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Summary:

Adobe introduced their Creative Suite 4 (CS4) product family to the world today, almost sixteen months since the announcement of Creative Suite 3. With six editions to choose from, ranging in price from $999 to $2,499 (upgrades from $399 to $899), and thirteen standalone applications costing […]

Adobe introduced their Creative Suite 4 (CS4) product family to the world today, almost sixteen months since the announcement of Creative Suite 3. With six editions to choose from, ranging in price from $999 to $2,499 (upgrades from $399 to $899), and thirteen standalone applications costing $199 to $999, it’s important that you have an understanding of your needs when reviewing the new features that make up each package. Adobe plans on releasing CS4 sometime in October.

Design Leads The Pack

Adobe has positioned InDesign as one of its flagship products and has added (or significantly enhanced) over ten major new features including:

  • live prefight so you have instant feedback on potential problems prior to production
  • easier ways to organize your workflow with a document links panel that provides a wealth of information on all your components
  • the ability to tailor output via conditional text that auto-reflows based on conditions you set (without the use of layers) and even better control of how content reflows in general
  • cross reference tools which allow you to dynamically update content across an entire document,
  • full document export to XFL (Adobe Flash CS4) and interactive document design features with output to SWF, opening up many more uses for your creative work
  • slick, new & customizable page transitions with options for PDF or SWF output
  • dynamic guide placement and spread rotation tools which enable pinpoint placement and review of content

Not to be outdone, Photoshop has some significant enhancements of its own to tout, including:

  • Two new panels enabling much better control over element adjustments and control over masks (pixel or vector-based)
  • smoother panning and zooming when moving across an image
  • distortion free (and fast!) canvas rotation
  • content-aware scaling which effortlessly adjusts all image components
  • improved depth-of-field control, color correction and image blending features
  • better control over layers with the ability to auto-align and create panoramic views
  • enhanced integration into Adobe Bridge
  • improvements to workflow with tabbed or n-up multi-document views

Photoshop Extended includes significant 3D capabilities, including the ability to paint directly on 3D models or auto-wrap 2D content onto a 3D surface. Photoshop Extended also includes support for Flash-based panels that can customize virtually any portion of the image.

Illustrator catches some developer love with:

  • multiple artboards (up to 100) in a single document with the ability to selectively save, export or print independently
  • fine-tuned opacity control for gradients along with direct on-screen control of most gradient features with immediate feedback
  • a new “blob brush” tool which generates a single clean vector shape
  • full preview of print separations, helping create a “no surprises” situation when production time comes
  • immediate feedback on all object customizations via the new Appearance panel

Heavy Lifters Bring Up The Middle

I use or publish PDF documents almost daily and Adobe delivers some interesting features in Acrobat 9 Pro:

  • PDF Portfolio creation, which allow you to assemble all document components into a fully customizable single, dynamic PDF document
  • the abiliy to embed Flash content directly into your PDF files
  • compare documents (PDF, Word, PowerPoint, CAD and scans) and easily see differences in mutliple views
  • significantly enhanced form building, management, deployment and analysis
  • detailed preview of overprint characteristics and full preflight management (including the ability to correct problems right in Acrobat)
  • seamless collaboration via features on acrobat.com
  • faster launches and quicker minor edits

Flash receives a major feature uplift and finds itself easily incorporated into most CS4 products with little-to-no effort. It also gains some impressive new capabilities, including:

  • object-based (vs. keyframe) animation with dirt-simple Bezier-control handles
  • full 3D transformations of 2D objects
  • a new “Bones” tool enabling quick creation of “inverse kinematic” (chain-like) animation and a full-featured motion editor for all components
  • deco and spray brush tools which effortlessly turn symbols into design tools
  • many pre-built animations to help jump-start your creative workflow
  • full metadata, XFL & H.264
  • the ability to publish to an AIR runtime

Untangling The Web

Adobe didn’t forget their web developer fans and has kicked up the feature sets of their three world-wide weavers. Dreamweaver starts off with a completely redesigned user interface and continues with:

  • live preview mode
  • AJAX & JavaScript code-hinting along with CSS best-practices context
  • New code and file navigator with subversion support
  • support for table-based HTML data sets
  • Photoshop “Smart Object” support, allowing you to place PSD files that render source modifications automatically
  • pre-release support for Adobe’s forthcoming InContext online editing service which allows end-users to modify your output without the need to purchase Dreamweaver
  • the ability to publish to an AIR runtime

Fireworks fans see some sparks as well, including:

  • Much improved user-interface
  • Adobe AIR prototyping
  • PDF export ability
  • CSS-based layout export function
  • Better asset management, styles manipulation, type-handling and color management
  • significant performance improvements
  • better team workflow management through integration with Adobe’s ConnectNow service

Contribute gains some impressive features of its own as well:

  • Full support for dynamic workflows with approvals and in-context review panels
  • In-browser editing (Firefox & IE only)
  • Support for many blogging platforms, including MovableTyle, TypePad & WordPress
  • Improved Dreamweaver integration, enhanced CSS support and a new auto-save feature to help secure your personal workflow

Keeping Things In Motion

If you have to keep things moving, then AfterEffects has some new tools to help, including support for the new 3D Photoshop layers as well as:

  • fully searchable timelines and XFL composition export control
  • powerful keyframe control enhancements
  • integrated support for mobile-device content generation
  • new cartoon effect
  • integration of Mocha’s 2.5D planar tracking application
  • tagged assets with XMP metadata and tight linking between Premier & Soundbooth

Premiere introduces full metadata tagging of all stages of your workflow production and:

  • searchable audio via text-based, timecode-accurate metadata
  • background batch encoding
  • tapeless camera support without the need for transcoding or rewrapping
  • over fifty editing tweaks requested by users
  • better workflow and integration with other members of the CS4 suite and the ability to export projects to SWF
  • Blu-ray Disc authoring (Encore
  • includes OnLocation

You can’t improve the video without paying some attention to audio and Adobe has turned up the volume on Soundbooth with some new and improved features, including:

  • Multitrack support (finally!)
  • ASND support along with MP3 compression preview support
  • speech search (shared feature with Premiere)
  • automatic volume correction with volume keyframing tools
  • significant enhancements to looping tools

Bringing It All Together

When you purchase the bundles, Adobe Bridge manages all of your media across all the packages while Device Central lets you tailor output to your desired audience with just a few clicks. The video-oriented toolsets can take advantage of Dynamic Link to speed up rendering and all your collaborative projects can integrate with Version Cue to greatly enhance workflow amongst your entire team.

Adobe plans on shipping all CS4 products in this October.

Are you excited about CS4? What feature are you most excited about? Let your voice be heard by dropping a note in the comments. (Beautiful icons by Adam Betts)

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