Adobe Flash CS4 Professional
The product with the most changes in Creative Suite 4 is easily Flash CS4 Professional. In recent years, both Macromedia and Adobe Systems had been emphasizing the application development aspects of Flash.
However, with this release, Flash goes back to its roots with some very good tools for those who use Flash for animation and graphics.
By far the coolest new feature is object animation through motion tweens. Using this tool, I could create an animation by applying a motion tween to an object and then defining an animation path on the stage.
Also useful was the 2-D to 3-D transformation tool, which made it possible to take two-dimensional objects and rotate them along the x, y and z axes. All of these features were tied together with the new motion editor, which provided a richer, more capable animation edition tool than a traditional timeline.
With Flash CS4 Professional, it is now also possible to publish Flash projects as Adobe AIR applications, extending the point of entry for developers interested in the AIR Rich Internet Application platform.
The product that is most affected by the new interface changes is Dreamweaver. The new Dreamweaver has more of a Photoshop-style interface with a lot of panels, and will probably represent the biggest learning curve for upgrading users.
But Dreamweaver CS4 also has a lot of new capabilities that make it a worthwhile upgrade for Web developers, especially those concerned about standards-based code and data integration.
The most interesting new feature in Dreamweaver CS4 is the Live View capability. While Dreamweaver has long had a WYSIWYG design view, it hasn't really looked like what a browser would show.
The Live View mode is much more accurate way of creating pages and seeing just how they would look in a browser, complete with scripts and other dynamic components. The Live View is based on the WebKit browser engine, one of the most standards-compliant out there, and the engine used in the Apple Safari and Google Chrome browsers.
Another nice new feature in Dreamweaver CS4 is HTML datasets. Using this feature, users can build data-aware applications without using full databases. Based on the Adobe Spry framework, this makes it possible to use table-based data for interactive Web applications.
Dreamweaver CS4 also has good integration with Photoshop and can output content in the Adobe AIR format.
Photoshop CS4 Extended
If you're someone who uses Photoshop for standard images and photos and doesn't do anything too tricky, then you can probably get by without upgrading to Photoshop CS4. However, if you have any interest in working with 3-D images, you'll want to upgrade to Photoshop CS4.
Nearly all of the most significant new features in Photoshop CS4 are in the area of creating, editing and enhancing 3-D images. There are some nice features outside this area, but none of them are in the "must have" category.
All of these features work well for direct editing and control of images, whether rotating and controlling 3-D images or directly painting textures on images.
However, this does come at a price in hardware. The new features make use of OpenGL and the hardware support appears to be limited. On one test system with a relatively hefty graphics card, I still couldn't get many of the 3-D features to work.
Adobe Creative Suite 4 includes several smaller components that aid in the integration of the applications and group management of content. By far the most useful of these components is the Adobe Bridge, which works as a kind of digital asset management system for all rich media and content usable in the Creative Suite. The Bridge in Creative Suite 4 has seen some small enhancements, including a nice carousel-style review mode for browsing through media.
Also useful is Device Central, which lets developers working with any of the suite applications test their content and applications for use on mobile devices. The new version includes improved support for testing out mobile video and rich media.
Chief Technology Analyst Jim Rapoza can be reached at [email protected]