Adobe Systems Creative Suite 2.0

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Adobe Systems Creative Suite 2.0

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The individual applications can each be considered as class-leading, but together they make an extremely compelling whole that easily justifies the cost of the upgrade.

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It's easy to overlook that a new release of Adobe's popular Creative Suite (CS) means an entirely new version of Photoshop. Not only that, CS2 brings with it new versions of all the applications within. For CS2 Standard, this means Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Version Cue and Bridge; for CS2 Premium, add GoLive and Acrobat Professional to the list. As you can imagine, even a two-page review is hard-pressed to cover it all, so we'll be concentrating solely on the key new features we found in the Beta code.

Photoshop

Photoshop CS2 has many new features, including improved noise reduction, lens correction, red-eye reduction and sharpening tools. However, the real highlights of the new feature set are Smart Objects, Image Warp, Spot Healing and Vanishing Point.

Smart Objects lets you adjust pictures in a non-destructive manner, allowing you to scale, warp, rotate and tweak an imported image element without losing its original detail - so you can perform as many adjustments as you like without having to re-import the original to repair any loss of resolution. This feature affects the new Warp tool, an improved distortion function that now uses control points and an adjustable mesh to allow easier manipulation than before, as well as providing a number of presets for immediate use - though we'd have liked to see common objects like cylinders and boxes in this list.

But the outstanding feature here is undoubtedly Vanishing Point. After creating a perspective plane (by selecting four points within the image), you can apply perspective to any cloned or pasted element within your composition in moments. Not only that, but Vanishing Point's "Heal" function will automatically adjust the cloned object so that it closely matches the lighting and colouration of the surrounding area. A more rough and ready tool for eliminating blemishes is the new Spot Healing brush, which quickly removes unwanted objects by cloning the immediate surroundings. However, its effectiveness depends largely upon the image, and we can see Photoshop veterans sticking to more conventional techniques.

Illustrator

Illustrator CS2's new tricks include Live Trace and Live Paint. The former lets you convert raster graphics (like bitmaps or scanned images) into editable vector compositions - much like Corel Trace. The difference between this and other trace tools is that the original image is preserved (like the Smart Objects described earlier) allowing you to step back to the original without reloading. Tracing colour allows a range of effects to be created, as well as altering images to match existing page colour palettes.

What makes Live Paint better than standard flood fill tools is its ability to detect regions and edges. Using this, you can add colour to areas made up of unconnected objects - any changes to the related objects will also be reflected in the coloured region.

Other improvements include better integration with Photoshop: .psd files can be manipulated from within Illustrator compositions, and Illustrator CS2 shares Photoshop's filter gallery, for example.

InDesign

InDesign CS2 has also been significantly updated. Snippets, in particular, will prove useful to most designers. To create a Snippet, you just select any group of image elements in InDesign and drag it to Bridge, which will then create the file and attach a thumbnail. You can then re-use this Snippet in other InDesign projects - any changes to the original can be applied to subsequent projects just by refreshing the Snippet link.

Object formatting has been added, so you can now create a Style that includes elements like background colour, stroke width and drop shadows, as well as text and paragraph values for easy application to composition elements. Creating multiple object formats and using the Apply Next Style feature lets you build a variety of page layouts for approval with the minimum of fuss.

GoLive and Acrobat

Finally, Adobe has re-engineered GoLive CS2 and Acrobat Professional CS2. The former now has improved support for the new mobile content formats like SVG-t and can export mobile content direct to connected devices for testing, while Acrobat Professional adds error-checking and e-mail-based collaboration to the mix.

To be honest, we've only scratched the surface of this content production suite, but it's still enough to see that Adobe has spent a considerable amount of time developing features that are of genuine use to designers. While there's still some room for improvement, cross-application integration is much tighter, creative workflow has been streamlined and collaboration made simpler. Even relatively minor tweaks like colour-coded and lockable menu objects are useful.

VERDICT: The individual applications can each be considered as class-leading, but together they make an extremely compelling whole that easily justifies the cost of the upgrade.

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