It's been a while, Adobe's numbers are down on the back of a delayed release, but finally the company's application collection Creative Suite 3 is here. So should design heads be reaching for the wallet? We take a closer look.
While the Design suite is broken down into two different skus so is the Web package from Creative; Web Premium (reviewed here) and Web Standard.
Web Standard comes with a very basic offering of Dreamweaver, Flash, Contibute and Fireworks.
For those who live and breath the web with every breath, the company is also offering the Web Premium edition which comes with all of the above, but also Photoshop Extended, Illustrator and Acrobat, but no true multimedia video or sound offering.
Dreamweaver, like every other application included in the package gets its fair share of new features.
Most notable is the addition of Spry support that allows you to drag and drop Web 2.0 elements directly on the page. The interface works in a similar way to Dreamweavers MySQL database support and is very easy to use if you have some basic understanding.
Other new additions to the package include a browser compatibility checker built-in that will automatically highlight possible problems as it finds them rather like word does a spelling mistake and Photoshop integration that allows you to paste Photoshop files, including layers and paste it directly into a Dreamweaver page. Dreamweaver will present dialog box where you can then specify optimization option for the image. What is especially neat is that you can edit the image simply by double clicking on it rather than have to go back to Photoshop, make the changes, export it to the right folder and then re-import it from scratch.
The other strong package in the Web Suite is Flash. Adobe here have added ActionScript support, greater interactivity with Illustrator and Device Central which allows you to see how your designs will work on virtually and device be it a PDA or mobile phone without having to own the device.
Pulling from the list of hundreds of Flash supported handsets you can see your design and how it will cope with the processor speed or memory allocated out of the box. Put your beautifully crafted game on a cheap old Nokia and you can watch it chug along, put it on a top of the range Sony Ericsson and you get the picture.
Fireworks once competing with Photoshop now becomes something entirely different. While simply image manipulation is still present, its focus has shifted to a web presentation tool that is aimed at web companies needing to present sitemaps and ideas before starting to get coding for real in Dreamweaver. It's a interesting approach and one those most won't bother to open. That said it gets new features like intelligent scaling, integration with Photoshop and Illustrator and a new hierarchical organisation structure.
Contribute, previously Macromedia's cut down web editor that allows administrators to lock down how web newbies interact with the company website, gets a cursory update including new WYSIWYG blog templates, easier flash video upload options and the ability to post from Microsoft Office.
Web Premium users also get Photoshop Extended seems to be about reaching industries outside the core remit, such as doctors, architects and 3D modellers. There's the counting tool for example for doctors that will enable them to extract quantitative and qualitative data from images, while architects, medical professionals and scientists get increased support for specialised image formats, while 3D modellers get the ability to image map flat 2D images onto a 3D object at the press of a button.
As for tools we might actually want to use, the company has added non-destructive smart filters that allow you to apply the filters that you know and love, but without all the hassle of having to save and backup before you try something else. It's simple, but a great new edition.
The other useful tool, especially for photographers, is something called Automatic layer alignment and blending. The system allows you to overlay a number of similar images and then mask out the bits you don't need. Been there done that? Well where the new tool comes in, is that it will automatically blend in the layers saving you a lot of time.
Design isn't all about image manipulation, but about drawing graphics as well as so in steps a new improved version of Illustrator. New to the mix is a live colour feature that allow you to change colours of your design quickly by opting for one of the many pre-arranged colour groups based on the 23 classic colour-harmony rules such as complementary. Don't worry, Adobe hasn't gone all basic and controlling, you can add whatever colour you like and it does the rest.
Also usefully is full Flash integration from within Illustrator. This includes integrity of critical elements in your illustrator artwork being maintained in Flash, with intact paths, and correct anchor point positions, as well as gradients, clipping masks, and symbols, and layer details.
For us the most notable edition in the Web Premium is no focus on pure multimedia products that would help you work with any video or audio content.
We asked Adobe about this omission at a briefing we had with them and all we got back were blank faces. It's strange because in the Master collection due out later this year that includes all the Adobe packages in one massive box Adobe are offering Soundbooth and Premiere Pro, both of which are expected to have elements designed for the web.
However until that point both packages including the Web Premium are perfect for creating a website and getting it published online. The Premium package does benefit from the inclusion of Illustrator and Photoshop allowing you to have a little bit more creativity than the standard offering.
As a package, the Web Premium does all is sets out to do, and in our opinion is a worthwhile upgrade or investment if you want to get your work done with little to no fuss.
Almost top marks, but we expected a full multimedia experience and this just falls short.