When Adobe Systems released Creative Suite 4 in 2008, many designers declined to move up to the new version for a variety of reasons, including a lousy economy and a perception that the new features did not warrant the steep upgrade cost. With the just-released Creative Suite 5, Adobe is hoping that a host of new features will be enough for these holdouts to make the leap. Although CS4 customers will find much to like here, the combination of CS5’s new features with those introduced in the previous version should make this an especially compelling upgrade for designers currently using CS3 or earlier releases.
CS5 includes new versions of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and Adobe’s other applications for creative professionals. It also adds a new program called Flash Catalyst that enables designers to create interactive Flash presentations without knowledge of the ActionScript programming language. Also new is a group of online applications collectively known as “CS Live” that are integrated with these programs. However, Adobe has discontinued Version Cue, a server-based asset-management system introduced with CS3, though Adobe Bridge remains as a standalone program for managing photos and other digital assets on each user’s computer.
As with previous Creative Suite releases, the programs are available separately or in a variety of bundled packages, including Design Premium, Web Premium and Master Collection. Design Premium includes new versions of Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, InDesign Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst, Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Web Premium includes the same programs except for InDesign, and adds Flash Builder—a Flash programming tool previously known as Flex Builder—and Contribute, which lets designers create websites that can be updated by other users. You can also opt for Design Standard, which includes the standard version of Photoshop along with InDesign and Illustrator. All of the packages also include Acrobat 9 Professional.
What follows are my impressions of these programs based largely on beta versions made available to reviewers beginning in late January. Because they were beta versions, I was not able to address issues related to performance and stability. However, as my deadline approached, I was also able to get a quick look at a “golden master” essentially identical to the shipping version that became available on April 30.
Are these “must have” applications? The answer will vary from one designer to another, and will have much to do with your specific workflow and which features you use most frequently. Aside from the new Flash Catalyst, these are mature programs, and designers have generally managed to work effectively with earlier versions. As I’ve written before, it all boils down to productivity—whether the cost of upgrading is worth the time and effort you’ll save.
It won’t be cheap. For example, upgrading to CS5 Design Premium or Web Premium costs $799 for users of the equivalent CS3 package and $599 for those with CS4 Design Premium or Web Premium (see Adobe.com for other upgrade options). And to take full advantage of the new features in Photoshop, you may have to upgrade your hardware as well. Nonetheless, the answer for many designers will be “yes,” especially if you’re still using CS3. But you don’t have to take my word for it—trial versions for all CS5 applications are available from Adobe.com, so you can decide for yourself.
Read more about the individual CS5 programs and get links to tutorials, demos and other resources
Stephen Beale has been writing about computer technology since before many current Adobe employees were born. His first computer was an Osborne 1 powered by steam turbines and illuminated by gaslight, though his memory is somewhat hazy on this point. He’s the author of seven books on computer applications in the graphic arts and a former news and reviews editor for Macworld. He’s currently editor of a website for public relations professionals in health and medicine. For more information, see his website.
Adobe Evangelists, including Russell Brown, will be on hand during the HOW Design Conference, June 6–9 in Denver, to demonstrate the new Creative Suite 5 tools.
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