Adobe offers unified design tools

If you've got someone in your production department nagging you for an upgrade to Adobe Systems' Creative Suite 2, we recommend you listen. Its benefits are attractive enough that you might find employees leaving for greener pastures if you don't keep up to date.

The suite includes new versions of GoLive, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. With a few exceptions, those products are already industry leaders in their niches. And Adobe has added hundreds of new and enhanced features in Creative Suite 2 to make them even stronger.

Photoshop Creative Suite 2 offers all the tools found in Photoshop 7.0 plus a grab bag of new features that promise to greatly increase productivity. At the top of the list is Photoshop's new Smart Objects. Using Smart Objects, you can drag vector images from Illustrator directly into Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, a vector image can be resized without losing quality. You also can edit the object in Illustrator and it will automatically be updated in Photoshop.

Another slick new feature is the vanishing point tool, which makes it a snap to maintain perspective when cloning, copying or painting on an image. This tool turns hours of hard work into a couple of quick clicks.

Illustrator Creative Suite 2 now closely matches the interface of Photoshop, making it easier to navigate. And Adobe has added several tools that make common tasks easier. Live Trace, for example, makes it a snap to generate vector outlines of bit-mapped images imported into Illustrator.

We also liked Illustrator's new Control Panel, a context-sensitive toolbox that automatically changes its offering of tools depending on the tasks you're performing.

InDesign, Adobe's document publishing solution, has been enhanced with new productivity tools. The most notable enhancements are selective layer visibility and Object Styles, which allow you to quickly change objects throughout a document simply by editing the style.

GoLive, Adobe's Web page editor, has never been an industry leader, and in our view, it is not likely to be seen as one now. But Adobe seems committed to, albeit gradually, beefing up the program. In this new version, GoLive has gained capabilities for creating and editing Visual Cascading Style Sheets. Another new feature is the ability to automatically convert objects dragged from Photoshop, Illustrator and PDF files into Smart Objects and compress them for use on a Web page.

Although the major applications offered in Creative Suite 2 have been enhanced, the main attraction is the infrastructure that integrates those applications. The primary piece of this infrastructure is the new Adobe Bridge.

Adobe Bridge is a nicely designed utility for creating and managing workflows across all the applications in Creative Suite 2. Employing an interface similar to Microsoft's Windows Explorer, Adobe Bridge allows you to create work spaces in which you can assemble files, Smart Objects and even photos from the integrated Adobe Stock Photos service. The utility automatically tracks recently used files and makes them available with a minimum of clicks.

Another plus is that all the applications employ the same Adobe Color Engine, which ensures consistent results.

Adobe Bridge also supports drag-and-drop importing, searching of file metadata and batch processing.

Creative Suite 2's price is also good. The premium edition — which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive and Acrobat 7.0 — costs $1,199. If you don't need GoLive and Acrobat, you can buy the standard version for $899.

We would like to see a few improvements to Creative Suite 2, including better integration of Acrobat with the other applications' interface.

Also, Creative Suite 2 demands a great deal of system resources. Installing all the applications requires 3G of free disk space. An Adobe official said users should have 384M of system memory to run any single application along with Adobe Bridge.

You'll want to make sure your production staff has ample hardware to take advantage of the suite's power.

Adobe Creative Suite 2

Adobe Systems
(800) 833-6687
www.adobe.com

Price: Adobe Creative Suite 2 costs $1,199 for the premium edition and $899 for the standard edition.

Pros: The product has a strong suite of applications. Adobe Bridge offers excellent tools for integrating applications and managing work spaces.

Cons: The product suite requires 3G of free disk space and 384M of system memory.

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