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Up Close with the Adobe Creative Suite

Overview and first impressions of the new Photoshop, ImageReady, InDesign, Illustrator and GoLive By Dave Nagel
With the announcement of its new Creative Suite, Adobe's done quite a bit more than just add a "CS" monicker to its creative applications. All of the company's design tools--Photoshop, ImageReady, Illustrator, InDesign and GoLive--have been given a significant overhaul in and of themselves and then tied together through core technologies to provide a whole new level of integration and streamlined workflow. We will, of course, bring you complete reviews, walkthroughs and tutorials when the final versions are released. But since I've had a chance to get a little hands-on with the new applications in the Creative Suite, I thought it worthwhile to go in depth into some of the new features and give you my first impressions.

The suite itself comprises five new core applications offered in Premium edition and four in the standard edition. These include Photoshop CS, ImageReady CS, Illustrator CS, InDesign CS and GoLive CS. (GoLive is not included in the standard edition. Acrobat Pro 6 is included as well in the Premium edition.) To answer the question many of you are asking yourselves, yes, the applications can be purchased in one of the two bundles or as individual applications. The individual applications retain the CS monicker whether purchased in a bundle or singly. But for those who do use multiple CS applications, there are new features that bring them together more tightly than ever before. These include

  • Increased native file format support, including the ability to open Illustrator documents in Photoshop with editable text, layers and objects;
  • Version Cue for automatically keeping track of document versions with local file serving and multiple user access;
  • Cross-application PDF output, along with PDF/X in InDesign CS;
  • Shared core technologies, including a graphiocs manager, color engine and enhanced XMP;
  • The ability to export images in batches from Photoshop, ImageReady and Illustrator to GoLive;
  • And enhanced print and Web integration through InDesign's Web packaging functions in package linking through GoLive.

Browser-based Version Cue workspace administration allows administrators to add and edit users (including privileges) and perform project-based tasks, such as removing old document versions, view logs and create new projects.

Version Cue is one of the central features tying together the new software line. For those who haven't seen it yet, it's a bit difficult to explain but simple enough to grasp once it's staring you in the face. It provides, essentially, centralized management of projects, files and file versions and also incorporates version notes and the ability to rank files as final version, current version, draft and the like. It's designed, of course, for environments where multiple users will be working with the same files and modifying them and provides easy, automated naming conventions to help avoid the confusion that can occur in these situations. (We've all encountered the dreaded "imagefinal-[your initials]-reallyfinal-revised2.psd" problem when passing files between multiple designers.)

In single-user environments, Version Cue won't be a factor, but the other integration features--particularly the interoperability between Photoshop and Illustrator--will save time and frustration.

But let's move away from integration and get into some of the more spectacular aspects of the new versions of the individual applications. We'll get into Photoshop first, which is by far the most dramatically improved of all of the new applications. Then we'll cover ImageReady CS, InDesign and GoLive CS. We'll save Illustrator CS--surprisingly one of the more major updates--for last.

Photoshop CS
I didn't think it likely that Adobe could improve so dramatically over Photoshop 7 in such a short time, but Photoshop CS gains so many new and major features that it's difficult to sort them all out in an overview like this. Nevertheless, I shall try to cover both the new, the flashy and the downright useful functionality adequately.

First and foremost for me--and something that probably could have stood on its own as a reason to upgrade--is Photoshop's new 16-bit-per-channel color support. Yes, previous versions of Photoshop could read 16-bit files and allowed you to perform a very limited number of operations on them. The new version, however, has more 16-bit features than most graphics applications have features period. This includes full layer support, styles, effects filters, drawing and painting tools, text and other functions that were simply inaccessible in 16-bit mode in Photoshop 7. This will be a welcome addition to the toolset of photographers and video and motion graphics professionals alike.

I can't overstate the importance of vastly improved 16-bit color coming to the world's most popular image editor. But it's only the beginning of the list of new and dramatically enhanced features in Photoshop CS.

Related to this feature is another boon for photographers: the incorporation of the next-generation 16-bit Camera Raw plugin, which allows for manipulation of raw data files from higher-end digital cameras. The available controls are wide and varied and include functions like white balance, temperature, tint, exposure, size, resolution, details, lens adjustment, calibration, color space and depth, etc., along with a full-time histogram display.

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