Since their acquisition of Macromedia, Adobe has been hard at work trying to integrate the newly obtained applications with their existing line of products. All that hard work has paid off with the release of Creative Suite 3. Adobeís CS3 is comprised of no less than six different suites of products, which are geared toward the various graphics and multimedia industries. In this review, I took a look at the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium (also available in a Standard version), which is for users needing applications for professional page layout, image editing, illustration, and more. Included in this Suite are the following: InDesign CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Flash CS3 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3, and Acrobat 8 Professional. Support applications include: Adobe Bridge CS3, Adobe Version Cue CS3, Adobe Device Central CS3, Adobe Stock Photos, and Adobe Connect. You also get Adobe Video Workshop with over 10 hours of training.
Common to all the suites is compatibility with the latest OS technologies. On the Windows side, all the applications are now compatible with both Windows XP and Vista with the exception of Acrobat, which has some known issues. You can, however, download an update to remedy those problems (as stated on the back of the CS3 box). Mac users will be extremely happy to know that CS3 is now provided as universal binaries and because of this there is a nice boost in performance.
Integration between the applications has been enhanced, and there has been an overhaul of the interface, which makes working with each application much easier because they share a similar look and feel. The most prominent change here is the positioning of palettes, which are now docked on the right side of the interface. The palettes can be minimized and also toggled with the Tab key for a quick and easy way to free up screen space. In addition, you can move your mouse to the edge of the window to make the palettes appear when needed.
Even though this is the Design suite, both Dreamweaver and Flash are included in case you need to develop and test your designs for the Web. Because these are Web applications, however, we have covered them in our review of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium instead.
Photoshop CS3 Extended
Most significant of the new features in Photoshop CS3 is non-destructive filtering. You can now convert an image layer into a Smart Object and then apply filters to that layer, which means your original image is not altered and you can experiment with different filters to your heartís desire. When you apply a filter to the Smart Object layer, the filter is listed beneath the layer in the Layers palette. You can selectively turn filters on/off, change filter settings, and even reposition filters in the list so that they are applied in a different order for different effects. To top it all off, you can use the layer mask to apply the filters to selected regions of the image. This one feature alone is worth the upgrade.
Another favorite feature of mine is the Quick Selection tool, which allows you to paint a selection on an image making it very easy to select odd shaped areas. You can then use the Refine Edge command to smooth out the edges. To make color adjustments easier, the new Black and White command lets you lower or raise the emphasis of a range of colors in an image. If you have a shaded area in a photo and want to make it a little brighter, simply click in the area and drag to the right. Photoshop automatically makes the adjustments.
The Extended connotation brings in additional features that anyone working in 3D or video will sure to love. Photoshop can now import standard 3D file formats and allow you to rotate and scale 3D objects. Most importantly, while creating texture maps you can now see how they will look on the objects as you work. For video, it looks as if Adobe has ported some of the After Effects features into Photoshop with the ability to do rotoscoping (painting on video frames) as well as animating layer characteristics by setting keyframes on a timeline.
Macromedia Freehand is no more, but users need not worry since Illustrator CS3 can import files from the last version. Macromedia Flash users will also be happy to hear that you can now copy/paste or import your Illustrator creations into Flash while keeping them completely editable. This means paths, layers, symbols, etc. all remain intact. Of course, thereís more to Illustrator CS3 than just integration. The new Erasor tool and Live Color features are among my favorites.
Donít confuse the Erasor tool with the Erase tool. The new Erasor tool acts just like the Erasor tool in Photoshop except you can now use it on your vector creations. Simply click and drag over an illustration to erase any part of it and Illustrator automatically creates new paths. Not only that, but it takes into account the pressure sensitivity of your tablet. This is how technology should workÖ behind the scenes allowing you to concentrate on making art.
The Live Color feature brings a bit of artificial intelligence to Illustrator. Actually a set of features, Live Color provides the Color Guide palette, which allows you to choose a color and then suggests a range of complimentary colors for you to work with. You can also choose the type and number of variations of colors that the Color Guide presents using the Harmony Rules menu. The Live Color window allows you to manipulate colors and apply them to objects. Use the color wheel in the window to see and choose the colors you are working with and determine how they are mapped onto objects.
To round things out Illustrator CS3 makes it easier to work with anchor points; there are a number of new document templates; Live Trace now allows you to ignore the boundary box during conversion; you can create swatch groups; and too many more small enhancements to mention here.
InDesign CS3 shares the new interface upgrade of the other applications in the suite, making it easier to move from one to the other. I also like the addition of the new page preview thumbnails in the Pages palette, which makes finding the correct page easier. Working with tables has also been much improved with the new Table Styles and Cell Styles palettes.
In terms of coolness, the new Effects palette takes the prize. Without having to create and import graphics from Photoshop, you can now apply effects directly to text and objects. These effects include: feathering, transparency, bevel, glow, emboss, and drop-shadow. They translate to the printed page very nicely and allow you to easily give your documents a whole new look.
Features I appreciate the most, however, are those that save me time. The enhanced Find/Change command is extremely powerful now providing four search modes that allow you to find and change practically any kind of object in a document. Want to change the color or stroke of a group of objects with the same characteristics globally? You can.
By far, the most useful new feature is Multi-File Placing. Complex layouts are now so much easier to deal with. Itís so simple in concept and execution that it makes you wonder why this feature wasnít introduced a long time ago. Basically, Multi-File Placing allows you to import multiple files into the Place cursor. As you work with the cursor, a preview is displayed alongside showing the current file to be placed. You can cycle through the files using the arrow keys, click to place a file and quickly move on to the next. This is a huge timesaver and easily justifies an upgrade to CS3.
Acrobat 8 Professional
The final version of Acrobat 8 was actually released before CS3 so itís not entirely new for the suite but itís still the best solution for working with the PDF format. It has a new interface and provides many sophisticated features not found in other PDF applications.
The best new timesaving feature is being able to combine multiple PDF files into a single file including an embedded index. There are no more external index files to deal with. Everything is included in one file making it easier to transfer and easier to keep your work organized, etc.
Powerful Tools for Design
Just about everyone on the planet knows the name AdobeÖ at least everyone in the graphic design and multimedia business. Adobe provides the most powerful multimedia applications on the market especially now with their acquisition of Macromedia. Of course, that power comes with a hefty price. But Adobe applications are serious tools, for serious people doing professional work and these tools are worth every penny. If youíre serious about design, then the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium has all the tools you need for all your creative endeavors.