When Adobe Systems Inc. released the first version of its Creative Suite a year and a half ago, it was really all about the bundle. As far as features in the suite or new capabilities in the component applications were concerned, there wasnt a whole lot there. But Adobe Creative Suite 2, which was released in April, finally succeeds in making the bundle into a suite. Creative Suite 2 has significant new integration and cross-suite features, as well as significant upgrades in the suite applications, including those that were released at the same time as Creative Suite 2 and those, such as Acrobat 7.0, that were released earlier.Adobe Creative Suite 2, priced at $1,199 with upgrade pricing available, is a considerable bargain over purchasing the individual applications separately. We tested Creative Suite 2 Premium Edition, which includes Acrobat 7.0, GoLive CS2, InCopy CS2, InDesign CS2, Illustrator CS2 and Photoshop CS2. Creative Suite 2 also includes the new Bridge application, Adobe Reader, the Version Cue CS2 collaboration server and a new Stock Photos service for finding and purchasing images. A Standard Edition, which costs $899 and doesnt include Acrobat and GoLive, is also available. Creative Suite 2, which runs nearly identically on Mac OS X and Windows systems, is definitely a worthwhile upgrade for current users and is worth consideration by businesses looking for a powerful integrated media authoring suite. However, Windows users with older systems with less than 50MB of memory might want to upgrade to a newer system first. In tests, Creative Suite 2 refused to install on an older Windows system that had run the first version of the suite with no problems. By far, the biggest and most useful new feature in the suite is the Bridge application. Using this tool, we could easily search and browse through digital assets on both the test system and network folders. As with the tools in high-end digital asset management products, we could search on a wide variety of file metadata, including attributes such as color sets. The Bridge application let us view files in a variety of methods, use predefined labels, and rename or assign keywords to batches of files. Within Bridge we could also quickly move to other Creative Suite applicationsespecially the Version Cue system, which is now completely based on the Bridge interface. Version Cue does a much better job of handling file-naming changes and makes group sharing much easier than in Creative Suite 1. Our favorite new capability is Versions View, which let us see at one glance both a view of the current file and a thumbnail of all previous versions. This proved especially useful for photos and other images. Creative Suites new Stock Photos service is also tightly integrated with Bridge and offers a nice way to find a wide variety of images, to easily use comps of the images in prototypes and drafts, and to quickly purchase images to use for production. However, this feature could cause problems for companies with graphics departments that are already contracted with a photo service. These companies must make sure staffers dont inadvertently use photos from the Adobe service instead of the approved company photo service. Ideally, we would like to see the option to plug other photo services into Bridge in future versions of Adobe Creative Suite. Lacking this capability, it would have been a good idea to provide the option of turning off the Stock Photos service. Click here to read Jim Rapozas take on what Adobe should do with Macromedia castoffs. Photoshop is one of the core applications of Adobe Creative Suite, and the new Photoshop CS2 includes some nice enhancements. The most interesting new capability is the Vanishing Point feature, which lets users work within different perspectives in an imagefor example, Photoshop CS2 let us place text or an image edit on the side of a building or structure. A new Warp command provided much more detailed control over warping an image and then using a liquefy filter. Photoshop CS2 also does a better job of handling vector files from Illustrator and has improved raw file processing capabilities. One of the most improved applications in the suite is the GoLive Web authoring environment. To us, one of the biggest improvements was in GoLives handling of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), with a very welcome new CSS editor. GoLive also has a much-improved feature that let us quickly see how our content would look on Web sites and on smaller device screens. Illustrator CS2s new Live Trace capability made it possible to import photos or other images for editing within Illustrator. Illustrator CS2s Live Paint feature made it possible to quickly and effectively apply colors to specific regions in a drawing. Also, InDesign CS2 has made it much easier to reuse and share objects, styles and attributes when creating a complex publication. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.
Probably the biggest new feature in the suite is Adobe Bridge, a centralized organization application that provides digital asset management capabilities for files created in the suite. eWEEK Labs also found that the applications in the suite now work much better together, and PDF has become even more of a lingua franca for Creative Suite applications.