Creative Suite 5 full review

Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 is expected to be on the shelves by the end of May, featuring revamped versions of its leading art, design, video and animation tools – Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, Encore, OnLocation, Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Fireworks and Contribute – plus two new web-design applications, Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. Components such as Bridge, Device Central and Dynamic Link, have also received a boost.

Behind the scenes there are some seriously ramped-up components – such as 64-bit After Effects and Premiere Pro to make animating and editing faster than ever – and at last 64-bit Photoshop for Mac (Windows got 64-bit in CS4).

With each new version, Adobe tweaks Creative Suite’s interface to make the applications work more smoothly, both on their own and together. In version 5, these include a new Mini Bridge – a slimmed-down version of Bridge that works within Photoshop CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, and InDesign CS5, providing image access and management. There are also new tools to improve your art (such as Photoshop CS5’s new 3D extrusion tool Repoussé), and useful productivity aids (such as InDesign’s Gap tool) that make using the suite that bit smoother.

As before, you can buy most applications individually, as a bundle (Web, Production, and Design bundles), or as a Master Collection, featuring everything.

Also available, through a subscription plan, is CS Live, a suite of productivity services that includes Adobe Story, Adobe BrowserLab,, CS Review and SiteCatalyst NetAverages.

Design Premium
Photoshop seems to introduce a ‘wow’ feature with each version. This time round there’s more than one. Digital artists are well served with the Mixer brush, a new paint system with a ‘wet canvas’ method for picking up multiple colours on a single tip, and mixing and blending them with the underlying hues on the canvas. The Content-Aware Fill tool removes elements from an image, magically filling the space with matching lighting, tone, and noise. The Refine Radius tool makes creating accurate selections of intricate elements such as hair more achievable.

More than ever, Photoshop is a tool for digital photographers. The Lens Correction filter provides quick camera- and lens-specific correction for three common lens-related aberrations: geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting.

For 3D workflows, there’s the Adobe Ray Tracer (ART) 2.0. This progressively renders 3D scenes with an option to re-render after a pause, or perform selective renderings.

Another significant feature is Repoussé, which lets you quickly extrude text to create logos and 3D artwork. Once a model is created, you can use new tools to easily load a material and drop it into different meshes. Also new, the Shadow Catcher lets you easily generate and adjust a shadow on the ground plane of a scene.

For further realism, you can use an HDR image to light your scene, or create depth-of-field effects by adjusting the zone of sharpness with the new Distance and Blur controls.

True perspective comes to Illustrator CS5 with the Perspective Grid tool, which allows you to use a grid that supports drawing directly in accurate linear perspectives. You can also create objects in flat space and then apply them to a perspective plane, automatically transforming them into the correct shape.

Illustrator users also now have the Bristle Brush, offering vector painting that resembles natural brush strokes. Painting control is substantial: you can blend colours and set bristle characteristics such as size, length, thickness, and stiffness or set brush shape and bristle density. You can also finely control stroke width, dashes, arrowheads, and how brushes stretch along a path.

Meanwhile, better corner handling makes stroke shapes behave predictably in tight angles or around sharp points. There’s also Draw Inside, which offers instant masking, and the Shape Builder tool, which lets you merge objects, break overlapping shapes into distinct objects, and more.

To prepare graphics for the web, Illustrator offers a new Align to Pixel Grid option, anti-aliasing character options and nine-slice scaling, enabling you to resize symbols while maintaining proportions.

Illustrator CS4 introduced multiple artboards; in CS5 you can work on 100 artboards of varying sizes in a document. There’s also now an Artboards panel, where you can add, delete, and duplicate boards with panel controls or keyboard shortcuts.

Of all the new Creative Suite applications, InDesign has seen the greatest efficiency boosts, with a raft of apparently small but incredibly handy little additions that solve bumps in the page-layout process.

So, for example, the Selection tool now allows you to quickly rotate frames, and position and scale frame content such as images using on-screen handles.

Persistent frame fitting maintains the relationship between images and their frames, even when the frame dimensions and white space change. New controls make it simple to change the look and feel of a frame as you go, for example dragging a corner of a frame to directly affect its radius and shape.

There’s new support for different page sizes in a single document; InDesign also now automatically installs packaged fonts when you open a packaged document.

The useful Span Columns paragraph attribute means that you can have a headline or crosshead span two columns; Split Columns does as the name suggests. The new Gap tool, unsurprisingly, allows you to refine a grid by simultaneously adjusting the gap between multiple image boxes.

Creating interactive documents is easier than ever before in InDesign CS5, as Adobe has tidied its controls into the new Animation, Object States, Timing, Media and Preview panels.

Web Premium
The centrepiece of the Web Premium collection, Dreamweaver CS5 integrates with Adobe BrowserLab, one of the new CS Live online services, which provides a preview of web pages and local content with multiple viewing and comparison tools. Also new for CS5, CSS Inspect displays CSS properties when designing web pages. This lets you quickly locate and modify a CSS-based element, including padding, border, and margin, then select the element in Live View to view its corresponding CSS rules and properties in the CSS Styles pane.

Dreamweaver now offers authoring and testing support for designers working with content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. The Dynamically Related Files feature provides direct access to a page’s dependent files, while Live View renders the page as it will appear in your browsers, complete with dynamic, database-driven content and server- and client-side logic. Meanwhile, enhanced Live Code highlights changes as they happen, allowing you to quickly locate the dynamically loaded data or code changes triggered by JavaScript.

Flash CS5 Professional gains the ability to output a project – such as a game – as an iPhone app or for other mobile devices. This could have been a major feature helping creatives take their first steps in app design, but Apple has banned its use.

Flash also takes a leaf from Adobe’s typographical tools by offering the Text Layout Framework, which adds kerning, ligatures, tracking, leading, threaded text blocks, and multiple columns. The new text engine maintains layout and text formatting with greater fidelity when importing content from InDesign and other Adobe products.

Improvements to ActionScript editing and the ability to work with Code Snippets make coding for Flash far easier. The improved ActionScript editor includes custom class code hinting and code completion to help you learn the fundamentals of the ActionScript language. And the new ability to automatically write import statements means Flash will let more advanced users quickly reference their own code or external code libraries.

The Code Snippets panel is another productivity booster, which lets you inject prebuilt code into projects and free up more time for creativity. In addition, Flash Professional CS5 can now take full advantage of XFL, an XML-based implementation of the FLA file format.

Animation hasn’t been forgotten, either – using the new Spring option for the Bones tool, you can design more realistic-looking motion for jointed, flexible objects.

Fireworks CS5 continues to develop as a web and interactive workflow tool; many of the bugs that saw the CS4 version slammed by users have mercifully been ironed out. Integration between Fireworks and Device Central means you can begin a Fireworks project using the exact specifications of a target mobile device, and then preview it in Device Central. The support for scaling images has been enhanced by the ability to resize objects proportionally using the Properties panel. New vector strokes options offer faster alignments to the inside, centre, or outside of an object’s path, while the Edit Stroke dialog box in the Properties panel makes working with custom strokes much faster and more convenient. Furthermore, the new Compound Shape tools allow you to group vector shapes temporarily as you draw them, so you can both move the objects as a group and edit individual objects one at a time. There are also new gradient features that allow you to quickly reverse gradient direction and to dither a gradient fill to smooth gradients to reduce banding.

Contribute now offers the ability to edit XML and Spry widgets natively, define XML and HTML pages as content types for templated workflows, and create and edit text, hotspot images, CSS, FLV and SWF files.

The Web Premium collection also includes Flash Builder 4 Standard to develop rich internet applications, and new tool Flash Catalyst CS5. Finally out of beta, this can transform static artwork into fully interactive content, as SWF or Adobe AIR, without writing code.

Web Premium also includes Adobe Media Encoder for converting video to FLV or F4V, as well as other utilities like Device Central and the Packager for iPhone for publishing to a range a mobile phones and consumer devices – although not now the iPhone.

Production Premium
Premiere Pro is the heart of the Production Premium suite. It now features an enhanced, native, 64-bit system architecture and the Mercury Playback Engine. This provides the ability to edit HD and higher-resolution footage in real time without having to first render it or lower its resolution by transcoding or rewrapping it with an intermediate codec.

Premiere Pro CS5 also includes exchange support for Final Cut Pro or Avid projects, native format support for Sony XDCAM HD 50, Panasonic AVCCAM, DPX, and AVC-Intra. Additionally, native support for RED R3D files has been enhanced, and native support for video shot with Canon, Nikon, and other DSLR cameras has been added. New support for tapeless cameras also extends the ways you can use OnLocation in your production workflows.

More than the other suites, Production Premium takes advantage of metadata, which is useful for Adobe Story, a new script development tool. This new CS Live online service automatically turns content in scripts into relevant metadata that can be used throughout the Adobe digital video workflow.

Story metadata can be imported into OnLocation so that while you’re recording footage directly to disk, OnLocation automatically captures all the important metadata coming from the camera. Comments you make in the OnLocation Shot List are also stored with each clip as metadata. Metadata then streamlines searching for clips while you edit in Premiere Pro.

Here you can quickly locate media assets and clips by filename, date, time, camera setting, shot location, or any information you’ve added to your asset or clip. Running Speech Search in Premiere Pro lets you transcribe spoken dialogue that gets converted into metadata, making locating a particular piece of footage simple. A new Face Detection feature also aids this process.

Metadata boosts Encore too, allowing you to turn DVD and Blu-ray projects into web DVDs that include a keyword-based search interface.

The 64-bit-enabled After Effects is much faster and can take advantage of all available RAM and processor cores to quickly craft complex 3D scenes and camera moves, work on large frames, preview long deeply layered composites, and batch-render results to a variety of output file formats. Editing and compositing are greatly improved by the introduction of the new Roto Brush. Another new effect, Refine Matte, takes advantage of the capabilities found in Roto Brush and can apply them to any layer with a problematic alpha channel, such as keyed footage. After Effects CS5 also offers an Auto-keyframe mode, where modifying a property automatically turns keyframing on and adds a keyframe at the current time.

As with Premiere Pro, the variety of formats that After Effects supports has been extended, while support for XMP metadata is another new arrival.

Those working in motion-graphics and animation will be pleased to see enhanced colour management and new custom Color Look-Up Table (LUT) support, which ensures colour consistency across multiple devices. After Effects CS5 also includes Mocha Shape, Color Finesse 3, and Digieffects FreeForm plug-ins.

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