronization between Photoshop, Illustrator and In Design (but not GoLive) and has built into it ‘Adobe Stock Photos’ which allows you to simultaneously search (via the net) several major stock photography libraries for royalty free images which can then be download straight into your documents as low-res comps (that preserve links to the original image for later purchase) or downloaded and purchased as single/multiple high res files from single/multiple sources, in one transaction.
There’s also ‘Version Cue CS2’, which can be used in conjunction with Bridge and provides a means of managing and sharing both Adobe and non Adobe project files, accessing historical files and ‘alternates’ and initiating PDF reviews.
On the Photoshop front, there are two massive pieces of news. First up, the big ‘P’ now offers the ability to simultaneously process multiple images…in Camera Raw. This is a monumental timesaver as you can now visually preview, select, adjust and batch process as much or as little of a shoot as you want. Simply tweak a parameter and all of the selected images will change accordingly. Studio photographers in particular will love this functionality, which can be used both creatively and for technical corrections.
Second up, the big ‘P’ now works natively with 16 bit images, meaning you can extract every last ounce of image data from of your high end scans. There’s even limited support for 32 bit images…which is wicked for anyone working with 3D SFX and compositing…talking of which, the new ‘merge to HDR’ function addresses the poor latitude of digital cameras by automatically compositing a number of pics of the same scene, shot at different exposures, into one ‘High Dynamic Range Image’. The function works extremely well and offers a useful interim solution until digital catches up with film…and conversely (or perhaps convexly) until the laws of physics catch up with the laws of computer image manipulation, the new optical lens correction tool does a good job of dealing with barrel and pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. Also, on the image correction front…for ‘photographers’ who don’t know how to focus a camera…i.e. anyone with a degree in photography from Westminster University…Photoshop’s new filters include ‘Smart Sharpen’ which does an equally good job of correcting motion, lens and Gaussian blur.
Other useful new tools include a spot healing brush, a shadow/highlight adjustment tool (both of which works on both RGB and CMYK images), one click red-eye removal, ‘Image Warp’ which wraps images around 3D objects and a new animation palette for creating animated GIFs. But the killer tool has to be ‘Vanishing Point’, which allows you to clone areas of your image then move them around…in perspective! The results are as dramatic as the function is straightforward to use.
Illustrator also offers two key new features, ‘Live Trace’ and ‘Live Paint’. The former lets you, at the touch of a button, convert bitmaps into scalable vector artwork with editable paths and anchor points. Though this may sound like the tracing tool in Macromedia’s Flash…it’s above and beyond, offering 13 tracing options optimized for different types of raster art including comic art, hand drawn sketches, photographs, technical drawings, black and white logos and type…as well as the facility to create your own…and comprehensive control of colours in the traced artwork, which can be based on the original’s or specified using a library swatch.
Meanwhile, ‘Live Paint’, brings ‘Flash’ like simplicity to paint fills, allowing you to paint artwork quickly and intuitively based upon how it appears on the screen (rather than how it was constructed and layered. It works by introducing two new illustrator objects ‘regions’ and edges’, which are similar to Illustrator fills and strokes…except they exist on a single layer…and where shapes intersect, new paintable regions are automatically created, giving WYSIWIG colourability.
Combine these two functions and not only do you decimate Flash’s tracing tool, but you are also able to easily achieve…in minutes…what would previously have taken hours…and much frustration.
Until relatively recently, many people loved the idea of InDesign, but were forced to use Quark. Over the last couple of years though, that’s been changing, with major publishing companies adopting the Adobe package and it’s latest incarnation, both as a stand alone program and particularly as a very tightly integrated part of this suite, must be close to sealing the Q’s fate, as InDesign offers the sort of 21st century functionality of which Quark aficionados can only dream.
Photoshop and Acrobat users (half the planet) will love InDesign’s newfound ability to control the visibility of layers in imported Photoshop and PDF documents. MS Word users (the other half of the planet) will love the significantly enhanced Microsoft Word import filter which offers extensive control over how much formatting to strip out or preserve, the facility to save import settings as word import presets, support for footnotes MS Word and the fact that, once placed, footnotes will dynamically resize if you change column dimensions…I know I do.
I also love the way InDesign lets me reuse formatting as easily as I’m reusing text from my CS2 preview in this review… Simply name any object to which you have applied formatting and it becomes an ‘Object Style’ that can be applied to any other object. Make changes to your object style and its ‘children’ are automatically updated. If that’s not style enough then you can selectively import paragraph, character and object styles from other documents. Even cooler is the ‘Apply Next Style’ option which allows you to apply a cascading succession of styles to text, so that, for example, a headline style can beget a by-line for its next style, which, in turn begets a body text style, which then specifies ‘same style’ for its begetted style et voila…just add words for an instant publication.
I did…in fact I used it to design some proposals for shows that MTV had invited me to pitch to them, seamlessly importing text from MS Word and images from Photoshop, quickly and…to my surprise for an application I’m new to and hadn’t bothered to read any manuals for…intuitively…laying them out, then I used the new global PDF export that allows consistent creation of Adobe PDFs from all of the suite’s component apps, exporting the finished product as a PDF. Clearly either InDesign is very easy to use, or I’m a genius…probably both…
Because In Design allows you to output files directly as PDFs, I didn’t need to use Acrobat Professional 7.0 for this task. Nevertheless, a full copy is included and it really couldn’t be simpler to use. In just a few clicks, you can import single or multiple files and turn them into the gold standard for document management, in the process adding or removing URLs, comments, drawings and more.
Rounding off the suite is Adobe’s web authoring app GoLive. Good as it is, it’s no Dreamweaver…and now that Adobe has bought Macromedia, I’d be very surprised if somewhere down the line they didn’t replace the G with the D. That said, GoLive has one big advantage over Dreamweaver, namely its level of integration into this suite. Since most serious web designers use Photoshop and the majority also use Illustrator, GoLive’s ability to work seamlessly with these apps…not to mention it’s ability to repurpose InDesign content (and vice versa) will be an attractive proposition to many.
In conclusion, a raft of killer new functions combined with numerous minor tweaks and a unified design environment built solidly around ‘Bridge’, makes Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium a must have! Add to this the fact that the entire suite costs only slightly more than the combined cost of Photoshop and Illustrator if bought as individual applications and not only is it a must have, but seriously good value for money.
Late breaking news: As I was preparing to…go live…with this review, news came in that Adobe had completed its acquisition of Macromedia. This means that as of now, you have the option to buy CS2 Premium as described above, or as part of two new bundles. First up is The ‘Design Bundle’, which adds Flash Professional into the mix. Next up is The ‘Web Bundle’, which includes Macromedia’s awesome Studio 8 suite (Dreamweaver 8, Fireworks 8, Flash Professional 8, Contribute 3 and Flash Paper 2). Although it’s too early for there to be any integration between the Adobe and Macromedia suites and there is considerable overlap between some of the functionality of CS2 and Studio 8, the combination of the two offers a complete solution for web, print, design and image creation/manipulation. Stroll on CS3!
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