Adobe Updates Suite CS4, Emphasizes Productivity

Article ImageToday’s content has no respect for yesterday’s silos. Documents and assets end up on pages, screens, and devices—or, inevitably, all of the above. That means extra work for designers and developers to constantly manage and repurpose material. It also means extra pressure for them to operate outside the comfort zones of their original disciplines.

With this in mind, Adobe unveiled Creative Suite 4 on Sept. 23 (expected to ship before the end of 2008), promising new levels of creativity and productivity for cross-platform design, development, and publishing.

Creative Suite 4 (CS4) covers six editions configured for design, web, or production specialists: Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Web Standard, Production Premium, as well as a comprehensive Master Collection. These editions feature updated versions of flagship Adobe products, including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Contribute, After Effects, Premiere, Soundbooth, OnLocation, and Encore. Additional tools include Bridge, Device Central, Dynamic Link, Media Player, and Version Cue.

Chad Siegel, group product manager for Adobe Creative Solutions, describes the challenges that guided the suite’s redevelopment, such as increasingly collaborative design processes, the proliferation of both media types and the devices used to access them, and the challenges of asset management. And—perhaps more than anything—the pressure on creative professionals to extend themselves, he says, beyond traditional job descriptions and comfort zones to embrace all the forms of new media that are redefining "trans-silo" publishing.

A key objective of CS4 is minimizing barriers between disciplines so that content can be planned, designed, developed, prototyped, produced, managed, published, delivered, accessed, and viewed, whether in print, web, rich internet application, interactive, video, audio, or mobile form. Siegel explains this requires integrated collaboration, simplified content exchange, open and flexible file formats, accurate metadata, common platforms, and ubiquitous Flash output.

New features automate complex functions that leverage the full power and flexibility of the applications. Conditional text settings in InDesign can hide or show content depending on different uses of the same layout—for multiple languages, price changes, or web versions of articles that are longer than printed versions. Instead of tediously duplicating frames or layers, pages and anchored images reflow to maintain the appearance of the entire document. More consistent interfaces across major applications feature numerous enhancements for productivity and ergonomics. For example, "spring loaded" keyboard shortcuts toggle cursor states with one click rather than two, while adjustment controls directly on selected objects bypass the process of opening and closing control panels.

Ongoing interaction with internal and external clients is streamlined via contact sheets, proofs, portfolios, and prototypes in Flash, PDF, or HTML. Or invite them to remotely view and approve work-in-progress from any applications via a built-in Share My Screen facility that works across firewalls. Designers can also tap into peer expertise to share learning in community forums, share color palettes in kuler, or share third-party scripts and plug-ins without having to leave the Adobe environment.

Rather than waiting to debug a document at the last minute, live preflighting against predefined profiles in InDesign alerts users from the status bar and links directly to potential problems such as overset text or misdirected links. Web developers can test interactions in Dreamweaver and clean up CSS code at the click of a button.

At the same time, trans-silo publishing is streamlined with enhanced transparency of content and metadata between design, web, and production tools. Instead of having to save or output optimized versions of assets to edit them in one application and employ them in another, Smart Objects such as images can be maintained in their full size, opened and manipulated as nondestructive copies at optimized resolution. However, users will be alerted across all applications linking to the source file if the original asset is changed, and updates are automatic if they accept the change.

Lossless, nondestructive file formats for working designs or productions maintain flexibility during the creation process before outputting to formats more universally accessible. These formats—whether two- or three-dimensional objects, audio or video content, or layouts for page and screen—are much more easily exchanged back and forth between the flagship CS4 applications. For example, InDesign layouts can be opened in Flash to add interactivity, but with all the integrity of typographic design intact. Flash applications can be opened in Device Central to prototype versions tailored for hundreds of mobile handset profiles.

The goal of CS4 is to "enable creative professionals to craft richly expressive work with more creative options and fewer obstacles," Adobe’s Siegel explains. "We want to help customers’ expressiveness by simplifying workflow, community, and collaboration."