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13 Favorites in Adobe's Creative Suite 3 Web Premium

Spanning the suite to find a baker's dozen of cool things for Web and multimedia pros By Kevin Schmitt

Unless you've been living under a rock (or perhaps in a spacious yet private cave), you very likely have heard the news by now that Adobe has announced approximately 4,927 new versions of the Creative Suite 3 line of products. For our purposes here today, however, I want to focus on two things: the word "Web" and the number 13. That is, we're gunning for the CS3 Web Premium bundle and 13 of the things I keep coming back to as neat-o new features.

Now, some of these features are the "big ones" (e.g., the ones you'll read about in the Adobe-provided sales pitches and countless other write-ups), and some are smaller ones, but there's one thing they all have in common for me: I have little doubt at this point that I'm going to use them, and use them often. So, with all that properly prefaced, and in no particular order, here are my favorite things (so far, anyway) present in Adobe's Creative Suite 3 Web Premium.

1) The CS3 interface.

Many of you have had the opportunity to see the CS3 interface in action, as Adobe has had it "in the wild" since last December in the form of the Photoshop CS3 Public Beta. But now Illustrator and Flash also have it, and if you haven't used it yet, it's a thing to behold. The tear-off tabbed palette paradigm is still going strong, only now it's joined by a docking metaphor that simply has to be used to be appreciated (fig. 1). For someone like myself who is constantly bouncing between a smallish laptop screen to a dual monitor setup, the way the docks allow me to efficiently use available screen real estate is nothing short of a revelation. I only wish Dreamweaver and Fireworks were in on the fun, but that's a discussion for another time.

Figure 1


2) Flash's Photoshop/Illustrator import improvements.

The former Macromedia Flash never worked as well as it could have with Adobe's PS/AI tag team, yet that didn't stop legions of us from using the latter to prepare elements for the former. Now that all three are part of one big, happy family, Flash slickly imports such content with complete facility (fig. 2). Text in either program can be imported as editable Flash text, colors from Illustrator documents no longer shift, blend modes and filters are converted to their Flash equivalents (where possible, of course), and individual layers can be combined into named Movie Clips during the import process.

Figure 2

3) FLV Previews in Bridge.

I'll readily cop to the fact that I'm not a fan of Bridge, but I'll also readily concede that whether or not you use/like Bridge is largely a product of personal workflow habits. However, this one feature may be the Trojan Horse, as it were, that gets me to ultimately use Bridge more than I do now. As Adobe still didn't see fit to provide a convenient way to play back Flash Video (FLV) clips, either in a dedicated player or through something like an official QuickTime codec, know that Bridge can fill the bill immediately (fig. 3). Incidentally, Perian (Mac) and VLC (Mac/Win/etc.) will play back FLV files, but if you already use Bridge, it's a hassle-free way to preview FLV-based clips.

Figure 3

4) Video support in Photoshop CS3 Extended.

Finally, finally, finally, Photoshop allows you to open and manipulate actual, honest-to-goodness, video clips. Of course, you'll need the new Extended version, but we won't let silly things like additional cost ruin the good mood. You can open, say, a QuickTime movie directly in Photoshop (fig. 4) and have access to the full range of Photoshop's tools to manipulate the clip?brushes, blend modes, healing tools, you name it. This enables all kinds of possibilities, from simple watermarking to heavy-duty rotoscoping. You can even add additional layers, animate layers (albeit crudely), and save out your source as either a native Photoshop document or export it to a video format. Say sayonara to filmstrips forever!

Figure 4

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