Adobe Releases Creative Suite 5.5
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Usually when software has an intermediate release between major versions, it is to fix some glaring problems with the last major release, but in Adobe's case this isn't the issue at all. Most of the new features included in Creative Suite 5.5 are focused on supporting the latest round of hardware, specifically the new collection of tablets and touch sensitive devices that are becoming available including Apple's iPad, the various Android devices and Blackberry's Playbook.
Less than a year ago, when Adobe released Creative Suite 5, they made a strategic decision to not wait for the tablet market, but now that tablets are becoming ubiquitous, Creative Suite 5.5 offers the support that these devices need. Another major development that is also supported in CS5.5 is the release of HTML5 and CSS3. Support for these new standards let you create web pages that use advanced design elements such as transparency and rounded corners.
The CS5.5 release also allowed Adobe's development teams to include many additional features that weren't quite ready for the CS5 release, but have now had the time to be completed and integrated. Included within the latest CS5.5 release are a host of new features, especially in the video and audio production products, that push the software forward. CS5.5 also includes the latest version of Acrobat, titled Adobe Acrobat X. With all the improvements, Adobe's latest release feels like another major release and not just an intermediate one.
In order to support the array of new touch-sensitive devices including the various Android devices, Blackberry's Playbook and Apple's latest iPad, Adobe has developed the Photoshop Touch Software Developer's Kit (SDK), which allows apps to be built for these devices that use and integrate with Photoshop CS5. To showcase the SDK, Adobe has announced plans to release 3 Touch applications including Adobe Color Lava, Adobe Eazel and Adobe Nav. These iPad apps are available for purchase through the Apple App Store.
Adobe Color Lava lets you mix and blend colors using the tablet interface. The new colors can be instantly transported to Photoshop using a network connection. Adobe Eazel lets you paint using the touch screen with your fingertips acting as brushes. The app gives you complete control over the color, brush size, opacity and other settings. If you like the navigation features on the iPad, then you'll love using Adobe Nav. It lets you preview image files and select which ones to open in Photoshop. Figure 1 shows the Adobe Color Lava interface.
Acrobat X Pro
The one lone holdout in the Creative Suite 5 release was Acrobat. The Acrobat development team took the time it needed to get the latest version right and the newest version of Acrobat, called Acrobat X Pro, is now an integral part of the suites.
Acrobat X Pro lets you quickly create a custom PDF Portfolio of work with layout templates, themes and colors. Figure 2 shows a sample portfolio created easily using the available wizard. Once created, you can use the links at the right to add new content, or change the layout, theme or properties.
The new Quick Tools bar holds the tools that you use the most without having to hunt around for them. Acrobat X Pro also has a new Reading Mode that maximizes the display areas by hiding most of the interface elements. Integration with Microsoft SharePoint ensures document consistency across an entire organization. Another great new feature is the Compare PDFs command that identifies and highlights changes between 2 different PDF documents.
Acrobat X is available in both Standard and Pro versions and also in the new Acrobat X Suite, which includes Acrobat X Pro, Photoshop CS5, Captivate 5, Presenter 7, LiveCycle Designer ES2 and Media Encoder CS5.
Acrobat.com includes a new service called Adobe SendNow that lets users send and receive large documents. Each document can be tracked and has a proof of receipt.
Dreamweaver and Flash CS5.5
The latest version of Dreamweaver includes support for HTML 5 and CSS 3. It also includes a new Multiscreen Preview panel that is customizable letting you view your results in several different resolutions at the same time, so you can check your design for desktops, tablets and smartphones all at once. There is also a new Media Queries dialog box for creating multiple queries across a page or an entire site. Dreamweaver CS5.5 also includes jQuery support with several mobile device starter layouts to help you get up to speed quickly.
Included with Flash Professional CS5.5 is Adobe AIR for iOS Support that allows ActionScript to be compiled for native iPhone apps. There is also support for touchpad input and gestures available as code snippets, so you can build Flash apps that run on various tablets and smartphones including Android 2.2 and above. You can even build Flash apps for Internet-connected televisions via Adobe AIR for Digital Home.
Another new feature in Flash Professional CS5.5 is the ability to scale all design content when changing the size of the stage. You can also control which elements get scaled using locks and visible layers. This makes it easy to quickly resize a design for different devices by simply entering its resolution. The Layers panel has also been improved allowing you to copy and paste layers to a different timeline or to a completely different document.
Video and Audio Product Improvements
Premiere Pro CS5.5 includes an enhanced 64-bit Mercury Playback Engine that is accelerated using NVIDIA's latest graphic cards. The engine now runs more effects and transitions on the GPU than before. It also has included support for more graphic cards including mobile video cards for Windows enabling you to use the engine on a laptop. This combination allows real-time playback with effects on a broader set of hardware.
Another cool feature in Premiere Pro CS5.5 is the new Merge Clips feature that lets you combine a video asset with up to 16 separate external audio streams into a single track. The audio and video may be synched using in or out points, markers or timecode and once merged can be moved and edited as a single easy to use track. Figure 3 shows a sample video that includes several merged clips.
Within After Effects CS5.5 is a cool new feature called Warp Stabilizer. This feature lets you take the shaky effects out of a handheld camera. But, it does more than just steady the camera's default location by removing those areas that are missing. Using the Warp Stabilizer feature, you can eliminate the parallax effects, correct for camera rotation and actually replace the missing footage. You can also smooth out the results and crop or fill the in the missing areas using pixel analysis.
Along with the video product improvements, Adobe's audio offering, Audition, has also been improved. The big news here is the introduction of Adobe Audition for the Mac. The Mac version of Audition makes all the multi-track mixing and editing features available in a package that integrates seamlessly with the other Adobe video and graphics products. For example, audio files in Premiere Pro can access Audition's cleanup and processing tools for quick roundtrip editing. The new version also includes several new DSP effects including DeHummer, DeEsser, Speech Volume Leveler, and Surround Reverb.
Creating eBooks and Digital Magazines
New features included in InDesign CS5.5 let you create eBooks with consistent typography and images. They can also be enhanced with audio, video and linked indexes and exported to the EPUB format. This lets you re-purpose documents designed for print to be delivered as an eBook or a digital magazine for a host of different devices including tablets.
The new Overlay Creator panel lets you mark specific images as interactive elements that show up as a slideshow, pan and zoom image, 360 degree rotating objects, video, animation, or even a panoramic scene when viewed on a touchscreen device or tablet. Figure 4 shows an interactive map in InDesign that changes the image when different dots are clicked on a mobile device. Using the new Article panel, you can define the exact order that elements appear on smaller resolution devices.
If you are worried that several of the key Creative Suite products weren't mentioned including Photoshop, Fireworks and Illustrator, it is because they haven't changed from the CS5 versions.
Because changes in the industry are moving so fast, Adobe is planning on making these milestone releases regularly between major releases. This is great news. Adobe is committed to updating their packages to follow the industry changes. They have also announced a new subscription model that lets you pay for the software using a monthly pricing scheme that includes the latest updates.
Overall, there is a lot happening with this intermediate release and a large number of the new features are coming directly from user's requests. Highlights for this release include the latest Acrobat, broad support for tablets and touch-sensitive devices, support for the latest Web standards and some amazing new video and audio features. All of these features make it easier to get your designs seen. It is great to see a company so committed to their users.
For more information on any of the upgraded CS5.5 products, the various Creative Suites and the other CS5.5 products, visit the Adobe web site located at www.adobe.com.