Creative Suite 4 full review

Dreamweaver CS4 remains the dominant web design tool in the Creative Suite, after Adobe ended development of GoLive earlier this year. Like Photoshop and Illustrator, the interface has been revamped, with a tool to switch between workspaces. Preset workspaces include options for coders, application developers, dual-screen users, and designers, and you can switch back to pre-CS4 legacy mode. Spring-loaded panels are also a common feature of CS4. In Dreamweaver, these expand with a single click for quick access, and then collapse when no longer needed.

The changes are more than cosmetic. Web 2.0 sites, with pages that use Ajax frameworks to provide advanced functionality, can be authored more accurately with Dreamweaver’s Live View. This renders the current web page in real-world browser conditions, allowing you to interact with it as with a standard browser, thanks to the use of the WebKit HTML rendering engine. A related feature, Live Code, displays the source code generated by the browser as your pointer moves about the page.

The Related Files bar is a new row of filenames under the Document tab, which displays the Source HTML, as well as any included or linked files for quick access. The Code Navigator window is another access tool, used to display linked code sources related to what you select before activation. If you command-alt-click a page footer, the full range of CSS rules that define the footer’s presentation are displayed in cascading order.

The Properties panel displays text in both HTML and CSS modes, allowing you to work solely in CSS mode to apply formatting controls and rules and use HTML mode to set common properties like format, class, and link. In addition, the new HTML Data Sets feature can quickly integrate external data through a wizard and provide real-time previews of the resulting dynamic table or Ajax page.

CS4 integration in Dreamweaver is evident in the facility to insert a Photoshop PSD file into a Dreamweaver CS4 page to create a Smart Object image. An indicator on a Dreamweaver Smart Object shows when the source and instance are in sync, or if you need to update after changes have been made to either file. The Update from Original button in the Properties panel can then immediately update your image without opening Photoshop.

Flash CS4 has been completely re-engineered in terms of both its animation model and look and feel. It now displays the refined interface of its CS4 stablemates, including the workspace switcher. A new extended Flash file format (XFL) has been created that will make it possible for greater integration with content exported from InDesign and After Effects, or third-party applications. Still on the integration front, Adobe Media Encoder is now part of Flash CS4, able to incorporate an extensive range of video formats, including high-quality, low-bandwidth H.264 video content into your designs. Furthermore, AIR integration means you can publish Flash content directly to the desktop.

New tools include the Bones tool for applying Inverse Kinematics to symbol animation and the Deco Tool for procedural modelling. It’s now simpler to implement 3D effects using the 3D Rotation tool to spin and twirl your art within a 3D space, or the 3D Translation tool, which provides visually intuitive x-, y-, and z-axis object manipulation.

Animation in Flash now follows an object-based model. Context-clicking on any object lets you set up a motion tween, defining the object as a symbol and creating a span in the timeline in the process. If you then drag the symbol across the stage, an animation path is created automatically. This motion path is a Bezier curve that can be edited by dragging points on the path. Moving the object itself when in the middle of the animation also changes the path and additionally adds a keyframe on the timeline – the same applies when you use the transformation tools. Similar to timeline operations in After Effects, a single frame in a tween can track multiple keyframe attributes, all individually.

The new Motion Editor panel offers a quick way to fine-tune animations. It displays all of the attributes and keyframes for a selected tween (or span), providing the ability to tweak each keyframe attribute independently.

Flash CS4 Professional also provides a library of pre-built animations. These Motion Presets are ideal for those repetitively applying the same animation, or to share among a workgroup to adhere to a house style.

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