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Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium software is the ultimate toolkit for today's designer. Express yourself in exciting new ways and deliver rich creative experiences across print, web, and mobile media.
Designers and organizations today are challenged to deliver measurable results on shrinking timelines and budgets. At the same time, they must prepare for the evolution of the traditional marketing mix as it moves toward more complex digital experiences and intelligently deployed print. CS4 Design Premium delivers timesaving features so designers can expand their skill sets and produce work across media - on time and on budget. Buy or upgrade today and get your own shortcut to brilliant.
• InDesign CS4
• Photoshop CS4 Extended
• Illustrator CS4
• Flash CS4 Professional
• Dreamweaver CS4
• Fireworks CS4
• Acrobat 9 Pro
• Adobe Bridge CS4
• Adobe Device Central CS4
• Version Cue CS4
Due to the sheer volume of text I would need to include, in order to make a comprehensive review of the applications in this, and CS4 suites, I will review the key applications in each suite based on their target market. For a fuller picture of the various applications, it is advised you read all three reviews.
The biggest thing for me, other than the new "Mac" styled interface, is the addition of thumbnails on the linked files panel. This single feature makes it so much easier to quickly identify what bits need attention, especially when dealing with client-supplied files, or files with dozens (or more) of linked mini-files. This is becoming far more common now that the applications can accept hot-linked versions of each others files. Multiple instances are (*FINALLY*) Dynamically linked, making for ZERO annoyance factor when updating multi-unit and/or multi-page layout elements. Another bonus feature in CS4 is that you can now link to folders... so have a folder with lo-res 'working placeholder' versions, and pre-output relink to a folder of hi-res print-standard versions... making one link to replace umpteen files all at once. Breathtaking.
Another bonus, especially for those who are familiar with Illustrator, is that Pathfinder works here too, which makes for some *very* interesting options when it comes to image frames and text-flow paths. Other features that are spreading in from other applications include SmartGuides, SmartAlign and SmartDistribute. These are features every designer should have turned on at all times. They give you visual cues when objects are aligned with other key features and objects, and also that spacings are equal. Laying out a complex page is now a very simple, if still somewhat time consuming, task.
Live preflight is a great new feature for those wanting to export to eventual hardcopy. You'll save the printery SUCH a lot of hassle if you keep this feature active. It gives you alerts to issues *as they arise*, not afterwards... right there and then! You'll be able to fix the issues before they cause cascading problems any further down the production chain, and be a star designer in the eyes of your printery, and thus your clients. For those who want to put together something a little more packed than a brochure, you could make great use of the Text Cross-Referencing feature. This is a handy tool for automating the generation of index and teaser paragraphs. You know, those wonderful blurts of text that start with something eye-catching and end with "...read more..."
Another great tool, probably more in line for those who want to develop documents destined for multiple foreign markets or websites, is Conditional Text. You can have multiple versions of the same data, such as prices, and have them appear or disappear on command. Imagine, having a file that looks the same for retail and wholesale customers, but carries different pricing structures for each. Export for retail, switch text and export for wholesale clients. Such a timesaver, it means you enter all your data in one shot and can maintain it all in the one place with ease. One last 'top feature' is Export to XFL. XFL is eXtensible Flash Language, allowing you to easily and quickly animate your hardcopy versions into interactive multimedia in a fraction of the time. No need to save all the bits and rebuild your pages piece by time-consuming bit... build it once, shift it to Flash and go crazy. This alone is such a workflow optimiser it justifies the cost on it's own!
The new "Mac" look is quite a bit for Windows users to get to grips with, but once you have adapted it's just as easy to use. However, a somewhat annoying feature is that when you click on a tool that has a submenu, it flies out the submenu wherther you like it or not. Would have definitely preferred it had stayed with the old style shift-click or click-&-hold to trigger the flyout. Also on the "Interface" side of things, the "Save For Web" module is now much easier to use, with a more efficient and intuitive interface. You can now select a lot more data to include or exclude from the final saved file, giving you a much more effective way to fine-tune your results.
New 'cosmetic' features include OpenGL drawing support which results in a much nicer interface experience. The biggest 'plus feature' for me is the pixel-grid feature, which outlines each pixel with a white grid when you zoom in far enough. This can prove very helpful when trying to tweak small images. Other features worth note are the "Hand Toss" feature, where you can scroll around big images at high-zoom by 'flicking' your mouse. Takes a bit of praqctice, but once you have mastewred it, it becomes second nature. By far the best, especially for those who work with video, is the smoother display of non-square pixels. Aspect-adjusted pixels used to be a bane to work with, but thankfully it's all now a much easier task. Also, the new "Constant zoom" effect is brilliant! Holding down the keyboard zoom keys and click-hold'ing the left mousebutton triggers a single 'step-zoom' and after a split second pause, a constant zoom-in until you release a key or mouse button. Such a great way to swoop into an image and allows you to stop at the perfect scale to suit, without having to guess and adjust... and readjust... and tweak a little bit more...
By far the two biggest news bits in new tools in this version of Photoshop are the new 'Masks panel' and 'Content-Aware Scaling'. For Masking, you now have absolute control over your layers masks without having to work through a complicate procedure, keep your History within range, or hammer the undo keys. With all the benefits of non-destructive editing and slider-controls to affect almost every aspect of the masks, this is the most functional tool with the most broad-ranging possibilities in the latest roll-out. Content-Aware Scaling is something I can not adequately describe and must be seen to be believed. Gone are the days of distorting an image or cropping it badly to get it to fit an awkward frame... retain perpective and yet... it fits a different box. This feature won't work on all images... it needs to have some areas of 'plain' fairly bland background to scale correctly... but with the right image, it's unbeatable. It doesn't totally blow me away *only* because it's very picky about what it can and can't work with. My suggestion: Keep it for scenery shots with small amounts of 'focus' objects such as trees or people.
I like how the sliders in the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (one I use way too often to correct lighting casts) are all dynamic coloured now. It really does make it a LOT easier to adjust if I can see roughly where to haul the sliders to start with. I would estimate I have shaved a good 5% off my working time with this feature alone! However, there is one major downside quirk: even when minimised, and memory usage is down to around 12meg (which is about 2% on the test machine), CPU usage still sits right up around the 45% mark, peaking at 58%! For an application NOT 'in focus' that is pretty horrendous and pretty nigh on inexcusable.
Also in the "Be Aware" column, there are a number of known GPU-related issues with CS4, so it would be smart to check their website for solutions and workarounds, of which there are plenty, and they are even handily sorted by O/S, in case you are having issues but aren't aware they *are* actually issues. It appears, from the support forums, that the majority of issues arise from coding conflicts between CS4 and NVidia cards. Some of the known issues are fiddly, some are annoying, some are downright counterproductive, so if you have one, be *sure* to do your research.
Illustrator has undergone so many changes over it's evolution that it is sometimes hard to keep up. Personally, I have never been a great user of Illustrator due to my preference for pixels, brought about by a mainly photographic background, however as I move more and more into the modern era and it's demand for cleanly-scalable artwork, vector-based designs are becoming vital fodder for the design mill. One of the biggest tools that has convinced me to shift focus is the new Gradient tools. Not only can you make gradients as easily as drag'n'drop colours from your swatch panel, but once it is applied to the object(s) you can select the Gradient Tool from the toolbox and select an item, and suddenly you have a gradient gadget appear on the object itself! Change angle, spread, bands... you name it. Apply the same gradient to multiple objects, then adjust each one independently!
Isolation Mode is a godsend for designers who enjoy building up complex images from a few hundred objects. Group objects into logical 'chunks', such as all the bits to make a face, all the bits of the body, all the sparks in an explosion... then, when it comes time for those inevitable alterations and tweaks, you need only double-click on where you want to work, and all the rest becomes ghosted out, leaving only the group containing your desired adjustable in focus and accessible. Is that group made of a collection of groups too? No worries, just double click again and Isolation Mode drops down another tier and you are right where you need to be. Make your fine tunings, drop out of Iso Mode and bingo, not a single other object out of place.
Breadcrumbs are nothing new to users of smart and functional websites... now you have this feature in Illustrator too! If you name your groups and layers logically, you will always know just what you have selected. Not a huge feature, but worthy of note. However, by far the most amazing tool for me is the new Blob Brush tool. It's like Photoshop brushes with vectors! Grab a brush, draw... no, you won't end up with a snake of paths, you end up with one single object with a single outer edge, and any cut-outs required to match what you drew! Paint like a bruch, get results like an accurately auto-traced image. Astounding for those who hand-draw with a good Tablet, and just brilliant for those of us who can't really stand the intensive labour of the Pen Tool for everything.
Overall, this is an excellent upgrade in all but the smallest of ways. My one and only gripe is that for those stuck on dial-up speeds, or with data-caps on their broadband connections, having all the resource, training and most importantly, manuals, online is just frustrating!
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