Adobe CS4: How Suite It Is

SherimcleishBy Sheri McLeish

Adobe launched Creative Suite 4 today, which was billed as, "the most compelling release in Adobe’s history." But does the product live up to the hype? Absolutely. This release of CS4 solidifies Adobe's uniquely dominant position in the creative design tools world as the single greatest suite of tools and technology to enable the creation of print, web, and interactive content. With hundreds and hundreds of new features, this release will save your people time and effort to create high quality content, which in the big-budget creative field translates directly into money.

So what's so great about CS4 that 200,000 people showed up for a launch broadcast to learn? Well, for starters, this is the first release that has fully digested and integrated Macromedia's assets. CS3 combined Flash and Dreamweaver with Adobe's own suite of tools like Acrobat, PhotoShop, InDesign, and Illustrator, but this release polishes that integration. The suite comes with 13 point products and 14 technologies, with full-blown applications included like Air, which enables seamless online/offline experiences. It's also being delivered with hosted services like Acrobat Connect Now, so that designers can collaborate with clients who don't need anything installed to review prototypes and provide in-context editing.

As consumers expect more and more from their online and entertainment experiences as the gaming and film industries deliver more and more dazzling special effects, HD, and DVD quality, those creating content are pressured to keep pace and produce greater content quickly, and for a variety of mediums that are blurring. Adobe's focus on the three workflows of today's creative world – design, video, and the web – differentiates it from anything else out there. For video it means helping monetize replays and move to tape-less workflows with Production Premium. For interactive web designers trying to make content more "sticky," client reviews can be sped up with interactive PDFs that can be moved right into Flash, the ability to animate static images freehand, and scale and transform the path of an object without moving it. And for print and web designers, it means the ability to quickly place elements from multiple storyboards in Illustrator into other apps like InDesign or Flash, scale content in PhotoShop to fit on a cell phone, or define parameters for your printed documents so you can have live preflight and be alerted the moment you overset text. No more surprises at press check. Geek me!

But the biggest benefit of the new versions is the time saving aspects built into each product, to dramatically reduce rendering time and effort formerly needed to move objects and content between applications. In a brief PhotoShop demo, a 2GB photo was rotated round and round in what felt like real time. An object created in Illustrator was dropped into InDesign and then the whole layout into Flash, where animation was added instantly. This release is about productivity – going from 15 clicks to two, or two hours to two minutes, to accomplish the complex and often tedious steps involved in creating, editing, and finalizing creative content.

During the launch broadcast today, Tim May, senior designer for the Curiosity Group in Portland, which has clients like HP, Disney, Microsoft, and DreamWorks on its roster, probably summed it up best. He was given a copy of CS4 a few weeks before its launch to try out some of its new features. "The good news is that we love it," he said enthusiastically. "The bad news is that we're probably going to have to buy it for everyone on staff." If your designers and developers haven't come asking for CS4 yet, just wait, they will. Budget for it.