Adobe Systems Creative Suite 3 Design Premium

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Adobe Systems Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
  • Adobe Systems Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
  • Adobe Systems Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
  • Adobe Systems Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Photoshop's Quick Selection Tool, InDesign's Effects Palette, too many others to mention

Cons

  • Price off-putting to anyone but commercial designers and developers

Bottom Line

If you're a Web developer or graphic designer that works with these products already, ask your IT manager to upgrade as soon as possible. With most applications getting a major facelift and a host of excellent improvements, your workflow will noticeably improve.

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It's been hotly anticipated since the first announcement that Adobe and Macromedia were to merge, and now it's finally here; Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium, combining Photoshop Extended, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash Professional, Bridge and Acrobat Professional. It would be impossible to list all the updates and changes here, so we'll instead highlight a few of the more interesting improvements.

Adobe Bridge

With the huge amount of data stored on computers these days, finding a specific file can be like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Bridge has confronted this issue by creating filters, completely doing away with folder structures (virtually, of course, as no folders are actually deleted) to allow previewing of your files from many different folders at the same time from one window. This reduces searching for a simple visual task, but it gets better: you can also filter for a particular file type (maybe you're just looking for TIFs or MOVs), date of creation, image resolution and more.

Bridge has a variety of different workflow views, allowing you to preview your files exactly how you like. The default view includes a quick information panel that resembles the LCD display on the back of a digital camera. This gives photographers a familiar way of quickly gleaning information about the image.

The preview area also gives you the opportunity to view your thumbnails pixel-for-pixel (that is, at the correct resolution the image was taken). When you move your mouse over a preview image, a magnifying glass icon appears. By clicking on an area you want to view, a new window appears displaying that section of the image at its correct resolution. Move the magnifying glass across the photo and the preview window follows, which is great for previewing blemishes and other anomalies before image editing begins.

Adobe Photoshop

Non-destructive filters and the Quick Selection Tool are both welcome additions to Photoshop CS3 Extended. The former essentially allows you to add filters to your images via layers (after converting to a "smart filter"), meaning no matter what you add or edit, it won't destroy or permanently change the original image. It also means you can quickly go back to your filter or effect at a later stage to make adjustments, or completely remove all together.

The Quick Selection Tool will change the way graphic designers work when extracting an object from an image. Currently, the best you can do is use a combination of Lasso Tools, Selection Tool and Magic Wand. All will eventually do the job for you, but this can take a great deal of time. With the Quick Selection Tool however, you can select and extract in a matter of seconds, not minutes (and in some cases, hours). This tool analyses the image surrounding your extraction point and determines what should be extracted. As you move the tool around, it picks up additional areas to be added. If you find that Photoshop has been rather generous in its determining of what gets selected, hold down the key while dragging the tool around the outside edge of your extracted object, allowing the software to analyse what colour tones need removing from the selection.

Adobe InDesign

Like most other CS3 applications, Adobe's print layout program has also received a facelift to allow for a bigger and better workplace layout. What's more, it's introduced a brand new transparency palette and imported Photoshop's Layout styles to better manipulate the objects contained in your documents.

In previous versions of InDesign, adjusting an objects transparency was very basic -- you had no choice but to make opacity settings to everything; the object, any text contained within, and the stroke. Now you can adjust these all individually by going to the new Effects palette. What's more, by double-clicking either the object, text, stroke or fill you can now open the Effects window to add drop shadows, glows and satins, feathers, bevels and embosses in the same way as is done in Photoshop.

Placing objects in your documents has also been simplified. You can now select multiple objects (almost anything from images to text files) at once. After selection, your mouse pointer displays a small preview window of the selected files. You can scroll through and select any by using the left and right arrow keys, and once you've found the correct file, click on the placeholder within your document to insert. If inserting an image, select "Fit Content Proportionally" from the Frame fitting options to have the file automatically adjust to its correct dimensions on placement.

Another interesting addition is the ability to insert InDesign files within InDesign files. This means sections of a document can be edited by other designers, improving work collaboration. Users can also use cross-media export to save document data as XML, including export for Dreamweaver (creating a complete XHTL page) and this is great for adding printed catalogue information to a Web site without having to totally recreate XML data files.

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS3 offers new features in three key areas: integration with other Adobe products (as is the case with most of the revamped software collection); new features for creating, managing and fixing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets); and a new set of JavaScript-driven tools for building pop-up navigation menus, advanced form validation, and displaying data in interactive tables. If you currently use Photoshop and Dreamweaver, you've probably grown tired of the number of steps required to get an image from Photoshop to Dreamweaver. Lucky then that Dreamweaver CS3 now supports direct copy-and-paste from Photoshop. The new image optimisation window lets you apply compression settings directly in Dreamweaver (no more, "Save for Web" from Photoshop), save the file to your Web site folder and place the new optimised image into your Web page.

The most exciting new addition to the program is a set of tools for adding dynamic layout elements and visual effects to your Web pages. Based on the "Spry Framework" (a collection of "Web 2.0" JavaScript programs developed by Adobe), these new features make it easy to add pop-up navigational menus, validate HTML forms, include complex and animated visual effects, and add interactive data tables. Spry features come in three flavours: effects, widgets, and data sets. Effects are visual effects, such as fade out, shrink, grow, shake -- that let you draw attention to images, or other page content. Widgets add interactive layout elements. Form validation widgets, for example, let you verify entries in a Web form before the form is submitted, so you can make sure that a properly formatted date is entered by the end user -- much more powerful than the old "Validate Form" behaviour.

Adobe Illustrator

One new addition to Illustrator that definitely deserves a mention is Live Colour. This new colour guide allows the user to mix-and-match colours that are related to one another -- especially good for graphic designers limited to only a few colours in a specific design, or perhaps can only use one particular PANTONE set. Although much more complex than can be explained here, essentially you choose a colour set to work with and then open Live Colour to view all possible colour combinations of your selection. By adjusting the Base Color and Color Markers in the colour wheel, you can view the best possible combinations for your design. You can also live preview the colours, showing you how your work looks with the selected combinations.

Adobe Flash

You've just created an amazing design in Photoshop or Illustrator that now needs to be animated in Flash. Before the release of CS3, you had to pretty much recreate the entire design from within Flash, due to the small problem of layers not being recognised. Well, guess what? Yep, Flash now fully supports the importing of these files with all layers being editable. After importing, everything is perfectly laid out, ready for you to work your ActionScript magic. What's more, you can import these files using the exact image dimensions specified in Photoshop or Illustrator. Flash CS3 also allows you to now convert timeline animation to ActionScript 3, making the re-use of various functions much easier.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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