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Adobe vs Adobe - A Review of CS3Freelance Switch
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Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:53 pm Reply and quote this post
Adobe vs Adobe - A Review of CS3Freelance Switch
If you are confused about Adobe's new offerings, you aren't alone. Currently, one can not only purchase Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web and Design Premium, but also both variants in a Standard edition, plus Production Premium and the all-inclusive Master Collection. The Premium differences? Well between Web and Design Premium, the dollar difference is $200 [...]

Author: Dickie

If you are confused about Adobe's new offerings, you aren't alone. Currently, one can not only purchase Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web and Design Premium, but also both variants in a Standard edition, plus Production Premium and the all-inclusive Master Collection. The Premium differences? Well between Web and Design Premium, the dollar difference is $200 USD. On the application side, Web Premium nets you Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Fireworks, Acrobat 8 Professional, Contribute, and Bridge. Design Premium has InDesign, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, Acrobat 8 Professional and Bridge. So what you need to decide is: do you want Fireworks and Contribute, or InDesign?

Of course, there's more to the decision than that. The real question at hand is should you upgrade (if you already have CS/CS2) or purchase Creative Suite 3. We'll be taking a closer look at the individual products and the enhancements they've received in this newest version to help you figure it out.

Photoshop Extended

Let's start off with one of the most recognizable members of the Adobe family, Photoshop. Right away, you are greeted with a new color scheme and the replacement of CS2's Palettes with Panels. Each of the various panels can be grouped together, collapsed (individually or all together), docked, or even hidden. What this equates to is more available canvas area without losing easy access to your toolkit.

One of newest features that I've been using quite a bit is the new Quick Selection tool. Somewhat akin to the Magic Wand, but rather than clicking on areas that fit into the tolerance you set, one simply paints over the area, selecting as you go. You can then refine the edge transforming what was once a tedious process (for complex shapes) into something much simpler.

Been wishing for better control over your filters? Creative Suite 3 introduces Smart Filters, a new way to interact with your layers in a non-destructive way. And then, to make things even more interesting, once you've got a Smart Object (what a layer is converted into so that Smart Filters can work with it), you can stack multiple layers and produce even more astonishing results.

The most apparent is the use of Median Stack mode. Say you have a static object you want to photograph, in our example, a bridge. You like the static object, but all those pesky cars keep driving over it, cluttering your shot. In prior versions of Photoshop, one would simply attempt to clone the cars away, or take multiple shots, layer the objects, line them up, and erase the car from a particular layer. CS3 Photoshop Extended, through use of the Median Stack takes all the work out of the process. The cars are in a different spot in each picture you take, and so when stacked, they disappear. The bridge remains because it was the same in each image. Feel free to take a moment and ponder what you could do with this. Keep reading when you are ready...

You still need more examples of changes? How about these: DICOM support, newly redesigned cloning and curve tools, 3D rendering, mobile content authoring and testing, better RAW support (it can now open .tif and .jpg files), 32-bit HDR support, movie paint (where you can modify individual frames of an imported video), and an upgrade vanishing tool, just to name a few.

And what happened to ImageReady, you ask? Well, it's not so much as been replaced as more tightly integrated into Photoshop. So tightly that you may not even recognize it any more.

Considering that Photoshop Extended is almost $600 USD standalone (upgrade from $349 USD), the benefits of going with Creative Suite 3 begin to become apparent. While initially, it took me some time to get used to the new interface and tool layout, when I go back and look at CS2 Photoshop, I smile quietly and think about the workflow enhancements I've made over the last few months. One yes vote for the upgrade or purchase.


Frankly, I was a little surprised that Adobe chose to include Flash in both CS3 Web and Design Premium - since it had been a separate product for so long. Since the dawn of YouTube, Flash has become more than just fancy web design and cartoons, and spawned into a multi-dimensional übertool. The time and investment Adobe has placed in this application has paid off well, it seems.

The interface matches the new sleek style of CS3, and the integration with Illustrator and Photoshop now provides an even easier way to create standardized content across the board. No longer do you need to convert and import a single layer at a time. With this newest version of Flash, the process is much more streamlined.

You can now convert animations to ActionScript, use the new Pen and design tools, or even deploy your newly created streaming FLV content with greater ease.

Not a Flash designer? Don't feel alone! Flash still takes some skill to use, but with the advent of sites like FlashDen (shameless plug), you don't need to be an expert. Simply use Flash to modify the mass quantity of user content already available, learning new tricks and tips as you go. Another yes vote for this normally $700 USD product.


Most folks have a love-hate relationship with this member of the suite. Those of you who have been holding out for a new version of Freehand, this may come as a major blow but, Adobe, while still supporting and selling the product, has all but said you should move on to Illustrator. Thankfully, Freehand files open up very nicely, even though it is missing a few bits such as lens effects, in this latest release (13.x) of Illustrator, they stay about the same size when saved, and Adobe has produced some good content regarding how to modify your workflow accordingly, should you choose to upgrade.

New to Illustrator is the same graphic reworking and panel layout as Photoshop. Frankly, it makes Illustrator look like it really is a tightly integrated application. When launched, as with the rest of the CS3 applications, a new splash page appears with helpful shortcuts to get you rolling. You open existing files (or recent ones) on the left, and templates for new files reside on the right. You can set this to never appear, but I find that this change is far more intuitive and simpler than navigating through the menu, especially when you want to get right down to it.

My favorite new tool in Illustrator is, drum roll please, the eraser! Sorry if that seems a bit of a letdown, but in the world of vectors, this makes life much simpler. In prior versions, you needed to get out the scissor or knife tool, carve up your vector, select the bits you didn't want, and remove them. With the eraser, you simply, well, erase. Illustrator deals with the ends and presents you with new vectors. It doesn't work exactly right all the time, but it is an improvement all the same.

Also added in Illustrator is Live Color. This toolset provides a new and interesting way for you to explore, experiment, and excite your visual sense with color guides. Expand the tool and you can create your own custom color sets, re coloring your art as you go.

Other changes include integration with Flash (import with all your extras and symbol support), new anchor control tools, an isolation mode, crop area tool (with multiple presets), 9-slice scaling, and overall improved performance. You still have to double-click some tools to change how they work, and the text tool still doesn't have previews built in to the control bar (you can still right click and see a preview, however). The integration that existed in CS2 with Photoshop and InDesign is still available, so you can still drop in Illustrator vectors as Smart Objects and interact with them dynamically.

While the changes seem small here, Illustrator has noticeably improved. Take in the, once again, almost $600 USD price tag, and with Photoshop you've practically purchased CS3 Premium! A yes vote for Illustrator.


The visual stylings of Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, other than the initial splash screen, is more reminiscent of CS2. GoLive is gone from the package, and Dreamweaver has taken its place. While Dreamweaver doesn't crash as often as GoLive CS2, there are some outstanding issues that had me struggling with the conversion. We'll cover those details in a moment. First, let's look at what is new in this version.

The biggest change you'll notice is the inclusion of Spry framework for Ajax. Data, widgets, and effects all come into play to help make your site more interactive, faster, and increase usability at the same time. The Properties bar provides a reasonably easy way to tweak the elements, but overall, I found the layout of Dreamweaver, on the whole, felt cluttered and unorganized. Other changes include a CSS management system (with CSS layouts and a CSS advisor), and Device Central CS3. The ability to copy and paste directly from Fireworks and Photoshop does work, converting the copied chunks to image files, although the translation isn't nearly as slick as Smart Objects can be.

Missing elements are the lack of Smart Object integration and no grid based layout options. The WYSIWYG layout accuracy was also far worse than I would have expected. I did have some problems with the Site manager and secure FTP (SFTP), issues that I noticed others have experienced too (with sites that work fine with GoLive or even WinSCP). The solution can be found here:

While I haven't given up completely on Dreamweaver, but am keeping GoLive installed, even in it's bug-ridden CS2 state, until I get a better handle on how to tweak my workflow. Hopefully, we'll see some major improvements with integration soon. A hanging chad vote for now. We'll see how that changes with upgrades.

Acrobat / LiveCycle Designer

While most of the known world recognizes Adobe Acrobat, the majority only use Acrobat Reader. There are quite a few free PDF creation tools out there, but they often make a snapshot of the content, skipping the more advanced functionality that you can find in the Adobe suite such as multiple file packaging (with security settings maintained for each document), shared reviews, easy ways to remove sensitive information, and integration with Office, Lotus Notes, and Acrobat Reader. For those of you Windows users, there is even a new way to auto recognize form fields in existing documents so you can create easy to use fillable forms. This new connection with LiveCycle Designer is easier to use, and does a far better job than CS2 ever did.

Acrobat was the only application that gave me grief upon install. And it seems I wasn't alone. After much hunting, deleting, registry editing, and even installing/uninstalling the standalone version, I succeeded in installing it on my laptop. The PC install went without a hitch. And you can't install just one application from the DVD - the key is not the same for the individual versions. And every time you install CS3, you have to install the shared components, again. This can turn a nice install into a bundle of deadly frustration very quickly.

The interface in Acrobat looks much like the rest of the Creative Suite, and the integration is obvious. New customizable toolbars and the now standard splash or Getting Started page help bring it all together. Only the PDF export functionality gave me problems, but only with certain documents, and it still did a better job than the last revision. Vote yes for Acrobat and LiveCycle, a $450 USD option that is in both Web and Design Premium.


The CS2 version of Bridge was a visually interesting product, but it was slow and a little unwieldy. In CS3, Bridge has taken on a new life. Both acting as it's own media management and as a hub or bridge for Version Cue, Stock Photos, Connect, and Device Central. The interface has been redesigned, and now includes a new filter panel, enhanced previews (with a new loupe tool), and a new flat folder view. Bridge also handles photo importing more efficiently, although there didn't seem to be a way to tell Bridge to wipe the card after the import was complete.


As the new kid on the block with Dreamweaver and one of the differences between Web and Design Premium, Fireworks suffers from the same symptoms of integration. The toolbars and sidebars look like they came from CS2. Reworked as a rapid website prototyping application, Fireworks does have some useful features, such as the asset library, preserving layers within .png files, and integration with Flash and Dreamweaver, it doesn't always work as you would expect.

For example, you can import Photoshop files directly into Fireworks, preserving layers and effects. Everything looks fairly normal (other than the icons and toolbars, which we have mentioned), until you start getting into some of the deeper design tweaks. And then you are left scratching your head, wondering why in the world what was red in Photoshop is now green in Fireworks. Turns out, as you can see in the example, Fireworks took the liberty of ignoring the color overlay, and converted the layer into red, which then, with the blending mode set to Difference, changed the overall image green. This, in my opinion, will not lead to rapid protyping. Especially if you work heavily out of Photoshop or Illustrator and then decide to take advantage of the asset library of Fireworks.

So while this new member of Creative Suite does provide some interesting tools (such as the multipage support and 9-slice scaling), it needs a lot more work before it replaces my prototyping in Photoshop. And while it is a $300 USD value, I certainly wouldn't buy it off the shelf, and thus give it a no vote.


Another new member of Web Premium, Contribute replaces CoAuthor (in some ways, considering GoLive is gone from the set). And, once again, the design and toolbar layout look more like CS2 than the rest of the CS3 suite. New features include blog and web posting directly from Microsoft Office, a WYSIWYG blog editor, integration with Internet Explorer and Firefox, and compatibility with both XP/Vista and Intel/PowerPC based Macs.

It does provide a unique interface through which you can provide users who don't want to purchase the entire suite a way to edit content. But it just doesn't work as well as I would expect. In one test, I connected to my Blogger account (which has several blogs that I help run), and rather than asking which blog I wanted to use, it started connecting to each of them, pulling templates for one and all, failing on some (for unknown reasons), but succeeding on others. It took far more time than it needed to, and once it finished, I tried connecting to a new blog that we just started, and the application reported that I was running low on memory (I have 3Gb). After a restart and reconnect to the same blog, the error didn't appear again.

So I then tried editing a post. This blog, which doesn't use text for content, except for once a week. So the image post I tried put the "Enter Blog Content" right on top of the image, finally shifting it down after my first hard return. Text posts were easier to manage. The overall experience was slow and a tad painful. I could have edited several posts via the web interface by the time it took to get through the first Contribute edit.

Contribute clocks in at just under $150 USD if purchased outside of CS3, but even at that price, it still needs some major tweaking before I would recommend it to any but the technically advanced, and even then, why would they bother? Another no vote here.


Moving back into Design Premium, InDesign is like Publisher on baseball scale steroids. The style and tools match the new CS3 suite, and it starts up much faster than InDesign CS2 ever hoped. New features in this version include updated non-destructive effects and controls (transparency and gradient feathers, for example), table and cell styles, advanced long-document support, and XHTML support for multi-platform publishing.

InDesign could still use better integration with Photoshop (SmartObjects would be a wonderful addition), but the connection to Illustrator is fantastic. One can simply drag their vector into InDesign and it will appear, ready to be fitted into your document. Dealing with frames still can be a bother, but once you get used to the nuances of the tool, it does make sense. With placed InDesign files (INDD), you can easily reuse existing layouts and design in other InDesign documents, preserving your links and even updating content from within those links.

Priced below $700 USD if purchased by itself, InDesign is still a great addition to Creative Suite 3, and receives a yes vote.

The Lowdown

So where does that leave us? As you can gather from the votes above, the better choice, at least in my experience and workflow is Design Premium. You still get Dreamweaver and Flash in Design, so unless you really need Fireworks or Contribute, the $200 USD price difference nets you a much better value overall.


The Good

    -New toolbars and styling

    -Integration that works across applications

    -Fantastic price point versus purchasing individual titles


The Not So Good

    -Lack of tight integration with some applications

    -Every install requires reinstallation of shared components

    -Some features don't work nearly as well as they could


Available direct from Adobe, the retail price for Web and Design Premium is $1599 USD and $1799 USD respectively. Upgrades from prior versions come in at $399 USD and $599 USD. Are you a student or teacher? Hold on to your hats: $499 USD and $599 USD for the full versions.

Would you like to have your product reviewed? Drop us a line here.


Contributed by SaaM, iVirtua Ultimate Contributor
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