CS5 Master Collection Applications

The Adobe CS5 Master Collection includes many other applications besides the video ones I reviewed in my last two posts.  Although I don’t use any of these nearly as extensively in my normal day to day workflow, they all come in handy from time to time.  I don’t use as many of the newer features of these apps, because I usually only need the core functionality, that Adobe established multiple versions back.

Photoshop is probably Adobe’s most popular media creation application.  It should really be called ImageShop at this point, since photo editing is a small slice of Photoshop’s feature set.  It also has extensive tools for digital painting and art, graphical interface design, 3D image manipulation, video effects editing, medical imaging organization, and hundreds of other features.  My primary uses for it at work include titles and graphics for video, and interface development for DVD menus, but I use it for all sorts of other things as well.

Since I am not an artist, I primarily use Illustrator for converting existing AI files into layered PSDs, but I have used it to make overhead blueprints to exact scale for wiring schematics of production and editing facilities that I have designed.  Illustrator’s vector based imaging offers more precision and scalability for my needs in those instances, but my use definitely falls outside of the application’s original design.  I am basically using it as a substitute for AutoCAD at that point, but I can hardly scratch the surface of its artistic capabilities, since that is not where the strength of my talent lies.

InDesign is a program that I rarely use, but may explore more in the future, as new features are added that fit my workflow needs.  InDesign was originally developed as a print design and layout program, but is now also used to create digital media that can be exported to Flash or the web, and even imbed media such as videos.  This capability ties in well with another Adobe application that has been moving far beyond the printed page over the last few releases.  Adobe Acrobat is an incredible product with more features and uses than I can fully comprehend, but as long as I can print static documents to PDFs, my needs are covered.  Editable fields, tracked changes, online collaboration, and all of the other features that Acrobat includes are great, but I have not had the opportunity to utilize them in my current workflow.  Clipnotes was a feature in Premiere that embedded video into PDFs for enhanced annotation and collaboration, but that feature has been removed from recent versions, and integrated into Adobe’s CS Review feature, on its recently launched CS Live collection of web services.  I am sure we will see more of these cloud based services developed for other applications, but I am not sure how I feel about losing certain aspects of user control through these types of changes.  Maybe that is just because I spent time developing tools to leverage the previous features, with a level of customization that can’t be replicated with the new automated services.  But that previous level of control does admittedly come at the cost of ease-of-use, and raises the accessibility threshold above many entry level users’ reach.

Adobe has faced the same issue of usability versus capability with its Flash based development tools, and has taken a different approach in addressing the issue there.  The CS5 release includes three separate dedicated Flash development applications, in the form of Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, and Flash Professional.  Catalyst is aimed at designers creating interactive interfaces, which can be powered by assets created in Flash Builder by coders writing the backend support, while Flash Professional remains the full featured development tool that experienced web designers are already familiar with.  Flash output options have been added directly into many of Adobe’s other applications, including After Effects, Encore, InDesign, and Fireworks, but these are mostly geared towards creating Flash assets to be viewed on standard web browsers.  Much of the content being generated by these newer dedicated tools will end up on cell phones and other mobile devices.  Adobe facilitates the testing of these applications through Device Central, and Apple’s recent decision to permit Flash based authoring of iPhone apps will allow developers to use CS5’s AIR Packager for iPhone, to create content for that platform as well.  This preview capability ties in well with Fireworks, which Adobe has aimed at interface design for web and mobile devices, since Photoshop can handle most other imaging requirements.

Dreamweaver has been my website editor of choice since back when it was owned by Macromedia.  Like most Adobe apps, Dreamweaver has far more capabilities and functionality than the average user will ever need, or even be aware of, but at its core it gives immediate visual feedback to changes in web code.  Originally this was via an HTML render engine, to which basic server side code execution was integrated via the testing server feature, and now this has been extended to support PHP based content management systems (CMS) which are usually far too complicated for their own good.  Since my website is powered by WordPress, I am looking forward to leveraging these new capabilities in CS5 to further develop the site in new ways.  To this point I have done all custom modification of this site in Notepad, but that will no longer be necessary now with Dreamweaver’s new functionality.  Besides being able to preview changes to complex dynamic web pages in real time, through another feature of the new CS Live services, Adobe BrowserLab allows designers to compare the way different browsers will interpret and render the code that they have written.  I suspect Dreamweaver will begin to retake ground from the Flash generating applications as the primary web development tool, if HTML5 begins to replace Flash as the medium of choice for dynamic interactivity on the web.  My only complaint about Dreamweaver is that it takes forever to open, leading me to use Windows Notepad instead for my simple changes, but all Adobe apps seem to suffer from that issue.

Soundbooth was initially released with CS3, and I was never very impressed with its feature set.  I found it easier to edit audio in Premiere, and the only thing I ever used it for was simplified background noise reduction.  Newer versions have added multi-track support, but still no surround sound, which was my primary use for Audition back when it was included in the suite instead, and I still used the old version for processing my surround tracks until recently.  I am not sure why Master Collection doesn’t include Audition or Lightroom, but I have also started playing with Lightroom to process the RAW stills from my new Canon Rebel T2i, and that program can do some cool stuff.  Its features are more geared toward organizing and archiving your photos than actually editing them.

The Adobe CS5 Master Collection provides users with an amazing array of tools for content creation.  While it is not perfect, it should meet nearly every possible need of most users.  There are far more features and functions available than any individual person could ever fully master, but the similarities in design and function of the different applications makes it easier for users to figure things out once they are familiar with the basic Adobe toolset.  The integration between the applications makes it easier to develop a consistent look and feel for a project across many different mediums of output.  It is far to imagine what features they will add to the next release, but I am hoping we will see more tools for stereoscopic 3D content creation, as more 3D displays become available on the market.

FTC Disclosure: I have been on Adobe’s beta team for many years, and Adobe has provided me a copy of CS5 for this review.  My only admitted personal bias is my preference of Windows over OSX, because I like full control over every aspect of my computing experience.  If that bothers anyone, there are plenty of other sources of information on the internet, but I try to provide unique insight on how each of these tools fits into the larger picture based on my real world experience using them.  I invite comment or correction.

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