Adobe Creative Suite Pro

AdobeAny graphic designer in print or web will tell you Adobe products are an essential part of their toolset. Names like Photoshop and Illustrator rode the shock wave of the desktop publishing explosion and have remained at its crest ever since.

Now for the first time, one purchase buys you the whole package with Adobe Creative Suite Standard or Pro.CS pro includes all new versions of InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and GoLive (Adobe’s HTML editor, in reality still second fiddle to Dreamweaver) as well as their new version tracking tool — Version Cue — which promises to do away with errors made by using old or outdated versions of a file.

It’d be one thing if Adobe simply bundled all the recent versions of their software together and offered a bargain basement price for the lot, but for substantially less than you’d pay buying each component separately, you get improvements ranging from the cute and curious to the mission critical.

Adobe claims you can manage your whole creative workflow without having to use anything else on your Mac (including the Finder), and there’s some truth to their claim. In a typical multi-media job, for example, you can create your line drawings and logos in Illustrator, colour correct or scale your print images in Photoshop, and lay your pages, brochures or cards out in InDesign.

Then, when it comes to your web page layouts, you don’t even need to move to GoLive if you want to design them more intuitively. Just lay them out in InDesign (maybe based on your print designs) and export them for manipulation in GoLive. The Smart Objects feature optimises your images for web use as you export — even if your Photoshop files are still layered. And every time you change a native image file, the optimised version is automatically updated across your site in GoLive.

Every time you save or update a file, you have the option of using Version Cue to manage it. It’s really not much more than a stripped-down process of what you should be doing with the Finder anyway; each time you save changes, Version Cue can hold a version in a workspace on your local drive, applying notes about who worked on it and what changes were made. The theory is that everyone in the studio or office can track of the appropriate files to update.

There are plenty of reasons Adobe CS is a good idea despite the obvious of cost saving and standardised workflow (even menus in some applications have been changed so they look more like each other), but they’re not all immediately visible. For example, if high-end colour management is part of your job (for matching fabric or fine art colours, etc), you’ll love how every Creative Suite element relies on the same colour engine. It guards against the notorious colour shift caused by (for example) saving a Photoshop document as a .tif and outputting it through a Quark Xpress layout.

Likewise for typesetters or designers who have a brand management role, the same type engine runs your page layout, logo design and HTML output.

You’ll love the savings in time and effort to be found at every stop throughout your project. Working together, the elements of Adobe CS have virtually done away with optimising, outputting or otherwise resaving any file until the end product when you’re ready to go to web or print. If you plan your job right, .tif and .jpg pictures can be a thing of the past; you can use native Photoshop and Illustrator files all the way up to and including output to PDF or XML; Creative Suite does all the optimising for you.

Each of the applications also share more common functionalities than ever before, making switching between them a dream. Want to use a filter on your Illustrator file that’s only available in Photoshop? In the old days you’d have to rasterise any text, import it into Photoshop and apply the filter. If a phone number in your Illustrator file had to be changed later, you’d have to go through the process again. Now, Photoshop lets you import your image, apply the filter and take it back into Illustrator where everything remains fully editable.

Each application in CS has themselves undergone changes from the tiny to the sweeping. Such recent versions of both Photoshop and Acrobat mean the CS versions aren’t very different, but there are great new effects and plug-ins everywhere that you may find indispensable, such as the new Camera Raw plug-in to avoid data loss when downloading shots from your digital camera.

Other new features — like being able to preview separate plates in InDesign and a one-click 3D extrude effect in Illustrator — are so cool you won’t believe we ever lived without them, and combining them with the seamlessness of your favourite design applications packaged together make Adobe Creative Suite a must-have.

It’s a must-have because (and most other software companies would do well to take a note out of Adobe’s book) if you don’t leave anything out, you can please all the people all of the time.