updated 01:50 pm EDT, Tue September 23, 2008
Adobe CS4 unveiled
Adobe is calling the latest release of its ubiquitous Creative Suite a milestone -- but users expecting a radical change will probably disagree. CS4 is less about fancy new features, and more about workflow -- that is, making the products work better together. The Suite, officially unveiled Monday night, contains hundreds of refinements designed to "bring down the walls" in the creative process, by making it easier to move content between applications and by adopting a consistent user interface across the entire suite. Adobe has also added more web-accessible content and Connect Pro meeting software for instant communication between artists and developers. There are new features as well, but the real meat in this release is the improved integration, efficiency and collaboration tools.
Shipping in early October, CS4 will be available in six suites: Design Premium or Standard, Web Premium or Standard, Production Premium, and the top-tier Master Collection. Full version upgrades of the 13 stand-alone applications will also be available, including Photoshop CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash Professional, Dreamweaver, After Effects, and Premiere Pro.
Perhaps the most welcome improvement in Photoshop and Photoshop Extended is the addition of OpenGL support. The application can now make use of graphics processors to reduce rendering times, provide smoother pan and zoom effects and generally speed things up. Photoshop CS4 sports a new unified application frame with a tab-based interface, and self-adjusting panels designed to simplify access to advanced editing tools. Photoshop CS4 Extended adds a new 3D engine, allowing faster, more realistic image rendering.
With the explosion of video content on the web and on mobile devices, CS4 Production Premium is Adobe's attempt cover all of the bases. The idea is to allow users to work with virtually any video, audio and graphic format, and output the content to any screen -- from mobile phones to DVDs to big-screen televisions. To do this, Adobe says its has improved the "Dynamic Link" feature, which makes it easier to move content between After Effects, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, and Encore. Intermediate rendering has been eliminated, so sequences can be transferred from one application to another without rendering. Adobe has also added enhanced XMP metadata support making it easier for editors to search video. For example, Product Manager Bruce Bowman says spoken-word audio is automatically converted to text, so a user can quickly find a spot in an interview or narration track. The metadata can also provide detailed information on the source and format of content.
One of the things Adobe have consistently asked for, Bowman says, is the ability to "break out of silos." Designers want to use their content across a variety of platforms, from print, to web to video. He says the idea behind CS4 Design Suite is to reduce the time and headaches associated with sharing content across platforms. The company says it has added "time savers" and workflow enhancements that make it easier to complete common tasks and switch between mediums without leaving a project. A "Live Preflight" tool has been added to InDesign. allowing designers to catch production errors. Photoshop includes a new "Content-Aware Scaling Tool" that instantly recomposes an image as it is resized.
Dreamweaver and Fireworks, the foundation of Adobe's CS4 Web Standard and Premium suites, have left their Macromedia roots behind and now sport the same interface used in the other CS4 apps. Senior Product Manager Chad Siegel told MacNN the streamlined interfaces give a more consistent feel and makes it easier for developers and designers to work together. For example, users can design a graphic in Photoshop CS4 Extended and create a Smart Object -- a source file that can then be used in Dreamweaver. If the Smart Object source file is changed in Photoshop -- Dreamweaver will automatically warn that the object has changed and can be updated with a click. Siegel says users can design content on one application, and easily import it to another without having to redo any work.
Adobe says the estimated street price for CS4 Design Premium will be $1799, with costs of $1699 for Adobe CS4 Web Premium and CS4 Production Premium, and $2499 for Adobe CS4 Master Collection. A variety of upgrade programs will also be available. CS4 requires a multi-core Intel Processor, Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher, at least 2GB RAM and an OpenGL 2.0 compatible graphics card. Windows users require a 2.0 GHz processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, and 2GB of RAM.