In this review, I took a look at the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium (also available in a Standard version), which is for users needing applications for professional web design, web application development, user interface design, presentations, mobile device content, and other digital content creation. Included in this Suite are the following:
Dreamweaver CS3, Flash CS3 Professionl, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Fireworks CS3, Acrobat 8 Professional, and Contribute CS3. 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.
Overall Enhancements and Design Applications
Even though this is the Web suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat are included to help in web graphics design and PDF development. Because these are design applications, however, we have covered them in our review of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium instead. In addition, we covered the overall suite enhancements in that review.
CS3 spells the demise of GoLive, but that's no surprise since Dreamweaver was always the better application. A little surprising, however, is that Dreamweaver didn't get an interface makeover like the other apps in the suite. If you're used to working with Dreamweaver already, then this may be a good situation but things are becoming a bit bloated and a fresh new interface would be a nice change. There are three main reasons for upgrading to Dreamweaver CS3: application integration, full CSS support, and Ajax support via the Adobe Spry Framework.
If you're looking to standardize your site layout with CSS, there's no better app than Dreamweaver CS3. There is a now a huge library of fixed, elastic and liquid CSS layouts provided that will get you up and running quickly. There are thumbnail previews for easy access and each layout is complete with comments that will help you learn how to use CSS if you don't already know. There are new Cross-Browser Compatibility Check and CSS Advisor features that will cite warnings and errors if your code isn't standards compliant. My favorites, however, are the new CSS management features that allow easy movement of rules between documents and external files, easy conversion to/from internal/external, resolving CSS merge conflicts, and quick commenting.
Flash CS3 Professional
If this were a contest between apps, Flash would win the prize for being the most updated. First and foremost, you'll notice the new CS3 interface that makes Flash look and feel similar to Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. You'll also find the enhanced Pen tool that is now identical to the Illustrator Pen tool, as well as new Oval and Rectangle drawing primitives. Unfortunately, the Brush tool hasn't been updated and is in need of some enhancements, such as more size and stroke choices. Yes, these things can be done in other apps and then imported but that shouldn't be necessary.
Speaking of importing, integration is a big part of the Flash upgrade. Files from Photoshop and Illustrator can now be imported almost fully intact. By that I mean in the import dialog box you can choose the layers you want, create movies from layers, keep editable text or convert to vector/bitmaps. You can also name instances, and hierarchy, transparency, and blend modes are transferred intact. Even layer styles become Flash filter effects. There is also integration with Bridge and Version Cue.
Another significant change is the ActionScript 3 upgrade. The only downside here is the new language is different enough to warrant a learning curve, but the improvements are well worth it. Plus, a good book like Essential ActionScript 3.0 can easily get you up to speed. Some of the changes include improved XML handling, regular expression searching, sound visualization, and full-screen display but that's not even the half of it. Code editing is greatly improved with the ability to collapse selected code, quick commenting/uncommenting blocks of text, quick error double-clicking to move to the relevant code in the Actions panel or Script window, and there is a brand new debugger.
My favorite ActionScript features, however, are the ability to copy motion as code and the new set of components. By selecting the frames of a motion tween you can use the Copy Motion as ActionScript command to paste the code into the Actions panel at a new frame on the timeline and then customize the tween via the code. The new components are similar to the previous version but are much easier to customize. Simply double-click a component to reveal a number of editable attributes. The only downside here is that the components are only supported in ActionScript 3, so even though ActionScript 2 is still supported, you'll probably want to move to version 3 as soon as possible to take advantage of the new features.
As with GoLive and Freehand, ImageReady has been removed from service and the app to replace it is Fireworks, which has been retooled as the go-to app for the second stage of your web site and application designs. More than likely, you'll start by prototyping in Photoshop or Illustrator, and now with the new integration features, you can easily move to Fireworks. Simply open the Photoshop or Illustrator file in Fireworks with layers, layer names, grouped layers, blending modes, and transparency preserved. You can even apply layer styles in Fireworks and have them available in Photoshop. There's also integration with Flash (import or copy/paste with layers, frames, and elements intact), Dreamweaver (copy/paste objects and code with a link to the original content for future editing), as well as Flex and Bridge.
The new Common Library for Rich Symbols makes life a lot easier when you're trying to maintain a consistent look among all pages in a site, especially if you are working with a team of developers. But most wonderful of all is the new support for multiple pages. Gone is the need to use frames as a hack. Now you can have multiple pages in a single PNG file with each page having its own canvas document, size, color, layers, frames, image resolution, and guides. Not only that, but you can share layers across pages making it much easier to deal with navigation bars, etc.
Rounding out the package is Contribute CS3, which now allows you to easily integrate content from Microsoft Word, Excel, or Outlook. There is also support for Dreamweaver templates and administration features. You can insert images, movies, SWF and FLV files, PDF documents, and HTML snippets. Also nice are the new blog writing features. You can access your Blogger account directly from within Contribute to write and edit new blog posts, as well as add categories, keywords and trackbacks to blog entries.
A Complete Web Development Package
There are a number of web development packages on the market, but they usually excel in one aspect and are lacking in the others. It has been difficult in the past to find a truly professional package, but with Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia and their subsequent release of CS3 that search is over. Not only is the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium a professional package, it provides a well-integrated set of tools that covers every aspect of the web development process.