Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium Edition

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, January 2006
Published by: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Requires: Windows 2000 SP 4/XP with SP1 or 2, 1GB RAM, 3GB free hard drive space; Mac OS X 10.2.4, 1GB RAM, 3GB free hard drive space
MSRP: US$1,199.00 (Mac or Windows, upgrade pricing available)

I recently finished working with Adobe UK on a project for the next generation of the Adobe Creative Suite and while I can't relate the details about anything I saw or worked on, I can discuss my experiences using the latest version of the suite—CS2. During my time at Adobe I worked almost exclusively with the entire suite, creating and testing interfaces, writing and laying out specifications, and designing icons.

First impressions . . . CS2 is big—really big. It uses over 3GB of storage on the hard drive of any machine you care to install it on. CS2 consists of seven core programs and a stock library: Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, InDesign CS2, GoLive CS2, and Acrobat 7.0 Professional software with new Version Cue CS2, Adobe Bridge, and Adobe Stock Photos. Don't even think of running it on a machine with less than 512MB, in fact scratch that last one—make it 1GB for reasonable performance when using more than one program.

So what’s new? The biggest change and addition is Bridge. It's the new solution from Adobe which allows you to browse and manage your assets (digital photos, graphics, etc., etc.) either as a standalone program or in partnership with Version Cue. Despite being a little on the slow side, Bridge ties in very nicely with Photoshop and the other programs, allowing you to manage and view all your creative assets. Using Bridge, you can perform various tasks including finding files, tracking shared resources, viewing metadata and even access stock photography online from the Adobe Stock Photography service. Bridge has also helped to resolve some color management issues by standardizing the settings for all programs in CS2. Bridge also offers capabilities such as an RSS reader, multiple file views and the collection of related assets into file groups. With the integration of Adobe Camera RAW into Bridge, basic enhancements and batch processing of RAW files to other formats can be done without ever having to launch Photoshop itself.

While we're on the subject of files, Bridge facilitates a more intelligent way of handling files by intelligently linking file types with application specific element linking. Drag supported files from bridge to InDesign and it knows what to do with them. Do this with third-party application content, e.g., Microsoft Word files, and InDesign will use them correctly.

Photoshop CS2 has also been updated since the last release with improvements made to RAW image handling and the addition of new features like the Vanishing Point tool, 32-bit High Dynamic Range Image support, Smart Objects and Image Warping. Add the new Spot Healing Brush and the one-click red eye correction and you have some excellent additions to an already powerful tool.

Illustrator CS2 also benefits from some excellent new capabilities. The Live Trace tool is very well done with its ability to convert photos, scans and other bitmaps into vectors. I found the conversion process a little clumsy at times and needing a little refinement, but its a good starting point and a welcome addition to CS2. Adobe has also added Live Paint which is somewhat like an intelligent fill tool and a control palette which centralizes many of the features needed for key operations and support for Photoshop layer composites (which adds control over the visibility of layer comps).

InDesign CS2 has been enhanced in several areas, including Object Styles which allow you to apply and update attributes and styles to individual objects, Photoshop and PDF layer support for making element level changes to linked files, and the ability to save individual InDesign elements out as snippets for later use (kind of like using your hard drive as a paste-up board to store frequently used items—an especially useful feature for some of the specs I had to write). Add the creation of the InDesign Interchange format and you have a great facility for porting your files to an earlier version of InDesign if necessary.

One tool which many reviewers have been eager to slam has been the GoLive web design and publishing program, and here I am going against the grain. I like GoLive. Its integration into Creative Suite 2 is excellent. I especially like the Enhanced Live Rendering Engine which gives you real-time preview of what your web page will look like. Add the integration of tools for creating and managing your assets, sites and authoring for mobile devices and you have an excellent authoring environment. The inclusion of device emulation for Sony and Nokia Mobile devices is without a doubt one of the best features. I would like to see modules for other brands of mobiles though.

I used GoLive extensively when creating and modeling some of my interface concepts and their interactivity. In my other web design work I use this in combination with Dreamweaver for doing different parts of my web site and then hand tweak as much as I can. The improved Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) handling through the new CSS Editor is also very much appreciated.

The inclusion of Adobe Acrobat 7 Professional in the Premium suite is a welcome addition. The enhanced capabilities it offers when editing and creating PDF files is awesome. Added to that are its built-in preflighting and prepress capabilities. Using Adobe Acrobat Pro is easy and it offers many capabilities, some of which enhance file operations via the context menus in your file browser.

The improvements made to the suite are definitely worth the price of the upgrade. The biggest improvements have been made in the use of the very aptly named Bridge because it does indeed bring all of CS2's component programs more closely together. The improved color management system, intelligent file handling and management capabilities are excellent. The bottom line is that CS is indeed worth every penny and a must buy, just for the integration alone.

There are a few things I'd like to see in future versions of CS. One thing for certain is more integration with the Macromedia products Adobe recently acquired (hopefully this is in the works). I'd like to see some kind of Power Curves feature in Photoshop. The Autotrace and Live Sketch features in Illustrator need improvement. Eliminate product activation or replace it with a more intelligent passport type system. I want a more dynamic implementation of the red eye removal tool that allows you to visually size the area of influence. I'd also like to see a more powerful transformation calculator in Illustrator which would allow me to have more control over individual illustration elements.

Cons: Bridge needs substantial improvements in speed. An enhanced curve editor is still required in Photoshop. The online activation still sucks. CS2 is not compatible with older operating systems. 3GB installation and heavy RAM requirements.

Pros: Excellent suite overall and very good utility component integration. Loads of power, flexibility, and good value for the money. Excellent global support of PDF. Intelligent drag & drop support between Bridge and CS2 programs is excellent. New Photoshop and Illustrator features are well implemented. All in all, using Creative Suite 2 has been a pleasure and I look forward to the new features and productivity gains promised by Adobe in the next generation of this already great suite of creative tools. If you are a designer or a creative professional, Adobe Creative Suite 2 should be the second investment you make for your business, (the first being a decent Windows or Mac workstation). Highly recommended.

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





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