Category Archives: Graphic Design

REVIEW: Adobe Acrobat XI

Adobe is promoting Acrobat XI as a productivity enhancer for a variety of markets:

  • Increased editability and cloud service integration for business professionals
  • Integration with Microsoft Office and SharePoint, and increased efficiency for IT departments
  • Much easier text and image editability for content creators and designers
  • Security measures and PDF protection is now easier to apply, for data security personnel

One new feature in Acrobat XI is a complete sea change from previous versions and something I personally would never have expected to see—full PDF editability. From the reviewer’s guide: “Professionals frequently need to edit content from existing PDF files without wasting precious time locating and revising source files.” This is very true. As a designer, I’ve asked for native files a hundred times from clients who delivered PDF files and then needed changes (and didn’t want to pay the original designer). There have always been tools to make PDF edits and Acrobat has had ways to revise certain elements such as images, but the PDF format has never been conducive to editing. That has changed in Acrobat XI.

Edit Image

Edit Text

This new editability is handled by the new Edit Text and Images tool. When it’s active, text and image elements can be scaled, rotated and edited. Text will usually reflow during editing, which cures a major pain point for designers editing PDFs. Images can still be sent to Photoshop or Illustrator and back again. And you can execute find/replace commands to make text changes across an entire PDF. Acrobat XI’s new editing tools are an improvement but I see some problems with it:

  • PDF pages are treated as individual documents, so changes on one page will not cause text to reflow across pages. In fact, if you add enough text to a block on the bottom of a page, it will flow beneath the next page.
  • Acrobat XI segments a PDF into text and image blocks during editing. Each one will reflow but they are not aware of each other, and this causes problems. For example, each bullet and item in a bulleted list is its own text block, and editing one will not cause layout changes for the other items. Paragraphs are separate text blocks and will not move up or down due to text changes around them.
  • For some reason, I have also seen single paragraphs and captions composed of multiple text blocks. Editing these would be tedious.
  • As with any document, missing fonts will be replaced with a default font. It looks like images are embedded, so they don’t need to be linked with native files.

I think Edit Text & Images is a decent improvement but it doesn’t replace native files. You can edit pretty much anything in a PDF with Acrobat XI, but it is not easy unless revisions are small. It’s great for typos, but major edits causing page reflow would be a nightmare to deal with strictly in Acrobat XI.

Moving files with drag-and-drop merge

Drag-and-drop merge is another major feature in Acrobat XI. Recent versions of Acrobat have provided ways to build large PDFs (PDF Portfolio comes to mind) and the “Combine Files in a Single PDF” command is buried in the File > Create menu and in other places including the Welcome dialog box. Acrobat has a lot of features nowadays and this one can be hard to find. When you do invoke the command, a dialog box is provided to add, reorder and remove files.

PowerPoint Export

Corporate users will appreciate Acrobat XI’s new Export to Microsoft PowerPoint feature. Entire PDFs or text selections can be exported as PowerPoint documents, and Acrobat XI does a great job preserving formatting and document structure (including master layouts). I see fewer PowerPoint presentations nowadays—Apple’s Keynote actually shows up quite a bit in my work—but PowerPoint is still the industry standard in corporate environments. Along with PowerPoint, PDFs can also be exported in Word, Excel or HTML file formats. I can’t think of any export formats missing now in Acrobat except for Keynote, although Acrobat can export a PPTX file that Keynote can work with.

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint now also integrate Acrobat XI’s enhancements in PDF security. Protect PDF is an option available when saving PDFs that will basically restrict copying, editing and printing. These restrictions are themselves not new but Acrobat XI makes it easier and faster to deploy these options. Along with Protect PDF, Restrict Editing in the Protection menu quickly password-protects PDFs from editing. This happens to be the restriction I apply the most, and it is an easy thing to do now. My only complaint—and it’s one that has been around for many versions of Acrobat—is that I have to apply the security to a copy of the PDF, not the same one I’m working on.

FormsCentral integration

This is the first version of Acrobat that really integrates with the Acrobat.com online applications and leverages those services. Acrobat XI ships with a desktop app for FormsCentral, the online form builder and response analytics service. FormsCentral is quite useful and I have used it for more than one project; it makes building robust forms easier and presents complete analytics. The Forms > Create menu item launches the FormsCentral desktop app, a portal to the online app, and from there you can command all FormsCentral features. One of the benefits of working with an online app is you can manage forms and analytics even if you’re away from Acrobat XI.

EchoSign integration

Another online application that Acrobat XI integrates with is EchoSign, the digital signature service. Acrobat has relied on digital signatures in PDF forms for years, and EchoSign provides another layer of features including online distribution and tracking, delivery confirmation with Adobe Certified Document Services, and hand-signed electronic signatures applied via touchscreen devices. Over the years, Acrobat’s electronic signature features have not changed much and I have found them to be confusing. EchoSign helps relieve the confusion, but what really clarifies things is the Place Signature option in the Sign panel. The Place Signature dialog box provides four options for electronically signing a document and it’s pretty easy to use. EchoSign’s real benefits come with document distribution.

One more feature that I think is really useful: Custom tool sets. Acrobat XI is a quite mature app and it has grown a long list of tools and toolbars. It has been particular long since the sidebar tool panel was released a couple versions back. There are almost too many tools, and definitely too many toolbars to be useful at once. Custom toolbars allow users to remove, add or move tools around in existing tool sets or create new tool sets. Tool sets are included on top of the sidebar panel. I don’t know how useful this is in the creative professional market: Adobe creative products have used task-specific workspaces for years now, but customizing tool panels have typically not done well. In this case, Acrobat XI might have a good use for custom tool sets in the corporate market, where there’s time, resources and motivation to build custom tool sets for department tasks. Another use for this could be in prepress and print production, where users work with PDFs regularly but have no need for Acrobat’s collaboration and commenting tool panels.

Acrobat XI provides several new features that really stand out, and it’s part of the Creative Cloud so it’s available to many users without extra cost. The standalone product costs US$449/$199 full/upgrade. FormsCentral and EchoSign are both services with monthly costs—both are just under $15 per month.

Acrobat XI
Adobe Systems
US$449/$199 upgrade
Rating: 8/10

Global Publishing Platform Blurb Expands High-Quality Print Options to Include Magazines and Brochures

The online publishing platform Blurb has expanded their digital publishing products to include magazines and brochures. Online publishing has greatly changed the publishing industry—I think it’s the greatest industry change since desktop publishing in the 1980s and 1990s—and Blurb’s new brochure product in particular turns the entire printing process on its head. Who would have thought you could have a print run of one ten years ago?

I might be able to arrange an interview with CEO Eileen Gittins in the near future, but until then here is the press release with links to Blurb’s magazine and brochure pages.


PRESS RELEASE

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Blurb, the global creative publishing platform, today released two additions to its on-demand print products—Magazines and Brochures. These new products, available via an Adobe® InDesign® plug-in, combine print-on-demand flexibility with quality and design capabilities to meet the individual needs of consumers and businesses, regardless of how big or small the job.

Until now, those looking to create high-quality product catalogs, promotional collateral, look books, brand presentations and brochures in small quantities were limited by minimum order requirements, resulting in high, unattainable costs. Blurb’s new on-demand offering allows consumers and businesses to print low-volume orders in one week, which can be easily updated and reprinted. This results in lower development costs, no inventory management or storage costs, and much less waste.

“Creating a distinctive print marketing piece used to mean printing thousands of copies and weeks to turnaround,” said Eileen Gittins, Blurb’s CEO and founder. “With our new brochure offering, the minimum order is one copy, the turnaround time is a few days and multiple options are available for cover finishes. Our new magazine offering is perfect for the short, ‘bursty’ way that people create and consume content today. Who doesn’t want to see their work published in a magazine?”

High-Quality Printing Meets Ease of Design

Blurb Magazines and Brochures, both of which are made using Blurb’s platform and its plug-in for Adobe® InDesign®, let anyone create customized publications that push the creative edge. Both products are printed on HP Indigo presses – the industry’s leading printer for on-demand publishing.

Blurb Magazines are affordable, lighter-weight, perfect-bound, 20- to 240- page publications ideal for creative and editorial content. Blurb Brochures, perfect for creating customized business collateral, range from 4 to 48 pages and offer saddle-stitched binding and a selection of cover finishes. Both Magazines and Brochures are U.S. industry standard 8.5 x 11-inch formats.

Customers can easily convert their Blurb Magazines or Brochures to digital versions as ebooks for the iPad® or as PDFs for easy sharing and dissemination. No minimum orders are required to create Blurb Magazines or Brochures, but customers creating publications in bulk can take advantage of Blurb’s volume orders discounts.

“With both of these new products, we are leveling the playing field; now individuals and businesses can look as impressive as their much larger competitors,” Gittins said.

Like Blurb on Facebook, and follow on Twitter. For more information on how you can get started creating your own Blurb magazine or brochure booklet, please visit http://www.blurb.com/.

About Blurb®

Blurb® is a creative publishing platform that unleashes the creative genius inside everyone. Blurb’s platform makes it easy to design, publish, market and sell professional-quality print books, magazines and ebooks. Blurb’s bookstore and online marketing tools enable customers to sell their work, and keep 100% of their profit for print books and 80% of their sales price for ebooks. Blurb’s social and community features allow customers to create and share Blurb books across social channels with ease.

Blurb was founded by Eileen Gittins in 2005, and includes a team of design, Internet and media veterans who share a passion for helping people bring their stories to life. In 2010, Blurb shipped over 1.4 million books to 69 countries. In 2010, Blurb was ranked the fastest growing media company on the Inc. 500. Blurb is based in San Francisco with offices in London.

Adobe Launches eLearning Suite 6, Presenter 8

Adobe has released the newest version of the eLearning Suite of products. eLearning Suite 6 includes Adobe Captivate 6, Adobe Presenter 8 and the CS6 versions of Flash Professional, Dreamweaver, Photoshop Extended and Acrobat X Pro. More details can be found in the press release below.


Adobe Launches eLearning Suite 6, Presenter 8
Industry-Leading Authoring Suite Introduces HTML5-Based mLearning Support, Presenter Compatible with Microsoft® PowerPoint

SAN JOSE, Calif. –July 18, 2012 – Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the immediate availability of Adobe eLearning Suite 6, the company’s tightly integrated toolbox for rapidly creating professional-grade eLearning and HTML5-based mLearning content. The suite enables eLearning professionals, educators and trainers to create immersive, interactive eLearning courses complete with simulations, product demos, digital imaging, rich animations and audio production. Anchored by Adobe® Captivate 6 and the new Adobe Presenter 8, Adobe eLearning Suite 6 includes several industry-leading titles including Adobe Flash® Professional CS6, Adobe Dreamweaver® CS6, Adobe Photoshop® CS6 Extended, and Adobe Acrobat® X Pro.

“Today’s eLearning professionals, educators and trainers are dealing with a growing mobile population, platform fragmentation and the need to communicate through video.” said Naresh Gupta, senior vice president, Print and Publishing at Adobe. “As a result, efficiency in mobile authoring and delivery, and ease in video creation are among the top considerations when they select an authoring solution. Adobe eLearning Suite 6 delivers on both.”

Adobe eLearning Suite 6 enhances productivity with robust roundtripping workflows between Adobe Captivate and Adobe Audition® CS6, Adobe Flash Professional CS6, Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6 and Acrobat X Pro. For example, users can open Adobe Captivate files in Adobe Audition CS6 to quickly adjust speech pitch and alignment or Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6 to retouch images and create 3D graphics. Prebuilt native extensions with Adobe Flash Professional CS6 enable users to generate sprite sheets and more. With Acrobat X Pro users can embed Adobe Captivate movies into PDF documents and PDF portfolios, bringing text-based learning materials to life, and make the finished project accessible via Adobe Reader®.

Adobe Presenter 8

The new Adobe Presenter 8 empowers business professionals, trainers and educators to create video presentations right from the desktop, without the need for specialized equipment or training. With Adobe Presenter 8, users can streamline projects and lower costs of producing and editing videos with a single desktop solution. In addition, they are able to simultaneously capture slide presentations, webcam video and audio and dynamically mix components without a separate video editor. The intuitive interface makes it easy to edit and trim video, pan and zoom, adjust brightness and sharpness levels and enhance audio quality by reducing background noise. A host of video add-ons, including the ability to highlight select portions of a screen, insert annotations and apply text overlays, makes it easy to polish a presentation while the “Adobe Presenter to YouTube” feature allows users to publish a completed project with one click.

Adobe Captivate 6

Adobe Captivate 6 enhancements improve mobile access and boost learner engagement while ensuring effortless publishing to leading SCORM- and AICC-compliant Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Moodle, Blackboard, Plateau, Saba and SumTotal. It introduces the ability to publish content as both SWF and HTML5, enabling learners to begin a course on their desktop, pause and later resume on a mobile device, including iOS and Android™ based tablets and smartphones. Users can also quickly create and edit HD-quality demos within the new “capture-as-a-video” workflow, insert videos in a picture-in-picture format and publish projects to YouTube – all within the same UI. A full library of out-of-the-box assets, improved Microsoft PowerPoint integration and enhanced quizzing capabilities complete the top new features in Adobe Captivate 6. For more information, refer to the Adobe Captivate 6 announcement and product page.

Pricing and Availability

Adobe eLearning Suite 6 is immediately available through Adobe authorized resellers and the Adobe Store for an estimated street price of US$1,799. Users of eLearning Suite 2 and 2.5 can upgrade at a discounted price of US$599. Upgrade pricing from Adobe Captivate 5.5, 5 or 4 to Adobe eLearning Suite 6 is US$1,199. Qualified education users can purchase eLearning Suite 6 for US$599. For a complimentary trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/try.

Adobe Presenter 8 is also immediately available as a standalone product for an estimated street price of US$499, with US$299 US$199 education and upgrade pricing from Adobe Presenter 7. For a free trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/try.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Adobe Releases Creative Suite 6 and Creative Cloud

Adobe announced today the release of Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and the Adobe Creative Cloud, representing the latest in the company’s lineup of applications for creative professionals. They will be available for purchase in May.

Both products had been previously announced—Creative Cloud was first announced back in October at Adobe MAX—and there are many official and unofficial “sneak peek” videos online of new CS6 features. Some applications have also been available as public betas, including Photoshop CS6 (1 million downloads as of this writing), Edge and Muse (over 1 million downloads each). Despite this early exposure, the creative community seems more excited over this release than some previous Creative Suite releases and the response to the public betas have been very positive. The Photoshop CS6 beta has been downloaded more than any in Adobe’s history.

The Creative Cloud structure

Adobe Creative Cloud is a response by Adobe to the changing nature of software and online services. It’s become clear that large version releases every 18 to 24 months is an anachronism compared to bug fixes pushed over the Internet or online apps handled by many hands across Github. Most of the CS6 products are the same familiar ones we’ve used for years, but Creative Cloud provides a new pricing model, online services and a new activation/updating system.

Adobe Creative Cloud includes:

Lightroom 4 and the Digital Publishing Suite will not be included until the summer. Adobe Touch applications for iOS are planned for release before the summer, particularly Photoshop Touch which my source says will be available in May.

Adobe Creative Cloud is not dependent on an Internet connection; software is downloaded to the user’s computer and can run without a connection. The installed software does check Adobe’s servers once a month to ensure a valid Creative Cloud license exists for the user based on his/her Adobe ID. Software updates can be pushed directly to the user’s computer and content will be available on all devices through Creative Cloud synchronization.

Purchasing software through a Creative Cloud subscription has some advantages. Typically, a Creative Suite customer gets a boxed product that can be installed on two machines—typically a desktop and laptop computer—but the box contains either Mac or Windows versions. Creative Cloud users are still restricted to two machines but one can be a Mac and the other Windows. This is a sweet deal for Mac users who happen to use a PC laptop.

There is also a free subscription available for prospective Creative Cloud customers. The free subscription includes 2GB of cloud storage for projects and trials of all available software. Note that if you buy into Creative Cloud and then cancel at some point, the software will stop working (after it pings the server) but your cloud storage space remains for several months.

Creative Cloud Pricing

Adobe Creative Cloud costs $49.99 per month annually or $74.99 per month, paid monthly. There’s also an introductory rate of $29.99 per month for users of CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5. A version of Creative Cloud optimized for teams will cost $69.99 per person per month. This team-optimized product will include expert services and support, company IT tools and workstation synchronization, but it’s buried deep in Adobe’s development timeline and a fall release would not surprise me.

What if I don’t want Creative Cloud?

Adobe expects many users to create on tablets and mobile devices first, then polish their creations with CS6 and eventually “publish anywhere” with software like Edge—which converts animations to HTML5—and services like Business Catalyst. I reviewed the Adobe Touch apps and I thought they were not robust enough as a whole to bring more than a kernel of a final product back to the desktop, so I’m glad to see a typical Creative Suite workflow—without most of the Creative Cloud-specific features—is still possible.

CS6 icons

There are four Creative Suite 6 suites:

  • Design Standard includes:
    • Acrobat X Pro
    • InDesign CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6
  • Design Premium and Web Premium have been combined into one suite that includes:
    • All Design Standard products
    • Dreamweaver CS6
    • Fireworks CS6
    • Flash Professional CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended replaces Photoshop CS6
  • Production Premium includes:
    • After Effects CS6
    • Audition CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended
    • Premiere Pro CS6
    • Encore CS6
    • Prelude CS6 (new)
    • SpeedGrade CS6 (new)
  • Master Collection includes all CS6 applications.

Adobe Edge, Muse and Lightroom 4 are not CS6 applications and aren’t available in any CS6 suite, though they are included in Creative Cloud.

Prices are:

  • CS6 Design Standard: $1,299 full, $299 upgrade
  • CS6 Design & Web Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Production Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Master Collection: $2,599 full, $549 upgrade

Flash Builder 4.6 and Acrobat X will not see an update, but Creative Cloud users will get their updates automatically when they are available. CS5.5 single-product subscribers will be able to continue their subscriptions at $19.99 per month per product, and they will also score 10GB of Creative Cloud space. However, CS5.5 suite subscribers will need to transition to Creative Cloud.

What’s in Creative Suite 6?

A lot of readers will really just want to know what’s in the newest versions of the Creative Suite products. There are two new CS6 applications, both in the video category:

  • SpeedGrade CS6, for color grading and color-correcting video
  • Prelude CS6, for adding metadata to clips on import and handling shoot data

There are a huge number of new features for CS6, particularly for some of the flagship products like Photoshop. I think this is why so many public beta users are getting excited for the launch. I am using a few prerelease betas of CS6 software but I prefer to work with the shipping product before I write a review, so those will be forthcoming.

Conclusion

Adobe is naturally excited about the CS6 and Creative Cloud launch, which Scott Morris—Senior Marketing Director for Creative Pros—said might be the most important launch in Adobe’s history. The Creative Cloud product is what makes it so important—it’s a rethinking of the way Adobe delivers products, and it’s the first single product that puts the entire creative workflow in the user’s hands.

REVIEW: Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

The Overlay Creator

The Overlay Creator panel is the DPS component that InDesign designers will spend most of their time in. The Overlay Creator panel, a plugin that works with InDesign CS5 and later, is the interface for adding multimedia and interaction to InDesign files for inclusion in digital publications. You can add a variety of interactive features to InDesign documents, not all of which are new to InDesign:

  • Image Sequences display multiple images, which has a variety of applications including time-lapse sequences, animated clips and 360-degree views. Image Sequences can auto-play or respond to user “scrubbing.”
  • Audio & Video insert audio and video assets into InDesign documents. Thanks to the multimedia features that have been added to InDesign in the past few years, adding audio and video is easy to do and the media controls generated by InDesign are good.
  • Hyperlink overlays will add links to your digital publications that link to online content, articles within the publication and more. Quick tip: Apple provides a method to write hyperlinks that send SMS text messages. Apple has a URL Scheme Reference that explains how to build these links.
  • Like the Image Sequence, the Slideshow overlay displays a slideshow in digital publications. Think of Slideshow as a traditional slideshow, incorporating InDesign elements including text and graphics, while Image Sequence is more of a “flip book” slideshow format with only images.
  • Pan & Zoom is one of my favorites, allowing users to pinch and expand images in digital publications. The designer has to think ahead when using Pan & Zoom and insert large images in their graphic frames. These can be scaled down to the desired default view, but the digital publication will retain the full-resolution image so it can be blown up when the user enlarges it. The DPS does not enlarge images on its own.
  • Panorama will combine multiple images into a panorama. This can be tricky because the user needs to load six photographs into InDesign with the right angle and order so it can be stitched together automatically. There are also some esoteric settings in the Overlay Creator including field of view and limit vertical pan. Reading through the instructions and a little playing around with the controls will help users grasp the Panorama overlay, and there are tutorials online for shooting images to be stitched into panoramas.
  • Web Content, which used to be called “Web View,” will embed online webpages or an HTML file within digital publications. It’s really surprising and very cool to see a webpage loaded in an InDesign publication, but it works and users can even interact with the webpage. The process is actually fairly easy to implement.

Creating interactivity with the Overlay Creator does a good job of condensing extensive interaction into a panel with a few settings, but I think Adobe’s development team can make the process more intuitive, particularly with bringing multimedia onto the page. The current InDesign has a lot of panels to sift through and the Overlay Creator adds quite a bit more chrome to the package. Keeping track of all the user interface elements involved with Overlay Creator was my biggest challenge, not bugs or a lack of interactive features.

The Folio Builder

The other component of DPS that resides in InDesign is the Folio Builder panel, where users combine articles into .folio files for publication and also finalize the document’s orientation. Working with articles and folios can be a mundane task but this part of the process is where designers can see their work on a tablet for the first time through the Content Viewer, an Adobe app available on the desktop or on the Apple App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World and for webOS.

Articles can be pulled from multiple documents, so you can build a horizontal and vertical version of a publication and combine it into one app in the Folio Builder. Creating two versions of a publication is not ideal, but it’s necessary if you want a publication that changes orientation properly. Adobe seems to be at least on the right track in creating “liquid layouts” in InDesign that will re-orient themselves depending on the orientation, which would be a wonderful new feature. Here’s a demo of the technology at Adobe MAX.

Adding articles and pushing folios up to the Content Viewer is most of what the Folio Builder does, but there are also some sharing features which I think is very important in a production environment. The Folio Builder panel’s menu has a Share option which will let users share a publication with other users who have an Adobe ID. You can also append a subject and message to the share notice. This is very useful but I would also like an interface in the DPS website where you can set up groups of multiple users so you can grant rights and share folios with groups of people at once. This is what I do when developing Facebook applications. Even though you can share to multiple individuals at once in Folio Builder, groups and shared rights make collaboration easier.

REVIEW: Adobe’s Touch Apps for Android

Last month, Adobe released its line of Adobe Touch Apps for Android tablets. Adobe has been testing the mobile and tablet software markets for some time now, first with Adobe Ideas for iOS and Photoshop Express, then the Photoshop SDK and the three Photoshop-related touch apps for iPad, then with Adobe Carousel which also runs currently on iOS, and now with six apps for creative professionals on Android tablets:

  • Adobe Collage, where users can build mood boards with images, text and graphics,
  • Adobe Debut, suitable for presenting graphics and concepts to audiences,
  • Adobe Ideas, a vector application suitable for creating and marking up images,
  • Adobe Kuler, which provides an interface for picking and refining color schemes,
  • Adobe Proto, where layouts for websites can be constructed, and
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch, a tablet-based version of Adobe Photoshop.

I’ve worked with all six and I think the suite of apps are a mixed bag: some really stand out for their usefulness and ability to leverage many tools available in the Android SDK, while others are not as helpful and robust. I can’t tell whether some of the apps are hamstrung by limitations in the APIs or were designed by Adobe to focus on a very specific set of features.

The crown jewel: Photoshop Touch

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch is probably the Adobe Touch app being promoted the most, and it got a lot of love at the Adobe MAX developer conference in October. Many Photoshop users—including myself—have been wanting “Photoshop on a tablet,” and I think Adobe delivered. Photoshop Touch has a lot of Photoshop’s tools, effects and adjustments, including some I wasn’t expecting (such as Warp). There are a few Photoshop tools that aren’t present, including some animation tools such as the Animation panel. But Photoshop Touch stands out as the most feature-rich and robust of all Adobe’s Touch apps.

I also think Photoshop Touch has the most robust user interface, and incorporates a helpful menu bar at the top of the screen. All the Adobe Touch Apps have a top menu but most only show a few icons and don’t have submenus. Photoshop Touch needs an extensive UI like this, and even though it’s packed with features it’s not hard to use. The only criticism I can make is that some tools aren’t in the same place they are in Photoshop, and Photoshop users might find this counterintuitive. I think the Photoshop Touch development team sometimes strayed too far from the example set by Photoshop.

ps-touch

The results you can achieve with Photoshop Touch are remarkable, particularly with the Scribble Selection tool which lets you mark areas to keep and remove. The app figures out the rest with very good accuracy. This tool reminds me of Photoshop’s old Extract filter, which was removed from that product a couple years ago and still hasn’t been given a suitable replacement. Most of major features are borrowed from Photoshop—layers, brushes, text, adjustment filters and effects are all integrated into Photoshop Touch. One missing feature is the layer mask, which I think is a major oversight. Fortunately, Photoshop Touch exports its files in a new .psdx format, which Photoshop can open with a plugin, so you will be able to bring the full power of Photoshop to your Photoshop Touch projects.

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch performs best as part of a workflow that also includes Photoshop, though you can do exceptional work without it. Creative professionals who use the Creative Suite extensively will find Photoshop Touch to be a solid extension of their Photoshop tools into the mobile space.

Impressed by Proto

The other Adobe Touch app that really impressed me is Adobe Proto, a web wireframing tool for web designers. Like Photoshop Touch, it has a robust set of tools and a UI that also includes gesture shortcuts. For example, draw a box on the canvas and an HTML div element is created. Draw a “play button” triangle and an HTML5 video element is created. The gesture UI is very easy to work with and I wish Proto was not the only Adobe Touch app that implemented it, but each app has its own development team and the Proto team happened to be the only one to weigh gestures important enough to include in the initial launch. Proto’s gesture UI makes creating website wireframes quick, easy and even fun.

Proto image

Proto projects can contain multiple pages and link between them, and there’s a lot of emphasis on basic HTML elements, form elements and navigation powered by jQuery, the ubiquitous JavaScript framework. Projects can then be pushed up to Adobe Creative Cloud—Adobe’s upcoming cloud service for creative professionals—and then brought into Dreamweaver or any other programming application. I’ve looked at the code Proto renders out and it’s fairly basic but functional, consisting of HTML5, CSS and jQuery as needed. Each page in a project gets its own CSS file, which is not usually advantageous.

Proto image

Proto is a solid wireframing app that provides a lot of tools despite its restrictions in the tablet. Developers need to apply some design work to the output and perhaps clean up some of Proto’s code, but I think Proto can provide a decent starting point for many projects.

Two new apps: Collage and Debut

Collage image

Adobe Collage is a fun tool for producing “mood boards,” which agencies and design teams sometimes use to bring images and text together to communicate a concept for development. Collage leverages the tablet interface very well, including support for multi-touch gestures that brings a tactile behavior to the mood board experience. Moving items around with your fingers is different than using a mouse and a monitor. Collage also interfaces with the tablet’s camera so you can take pictures of your environment and make it part of your mood boards instantly. There’s a small set of tools as well for markup, including a vector brush, text tool and a drop-down menu for duplicating, deleting and stacking elements. You can also include playable video into your mood boards, but they play in a new window and not on the project board itself.

Collage image

Unfortunately, there are not many more features in Collage and I find it to be lacking a few features. Why not include a microphone or allow importing video from the tablet camera? Both of these could really bump up the personal experience of creating projects in Collage. Also, Collage files are currently imported into Photoshop by converting them into a PSD file that can’t be converted back into a Collage file. The converted PSD doesn’t retain video elements either. I think there’s a few kinks to work out in the Adobe Touch Apps/Creative Suite import/export process.

Debut image

Adobe Debut is the least powerful and weakest member of the Adobe Touch Apps family. Debut is a presentation tool that imports graphics and images from various sources and lets users swipe through them. It’s the kind of feature that can be handy in a client meeting or a portfolio presentation. Debut’s best feature is the breadth of sources it can pull images from, including from the tablet’s camera, the Creative Cloud, Google and Flickr. The Creative Cloud gives access to users’ Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator files, which is a real plus for creative professionals. You can also toggle Photoshop file layers on or off when importing. A vector markup tool allows Debut presentations to be marked up on the fly, which can be handy in client meetings.

Debut image 1

However, the fact that I’ve just described the extent of Debut’s functionality goes to show how little it can really do. Collage can do pretty much anything Debut can do except present multiple slides, which is what makes me think Adobe should combine these two apps into a more powerful mood board creation and presentation app for client experiences.

HP’s EliteBook 8460w Still Durable and Tough, Inside and Out

Last year I reviewed the HP EliteBook 8540w, which for me really showed how technology design could go in a different direction than Apple’s spare, minimalist approach. I’ve been a Mac user for years and the EliteBook showed me how some users need tough, sturdy hardware—which designers seem to avoid sometimes in favor of the elegant.

Many changes have happened this year in the computer hardware industry as tablets continue to affect the form factor of our computers. Laptops are becoming smaller and sleeker, and Apple is rumored to be applying the slim MacBook Air form to the MacBook Pro line. Other PC manufacturers like Dell and Asus have responded with similarly thin laptops. HP might do the same, but for now their current EliteBook 8460w remains a thick and durable piece of hardware.

The system configuration is powerful enough: 4GB of RAM, a 300GB hard drive and a 14-inch 1600×900 display all make the EliteBook 8460w a capable machine even for Photoshop work, though an extensive video project probably needs more screen area and more memory. As with the previous iteration, the EliteBook 8460w has plenty of ports and inputs including a fingerprint reader and four USB ports. I’ve never needed more than three USB ports when traveling so I tend to think all of the EliteBook’s ports are overkill, but other users may have several devices to connect and no USB hub to make things easier.

HP touts the EliteBook’s durable design, which still meets the MIL-STD 810G military standards for resisting various environmental effects such as drops, dust, temperatures and shocks. Not a lot of changed from last year’s EliteBook design but I am glad to see the difficult touch buttons at the top of the keyboard have been replaced by physical buttons. The brushed gunmetal case looks striking and stands out among Apple’s silver laptops and the plain plastic cases I see on other PC laptops. The EliteBook 8460w just looks like a machine that’s ready for work.

According to HP, the standard battery in the EliteBook 8460w lasts up to six hours and 30 minutes. I get different readings on the actual machine: at one point it said it was at 60% but had over six hours of life remaining. That makes it sound like the battery can hold 10 hours of power, which would be excellent, and it is corroborated by this user. However, I’ve only put this EliteBook through light to moderate testing, and haven’t tried to tax the system. Working with graphics or video will use more battery life. But it looks like the EliteBook 8460w’s battery performs very well—better than my MacBook Pro’s.

The EliteBook’s chunky design and moderate weight (almost five pounds) make me wonder how it will stand up next to the crop of sleek laptops hitting the market. I mentioned how the industry is moving toward smaller and thinner laptops and also tablets. I rarely see blocky laptops like the EliteBook 8460w at developer conferences and in designers’ cubicles, so where does the EliteBook belong? Since it’s military-grade hardware and even dubbed a “mobile workstation,” I think the EliteBook line belongs in physically demanding locations including military installations, construction sites and jobs requiring lots of travel. The EliteBook 8460w would excel in all these situations. Designers who worship at Apple’s altar may find the EliteBook form factor practically barbaric, with its extraneous ports and blocky exterior, but the computer itself is strong enough for most design jobs and it could serve designers pretty well.

I think the EliteBook 8460w can be a designer’s workstation, but the laptop’s design might not be everyone’s favorite. I personally need a laptop that’s lightweight and thin because I’m often carrying other devices with me, and can’t carry a bulging laptop bag everywhere I go. But if I was in a line of work where durability was more important, the EliteBook line would be a strong contender.

HP EliteBook 8460w
HP
US $1,329
Rating: 9/10
Buy at Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Touch Apps Tablet Applications For Android

Today Adobe officially released their lineup of Touch Apps for Android tablets, deepening their dive into products for mobile devices. The company has devoted considerable resources to mobile applications for a few years now, so the Touch Apps represent a major investment for Adobe.

The Touch App lineup released today includes six applications:

  • Adobe Collage, for creating “moldboard” layouts including photos, drawings and text.
  • Adobe Debut, a presentation tool for mockups and Touch App projects.
  • Adobe Ideas, which is similar other vector drawing programs like Illustrator.
  • Adobe Kuler, a color palette builder.
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch, which is designed to deliver core Photoshop features on a tablet.
  • Adobe Proto, for building interactive prototypes of websites and mobile apps.

Even though it’s considered part of the “Touch Apps family,” the previously-announced Adobe Carousel photo management app isn’t listed as one of the “Adobe Touch Apps.” It also is only available on iOS devices at the moment; see below for more details. Kuler and Ideas both exist in other forms as well.

I received a demo tablet from Adobe just last Saturday and I’ve just started to work with the applications, so no review for now. However, these applications were shown extensively at Adobe MAX (including the Day 1 keynote) and I’m fairly familiar with how they work. Together, they provide a solid collection of core tools from most of the major Creative Suite products—Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver and minor elements from a couple others. The hurdle Adobe has to clear is to provide a user interface that works in a tablet but has the power and flexibility to get serious work done in a variety of environments.

The Touch Apps are on the Android Market now and sell for $9.99 each, a price well over the $3.13 average price of paid Android apps. Adobe will have to appeal to the professional community to justify the price. The apps are also restricted by language (English only) and by hardware specs: 8.9-inch, 1280×800 minimum screen size and resolution with Android 3.1 or higher, which eliminates all current Android non-tablets. The apps are currently available only on Android, but they will be ported over to iOS devices in early 2012. There’s no word yet whether the apps will be restricted to the larger iPad.

Day 2 Announcements From Adobe MAX: PhoneGap, Flash Player 11, AIR 3 and Unreal Engine 3

Compared to the first day’s MAX keynote, the second day’s keynote was much more focused on hard-core development but also a lot less exciting and with fewer major announcements. The only acquisition that was announced was Nitobi, which brings the PhoneGap development platform into Adobe’s portfolio. PhoneGap is a popular way to publish HTML5 and JavaScript-built applications to most major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. I bet it will be rolled into either Dreamweaver—which has had similar frameworks like jQuery Mobile integrated with it—or the newly-announced Adobe Creative Cloud, where it could end up as another of its creative services (along with TypeKit and others). They did say that PhoneGap will remain an open-source project available to everyone.

According to the keynote, Adobe’s intention is to “bet on HTML5″ while “doubling down on Flash,” which I expected. Some people, particularly Apple fanboys, expect Adobe to kill Flash—but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon if at all, and right now HTML5 can’t duplicate all of Flash’s capabilities so I don’t think it should. Interestingly, Ben Forta—Adobe’s Director of Platform Evangelism—asked for a show of hands of who has built an HTML5 application before, and almost no one raised their hand.

Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 were also announced, which focus on games, rich media and data-driven applications—all things that are not easy to implement with HTML5 right now. I’m particularly interested in 3D and gaming capabilities that are being built into Flash Player 11, and a demo of the Nissan Juke website—which features an online driving game—shows some good things with the new technology.

Other announcements

  • Adobe Edge, currently in beta, has reached the third preview iteration and has some new features including loops and hyperlinks. The beta has been downloaded over 150,000 times.
  • The new ThemeRoller product was demonstrated, showing how jQuery Mobile themes can be built with a user interface. This is also something that can be built into Dreamweaver, but at this point it looks like it’s generating a lot of CSS code. Until ThemeRoller can generate lean code, web developers will criticize Adobe for bloated code.
  • CSS Shaders was demoed for the crowd. CSS Shaders is a CSS3 module that Adobe has contributed to the W3C for inclusion in the general CSS3 spec, and it leverages current PixelBender technology to bend and warp HTML elements. The presenter had a very nice demo of a live page curl on an HTML element and also on a live video element. CSS3 is where Adobe can provide the most benefit to developers, because CSS is pervasive across the web and it’s not tied to a particular product.
  • Another CSS3 module presented by Adobe is CSS Regions, which uses CSS to generate text columns and live text wrap. This is already implemented in Google’s Chromium (a beta version of Chrome) and Internet Explorer 10.

The last presenter, Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney, showed something that means a lot to me personally: Unreal Tournament 3 running in Flash. I played a lot of Unreal Tournament 2004 years ago and Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) is now able to run on Flash—how cool is that? According to the press release, Flash Player 11 has up to 1,000 times faster 2D and 3D rendering than Flash Player 10, which sounds…unreal. If Flash can gain a foothold as a runtime for top-of-the-line games, Adobe can pivot the technology into a data-centric and graphics-centric product and leave web graphics and rich Internet experiences to HTML5, which is what I think will happen one way or another.

Day 1 Announcements From Adobe MAX: TypeKit, PhoneGap, WoodWing and DPS Single Edition

Adobe Acquires TypeKit and PhoneGap

Adobe has bought TypeKit and made the web font service a part of their Adobe Creative Cloud’s services. Jeffrey Veen came on stage and talked about the challenges of fonts on the web but showed how some websites are achieving very professional typography now through Adobe technology. I’ll agree to that—I use TypeKit on my own websites, and it’s easy to deploy and works across all browsers.

Jeffrey also said almost 60 foundries contribute to TypeKit. This includes Adobe, but they don’t offer the entire 2,300-font Adobe Type Library. Maybe that will come later. Jeffrey demoed some new features of the TypeKit website, such as rendering previews to show how fonts will look in different browsers and easier search tools.

I wonder what will happen to current TypeKit customers. Will they have to buy the Adobe Creative Cloud to maintain their websites’ fonts? I hope not, and I don’t think that would be practical for TypeKit’s users.

Adobe also announced the acquisition of Nitobi Software, which produces the popular PhoneGap platform for building mobile apps for multiple platforms including Android and iOS. PhoneGap leverages HTML5 and JavaScript, so I expect this would be rolled into Dreamweaver, Adobe’s HTML-editing software.

WoodWing Moves Users to Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

This announcement might have surprised me the most today. WoodWing Software, whose editorial workflow products allow for digital publishing to tablets and devices, has entered an agreement with Adobe to incorporate their Digital Publishing Suite with WoodWing’s Enterprise Publishing System. The Digital Publishing Suite will now be the only option for WoodWing customers to publish to tablets.

It sounds like WoodWing’s editorial and designer workflow will remain pretty much the same: users will use their Content Station and InDesign plugin to build the digital editions. At that point, .folio files will be created and uploaded to Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite platform for packaging, distribution, monetization and analytics. WoodWing’s Reader Application and Content Delivery Service are ended effective immediately. Customers will transition to the Digital Publishing Suite by November 2012.

Digital Publishing Suite Now Available In Single Editions

If you’ve wanted to publish a one-shot digital publication or a book, you’ll be happy to know Adobe today announced the Single Edition in the Digital Publishing Suite. The service, which takes interactive InDesign documents to the iPad, has until now been an enterprise-priced service for large companies and big periodical publications. Now companies can pay for just a single publication and get all of the Digital Publishing Suite’s features, including distribution through the Apple App Store, monetization and analytics.

It will cost $395 per publication, which immediately establishes it as a business product. Single Edition is not for people wanting to publish a family memento or maybe a church cookbook—but niche publications could very well benefit from its features.

Day 1 Announcements From Adobe MAX: Adobe Creative Cloud And Adobe Touch Apps

Today Adobe announced a variety of newsworthy items, mostly acquisitions and new products that will greatly impact creative professionals. Ironically, “Flash Platform” was not mentioned once at this event, traditionally Adobe’s largest for Flash developers, but I and other press colleagues think more developer news will be announced at tomorrow’s keynote.

Adobe Creative Cloud Combines Apps, Services and Community

This was the big-picture announcement: Adobe has a new service called Adobe Creative Cloud that combines their desktop products, tablet and touch applications, a community website with cloud storage, and a variety of services. The Adobe Creative Cloud’s discrete components will be detailed separately below, but the outline includes:

General pricing and availability of the Adobe Creative Cloud will not be announced until November 2011. The product itself looks absolutely beautiful, and is what I expected from a company like Adobe responding to huge changes in mobile computing and data distribution. Apple and Amazon are doing the same thing in the cloud computing landscape. However, right now we don’t know what a service like Adobe Creative Cloud will cost, so until then we can’t judge how successful it might be.

Another complication is the fact that the Creative Suite 5.5 products have been available with a subscription since May. Will that option go away now that users can subscribe to those and more through the Adobe Creative Cloud? I doubt it will—I know the CS5.5 apps and suites will still be available as standalone products and for sale through the conventional way, and I expect Creative Suite subscriptions will also continue. I also think you can look at the prices of those CS subscriptions, add a bit more money, and have an idea what the Adobe Creative Cloud will cost.

Adobe Touch Apps Released, Includes Photoshop Touch

Adobe has been investing considerable resources into tablet and mobile applications, first with Adobe Ideas and then with Photoshop Touch SDK apps like Eazel and Nav, and the iOS-only Carousel. Today Adobe announced six new “touch apps” currently on Android, which will all be available to Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers.

  • Adobe Photoshop Touch brings basic Photoshop features to tablets, including layers, adjustments, selection and background extraction among other features. Out of all the apps this is the only one to be named after an existing desktop product, and I predicted a “Photoshop on the iPad” product at some point. However, Adobe has made a strategic decision not to put too many Photoshop features into Photoshop Touch and so the app is nowhere near as powerful as its namesake. This was out of both necessity and UX considerations, but I think it will hurt its reception by users.
  • Adobe Collage helps creative people combine imagery, drawing and text to create storyboards and basic layouts. I see this being more useful in the conceptual phase of a creative project, and it doesn’t take the place of Illustrator or InDesign.
  • Adobe Debut is a client presentation application for displaying project materials in meeting situations. Photoshop and Illustrator files can be displayed, among other Creative Suite file formats.
  • Adobe Ideas is a vector drawing application whose files can be opened in Illustrator or Photoshop for refinement. As with Collage, it can’t take the place of Illustrator and it’s useful for off-site work when a laptop isn’t an option.
  • Adobe Kuler is a tablet-based version of Adobe’s existing kuler application, previously just a web and AIR application. Users can build and share color palettes.
  • Adobe Proto builds wireframes and prototypes for websites. It’s the only app that incorporates gestures in a major way: users can draw an “x” to insert an image, or squiggly lines to create headlines and text. There are roughly 16 different gestures already created for Proto.

All the touch apps integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud and share projects and assets in the cloud, so projects can be touched by multiple apps. For example, a project can be conceived by a project manager in Collage, passed on to a designer who builds the color palette in Kuler, then to a web developer who wireframes the product in Proto, and approved by the client in Debut before moving on to final production in Creative Suite. All these apps are also built with Adobe AIR, so they could technically be deployed on the desktop, but the apps’ user interface is designed for small devices and touch screens.

All apps will be available separately for $9.99 each.

Conclusion

After all these announcements, I wasn’t sure if life will be easier or harder now for the traditional creative professional—those who design or develop with Adobe products and have been using the Creative Suite products for years. The Adobe Creative Cloud moves resources to everyone, not just the creative professionals, and the touch apps seem like they are designed for creative users who aren’t necessarily the ones putting publications to bed or deploying code to the web. Even Photoshop Touch, whose namesake is Adobe’s flagship product, feels lightweight and lean. Adobe seems to be focusing on a larger creative audience, and it could complicate things for creative professionals.

However, I like the direction Adobe is taking in marrying everything through the cloud—it had to happen eventually, and the opportunity is huge for business and also for creative productivity. The notion of web fonts being available in the cloud via TypeKit makes sense not only for web fonts but for all fonts—imagine being able to license the entire Adobe type library without installing files on your own network. Out of all this news, the Adobe Creative Cloud has the most implications for Adobe and for consumers.

Adobe Announces CS5.5, Subscriptions, Photoshop SDK and Touch Apps

Major changes are coming out of Adobe today as they announce several new products and technologies:

  • CS5.5, the next iteration of the popular Creative Suite applications for creative professionals,
  • The Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit (SDK), which allows applications using Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS to interact with Photoshop,
  • Adobe Nav, Color Lava and Eazel—three iPad apps that implement the Photoshop SDK, and
  • A new yearly upgrade cycle and subscription plans for Creative Suite products.

CS5.5 for Design: InDesign leads the way

Besides the Photoshop Touch SDK (described below) and the addition of the already-released Acrobat X, the CS5.5 Design suites have all their major new features in one product: InDesign CS5.5. The emphasis is on improving the use of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, which was released last fall as a tool for major interactive publications.

InDesign CS5.5 has a new set of tools dubbed Folio Producer, which allows interactive elements to be added to standard page layouts. This includes 360-degree graphics such as QTVR, embedded websites, hyperlinks and slideshows. The Folio Producer outputs a .folio file, which is digested by the Digital Publishing Suite for packaging and final distribution. If you’re not using the Digital Publishing Suite, the benefits don’t apply.

What I like a lot more are the improved authoring features for eBooks, which don’t require the Digital Publishing Suite. Support for HTML5 video and audio for eBook readers and auto-resizing images are the two main features. There’s also a way to apply character and paragraph styles to EPUB, HTML and PDF tags so, for example, a heading style can be applied to an h1 tag for HTML output and another tag for the PDF output. A new Articles panel lets you sequence content elements so they are read in the appropriate order.

Photoshop Touch SDK and Touch Applications

The Photoshop development team is releasing a SDK which will allow developers to build software that interacts with a user’s Photoshop application. Unlike the CS5.5 products, the Photoshop Touch SDK is available immediately. I’ve not looked at the various methods and functions available to applications through the SDK so I can’t tell the scope of what it can do, but the three applications developed by Adobe (below) suggest it can move artwork, color swatches and tool selection from the app to Photoshop and applications can be aware of what’s open in Photoshop.

The three applications are:

  • Adobe Nav, which makes the iPad an input surface for selecting tools in Photoshop and displays open Photoshop files on the tablet,
  • Adobe Eazel, a neat app for painting with fingers or an iPad-sensitive brush,
  • Adobe Color Lava, a color mixer that can deliver swatches to Photoshop.

I am a member of the prerelease beta team testing these three apps and have been using the shipping version for a few weeks now. I feel the three apps need some more work before they are fully mature. Eazel offers a decent painting experience—whether with fingerpainting or by brush—but the five-fingered user interface can be clunky at best and downright difficult when you’re using a brush or happen to be missing a finger. Color Lava is the best of the bunch in my opinion—the water well and mixing action is very intuitive—but I personally think it belongs as an integrated component of Eazel.

Nav was released to the beta team after the others, and we’ve had it just a few weeks. I’m not sure what its usefulness is: selecting a Photoshop tool on the iPad so you can grab the mouse and actually use it on your computer doesn’t seem helpful. Why not just click the tool with your mouse? Nav’s only other major feature is the ability to browse open Photoshop documents from the iPad and select one as the active file on the computer. This at least makes the iPad a portable window into what’s open in Photoshop, which can be useful when showing images in a meeting. However, Photoshop has to be open and your iPad and computer have to be connected via the Internet to get files into Nav.

A far better application using the Photoshop Touch SDK is the brief demo John Loiacono provided at last week’s Photoshop World event. That app demonstrated layers, layer masks, a desaturation tool and a unique “exploded layer” view. We are moving toward a “Photoshop for iPad” app, and whatever app achieves that level of photo manipulation will be very successful. I think the Photoshop Touch SDK will be the catalyst for such an app, but I’ve not seen this app materialize yet.

The three apps will be available in May 2011 on the iTunes App Store and will be priced at $4.99 for Eazel, $2.99 for Color Lava and $1.99 for Nav.

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac: Smaller, Faster, Better

I was impressed enough last year when NVIDIA® released the Quadro FX 4800, a video card that radically improved performance in tandem with Premiere Pro CS5‘s new Mercury Playback Engine. You can see my review of the Quadro FX 4800 for Mac here along with my review of Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5. But I was surprised late last year when NVIDIA released the Quadro 4000 for Mac and boasted even more impressive specs.

The Quadro 4000 and other new Quadro cards use a new NVIDIA GPU architecture called Fermi, and NVIDIA seems to have shattered previous limitations in video performance and rendering. Compared to the Quadro FX 4800, the Quadro 4000 offers 33% more GPU cores (256 versus 192), a 426% increase in precision (243.2 MFLops vs. 57.6 MFLops) and 2GB of RAM versus 1.5GB. The Quadro 4000 also costs $600 less and uses 8W less power. I’m not an expert on the technical details of CUDA and GPUs, but most computer users will say that a product with more processor cores and more memory for less cost is a definite improvement.

The most noticeable difference between the Quadro FX 4800 and Quadro 4000 is that the Quadro 4000 is half the size and requires only one card slot in your Mac. The Quadro FX 4800 requires two—the monitor ports are stacked on top of one another, and both are DVI connectors. The Quadro 4000, in contrast, has a DVI and DisplayPort connection side by side. Terry White, Adobe’s Worldwide Creative Suite Design Evangelist, has a good photo of the two cards side by side, with the ports visible. Terry doesn’t mention in his article that the Quadro 4000 ships with an optional 3D stereo connector that mounts on top of the card and uses a second card slot. I installed that as well so I wouldn’t have to hunt for a card slot cover, and if I ever get into outputting video for 3D TVs and displays I’ll be prepared.

The Quadro 4000 is small enough to require only one card slot, but the optional 3D connector takes up a second slot. The connector bracket sits on top of the card and a cord connects it to the card. You can see an image of this configuration at Amazon.com.

The Quadro 4000′s performance gains are hard to compare to the Quadro FX 4800′s because both produce phenomenal improvements. Both can play back projects with multiple simultaneous HD videos and effects, and I didn’t try adding more and more elements until one started to show the stress. Terry calculated the performance difference between the two to be around 10 percent, which is probably about right.

Users who invested in a Quadro FX 4800 last year should rest assured that their card matches with the latest NVIDIA has to offer the Mac. Those who didn’t buy the Quadro FX 4800 have even less of an excuse to turn down the Quadro 4000, which is priced at $1,199 but I see them listed at Amazon.com at under $800. I’m also glad NVIDIA has kept a DVI connector on the card but also implemented a DisplayPort, which is the next generation of display connections. The Quadro 4000 ships with a DVI-DisplayPort adapter and also a DisplayPort-Mini DisplayPort adapter.

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac
NVIDIA
US$1,199 (under $800 at Amazon)
Rating: 10/10

99 Free Valentine’s Day Fonts

99 Ways to Type I Love You

Download fonts individually below, or download all 99 in a single 2.75MB Zip archive.

NOTE: Fonts are all TrueType format, compatible with Windows and Mac OS X. To convert them for Mac OS 9 and below, download this free utility: TTConverter15.hqx.

images101HangYourHeart.ttf

101HangYourHeart (90,864 bytes)

images101HeartCatcher.ttf

101HeartCatcher (89,400 bytes)

images101HeartFramed.ttf

101HeartFramed (181,972 bytes)

images101HeartStringZ.ttf

101HeartStringZ (33,972 bytes)

images101LoveGarden.ttf

101LoveGarden (32,668 bytes)

images101LovePoP.ttf

101LovePoP (52,912 bytes)

images101SWAK.ttf

101SWAK (140,480 bytes)

images101WalkinHeart.ttf

101WalkinHeart (29,504 bytes)

images4MyLover.ttf

4MyLover (36,072 bytes)

imagesALLHEART.TTF

ALLHEART (48,992 bytes)

imagesAngel.ttf

Angel (33,648 bytes)

imagesAosval_2.ttf

Aosval_2 (16,692 bytes)

imagesApheart.ttf

Apheart (8,436 bytes)

imagesBeMyValentine.ttf

BeMyValentine (85,812 bytes)

imagesCandyHeart.ttf

CandyHeart (80,448 bytes)

imagesCandyKiss.ttf

CandyKiss (43,968 bytes)

imagesCLBValentine.ttf

CLBValentine (49,824 bytes)

imagesCoffeeTalk1.ttf

CoffeeTalk1 (34,488 bytes)

imagesCountryHearts.ttf

CountryHearts (51,888 bytes)

imagesCraftopiaLove.ttf

CraftopiaLove (26,884 bytes)

imagesCupid.ttf

Cupid (45,460 bytes)

imagesCupids.ttf

Cupids (109,132 bytes)

imagesDeepLove1.ttf

DeepLove1 (138,688 bytes)

imagesDJLove.ttf

DJLove (42,536 bytes)

imagesFancyHeartScript.ttf

FancyHeartScript (68,436 bytes)

imagesFiolexGirls.ttf

FiolexGirls (78,228 bytes)

imagesFLHeartDark.ttf

FLHeartDark (100,696 bytes)

imagesFlowerHeart.ttf

FlowerHeart (77,140 bytes)

imagesfts12.ttf

fts12 (51,068 bytes)

imagesGabrielsAngels.ttf

GabrielsAngels (195,720 bytes)

imagesHAfont.ttf

HAfont (217,084 bytes)

imageshamlake.ttf

hamlake (87,876 bytes)

imagesHamLakeRegular.ttf

HamLakeRegular (37,396 bytes)

Review: Adobe Acrobat X Pro

My review of Adobe Acrobat X Pro is online at CreativePro.com.

Here’s an excerpt:

Pros: Actions and the Action Wizard, improved customization for PDF Portfolios, simplified user interface that promotes efficiency.

Cons: Unclear method for creating PDF Portfolio custom layouts, lack of Read Mode as an initial view, Acrobat X Suite is Windows only.

Adobe’s new Acrobat X Pro, like previous versions of Acrobat, delivers new features designed to serve its large market of creative and corporate customers. While some past features (such as redaction) haven’t targeted creative professionals, Acrobat X Pro steps up with cool new things creative professionals will embrace.

Click here to read the full review.

Adobe Announces Acrobat X

acrobatx_boxes

Yesterday Adobe announced Acrobat X, pronounced “X” but corresponding to version 10 of the flagship produce for PDF creation and handling. I’ve been working with the Acrobat X Pro beta for a couple weeks and my first impressions are mostly positive, but my complete responses will be in my upcoming review for CreativePro.com. In the meantime, Adobe’s press release is below for your review.

Press release

Adobe today announced Adobe® Acrobat® X Pro, the next generation of its tool for creating, reviewing, delivering and protecting documents. With Acrobat X Pro, creative professionals can develop polished communications using PDF Portfolios, work together more effectively with easy-to-manage shared document reviews, simplify workflows with integrated online services for storing and sending documents, and ensure designs will print accurately with advanced print production tools.

“With Acrobat X Pro, creative professionals can rest assured their projects will print as intended, which is critical when working under tight client deadlines and with limited budgets,” said Ali Hanyaloglu, product evangelist for Acrobat Solutions at Adobe. “Acrobat X Pro gives everyone involved in the project the necessary tools to create and collaborate so users can quickly obtain client feedback, streamlining the entire design process from concept to approval through final production.”

Top features and improvements:

  • The Action Wizard helps users automate and standardize multi-step tasks for maximum productivity.
  • New customization options for PDF Portfolios enable designers to create and share custom layouts and themes that enable the development of PDF Portfolios with consistent branding and presentation.
  • Users can speed up everyday work by customizing the Quick Tools area for fast access to the tools they use the most.
  • Tight integration with Acrobat.com allows users to share large files online, streamlining collaboration.
  • Improvements made to the Preflight tool enable creative and print professionals to process jobs quickly and accurately.
  • Acrobat X Pro also supports the latest versions of the PDF/X-4 and X-5 standards, enabling users to stay current with industry standards.

All four Creative Suite® editions that currently include Acrobat 9 Pro – Creative Suite 5 Design Standard, Creative Suite 5 Design Premium, Creative Suite 5 Web Premium and Creative Suite 5 Master Collection – will include Acrobat X Pro in a future release. Creative Suite customers who have purchased the upgrade plan, or have a Gold or Platinum support plan, will be notified automatically when the update is available. Please contact me if you have questions on Acrobat X availability for Creative Suite. Customers who previously purchased Acrobat 9, 8 or 7 (either Standard or Pro) and have a serial number can upgrade to Acrobat X Pro.

Pricing and Availability

Acrobat X and its associated products are scheduled to ship within 30 days, with availability through Adobe Authorized Resellers, the Adobe Store and Adobe Direct Sales. Estimated street price for Acrobat X Pro is expected to be US$449 (US$199 upgrade). Free 30-day trials of Acrobat X Pro will be available when the product ships. For more information, visit http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/.

Pantone Releases CAPSURE Color Measurement Device

capsure_box

Yesterday Pantone announced the immediate availability of CAPSURE, a handheld device that lets designers and creative professionals measure and match color on almost any material. A similar product has been available in Europe since spring 2010, released by X-Rite for the commercial paint market, but this is the first time it has been marketed to the United States–with PANTONE Color Libraries included–and to the creative market in general.

“CAPSURE’s advanced image capture technology sets a new standard for accuracy and versatility in a portable device,” said Giovanni Marra, director of corporate marketing at Pantone. “The real power of CAPSURE is its ability to measure the color of any surface, including small, patterned and multi-colored textures and textiles, which can confound other instruments because of their textural complexity, and quickly match them to more than 8,000 PANTONE Colors.”

CAPSURE ships with the most important PANTONE Color libraries pre-loaded. Fashion designers and home decorators will appreciate the FASHION + HOME and PAINT + INTERIORS Library, but graphic designers will be most familiar with the PLUS SERIES, which is the next generation of the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, and the PANTONE Goe library. These constitute almost all important colors for reproduction on paper or on screen, and more can be added through the included CAPSURE Sync software.

The device

I’ve been testing the CAPSURE for a couple weeks now and have been paying close attention to the design of the device itself. It ships with a wrist cord and a carrying case that makes it easy to handle and it sports a nice design with a built-in calibration swatch that can be slid away from the sensor when in use and back to cover it when in storage.

One minor complaint is it seems I have to press and hold the power button when turning it on—a regular button press is not registered. I also think the CAPSURE is too large and bulky, which might concern designers who want the slimmest and most stylish devices in their pockets and bags. The device’s size is comparable to an old cell phone from the early 2000s. It’s perfectly at home on a paint salesman’s or press operator’s belt but it can look clunky next to an iPhone.

Using CAPSURE

The device is easy to use. The sensor captures 27 images in under two seconds and triangulates the best color match it can. Note that the camera doesn’t work with light-creating samples such as those on monitors. CAPSURE can store up to 100 colors and it will also show multiple colors in a multi-color sample. It can also build color schemes or select related colors to help you create a larger palette. The screen is a bit small but the user interface works really well and everything is readable and navigable on screen.

capsure_screen

You can also record text or voice tags with your color samples, which is really helpful if you’re using CAPSURE to catalog inspiring colors in the field. These tags can be retrieved with the CAPSURE Palette Application software, which also will bring color palettes into Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress. Note that the Palette Application software is available only as a download after completing the product registration; CAPSURE Sync only updates the device’s color libraries.

Will it match?

I tested CAPSURE by scanning known and unknown color samples in a variety of materials including wallpaper, fabric, color laser printing and offset lithography. One set of samples came from a new Pantone swatchbook I unwrapped specifically to test this device. I didn’t know what to expect but I know how hard it is to exactly reproduce color, so I thought CAPSURE might come close to matching colors. I ended up being right.

The device measured a known sample of PAN 287 (blue) printed with a color laser printer and judged it to be PAN 7686. It also measured PAN 143 (yellow) as PAN 142 and PAN 179 (red) as PLUS 58-8. These are all close measurements and I was impressed the yellow measurement was one digit off. These results were duplicated by my scanning of a PANTONE Fashion Color Report produced earlier this year. CAPSURE matched one color exactly and on most of the rest it was only a digit or two off.

The most matches came from the Pantone swatchbook. CAPSURE did particularly well matching magentas, greens and blues exactly but had few exact matches with yellows, oranges, grays and browns. Even when the device could not match the color exactly it was usually only one number away. This might not be good enough when testing a print run for a difficult client who demands their logo reproduce exactly, but it will be satisfactory for all other situations.

capsure_use

CAPSURE effectively scanned odd materials and returned good matches of the colors. I recommend holding the capture button halfway when working with textures: the display will show a magnified view of the sample and you can move the device to capture the best section. One thing I noticed is the display shifts color depending on the angle you view it. Be sure to use the display only as a guide and use swatchbooks for confirmation.

Pricing and availability

CAPSURE ships now and the price is US$649. The device and software are compatible for both Mac and PC. (The Palette Application Software will be Mac-compatible in January 2011.) I don’t think I will keep the device in my bag of books and digital devices but it will stay on my desk and I think I could make it a regular part of my camera bag to capture color as well as photography when I’m traveling.

CAPSURE
Pantone
US$649
Rating: 8/10

InDesign CS5 and InCopy CS5 Review

This review supplements “InDesign CS5 First Impressions,” which I wrote just after CS5 was announced. That article explains most of the new features in InDesign CS5 like other reviews, but the goal of this article is to share my experience in the field with InDesign CS5 and to tell what works and what doesn’t work for me.

Things have changed

Creative Suite 5 encompasses many industries, but probably none has changed more in the last few months than publishing. Apple released the iPad and then banned Flash from its walled garden, leaving publishers scrambling for technology that would put its content on Apple’s products. It also left Adobe unsure how to proceed, and puts InDesign CS5 in an odd position. InDesign has embraced Flash for years and InDesign CS5 has major improvements in digital publishing and multimedia—all powered by Flash.

For now, I am using InDesign CS5 to produce multimedia and exporting it to PDF to be deployed online. This doesn’t solve the Apple problem but my clients seem to appreciate PDF better than Flash—even though Acrobat and Reader handle both technologies—and PDF is a format I can publish online, on other devices, and even print on a press. InDesign CS5 is the best PDF content producer on the market right now and I prefer it to Flash when producing presentations and multimedia that don’t require scripting. Flash is more of an application development tool nowadays, at least in my studio.

Greater control over layout and columns

InDesign CS5′s new additions seem very smart, on the same level as Dreamweaver CS5′s advancements in CSS and HTML5. The column spanning/splitting feature, which allows headlines to occupy multiple columns and lists to be segmented into sub-columns, adds elegance to my layouts. I had been achieving spanned headlines before with a separate text box above the body text box, but now I can spare myself the extra work.

I actually haven’t had a project recently requiring multiple page sizes, but the ability to create multiple sizes in InDesign CS5 is an important addition. I’m actually surprised the InDesign team hadn’t implemented it earlier: the need has always been there, and third-party plug-ins have been available to fulfill it.

I am less thrilled about the object grids and Gap tool, but that’s just because I very rarely design grid systems into my layouts. I prefer a more organic approach to layouts. But there are some instances where I want to produce a large array of images in a grid, in which case object grids save a lot of time and effort. If you’re a designer who often uses grids, InDesign CS5 will make production much easier.

InCopy CS5: Not promoted enough

I’ve always liked InCopy, the writing and editing application that complements InDesign, and I’ve set up InDesign-InCopy workflows for companies before. I like the fact that they’re designed to work together, unlike Word which is what most editorial departments still like to use.

I’ve wondered why InCopy hasn’t gained much market share—at least in my area—and I think it’s because Adobe just hasn’t really promoted the product enough. It’s not available as part of any Creative Suite, even though it is upgraded with the rest of the applications and carries the CS5 name. Even a lot of InDesign users know very little about it and therefore can’t recommend it to their editorial partners. Until Adobe bundles it with the Creative Suite—or, better yet, integrates it more fully with InDesign—I don’t expect it will ever take command of its niche like InDesign has.

InCopy CS5 is a relatively modest update, with several new features that will be familiar to InDesign CS5 users. The Eyedropper tool, which has been in InDesign and Word for years, is new to InCopy CS5 for copy-and-paste formatting. Several features new to InDesign CS5, such as the redesigned Layers panel, multithreaded performance, splitting and spanning text across columns, document-installed fonts and Mini Bridge are all included too. However, a lot of these new features make more sense in InDesign because it’s a page layout application—InCopy is designed to handle editorial only, and visual improvements like document-installed fonts and spanning/splitting text isn’t as vital in InCopy CS5.

The best improvement is in tracking changes, which InCopy has had for at least a couple versions now. InDesign CS5 has a Track Changes panel now and so change tracking has better integration, with the same controls and highlighting on either end. This is one example where an editorial feature from InCopy has migrated to InDesign, and it’s interesting because it seems many new features in these two applications are actually blurring the line between editorial and design functions. Adobe must have learned from their research that sometimes designers need to revise writing and writers need some layout tools on their end.

Conclusion

InDesign CS5 is hard to evaluate: its features make a lot of sense and are executed very well, but the publishing market is volatile now and it makes it tough to judge how much of an impact it will have. I know many designers and publishers, still not used to the digital age, won’t care at all about new multimedia tools. Most editorial departments will still stick with Word for writing their articles. In my studio, InDesign CS5 has proven to be a solid workhorse with no major drawbacks and several benefits. It’s already become a tool for building multimedia I would normally do in Flash. But its success will ultimately depend on how quickly its publishing customers stop looking backward and start looking forward.


InDesign CS5
Adobe Systems
US$699/$199 upgrade
Rating: 9/10

InCopy CS5
Adobe Systems
US$249/$89 upgrade
Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: CorelDRAW X5 Adds Useful New Features

coreldrawx5

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review CorelDRAW® X5, one of the older graphics applications in use today. X5 is version 15 and marks CorelDRAW’s 20th anniversary. To put this into perspective, remember that Adobe Photoshop and ACD Canvas were created only 13 years ago. CorelDRAW has remained relevant and CorelDRAW X5 has some new features I recognize from what Adobe has done with Creative Suite 5 (CS5) this year.

Finding a better asset manager

The CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5—of which CorelDRAW X5 is a part of—comes with the new Corel CONNECT file manager. There’s plenty of file managers and browsers on the market, and I think the best ones focus on speed and leanness. Adobe Bridge is an example of one beset with performance issues over the years, and Photoshop CS5 and InDesign CS5 now have a “Mini Bridge” that’s much leaner. Corel CONNECT is lean from the start, with a rather bare-bones interface that doesn’t get in the way. There’s also a tray at the bottom of the interface you can drag files on to copy their contents. I still think Photoshop Elements‘ Organizer may be the best file manager on the market for its leanness and good design, but Corel CONNECT is a spare but serviceable alternative.

Corel CONNECT does double-duty as the gateway to the clip art, fonts, photos and templates that have always shipped with CorelDRAW and the Graphics Suite. I remember buying CorelDRAW early in my career just for the fonts and clip art, and it’s still a huge amount of creative material thrown in for free. At $499, I don’t know if it’s still a bargain if you don’t use the software itself, but it’s a very economical product if you do use CorelDRAW.

Great support for multiple formats

CorelDRAW is really exceptional at handling the multitude of file formats thrown at it. It does have its own image format but I prefer to use Photoshop (PSD) and Illustrator (AI) formats with CorelDRAW. The application and read and write both, and it’s advertised as reading CS4 apps but I tested some CS5 files too and CorelDRAW read them without a problem. Remember that CorelDRAW X5 shipped before Adobe announced CS5! The only downside is I had trouble bringing complex Illustrator graphics into CorelDRAW X5. I couldn’t tell if transparency or the sheer complexity of the file was to blame, but I’d recommend keeping complex Illustrator graphics in Illustrator.

There’s also some improvements to the way CorelDRAW handles graphics for the web. A new pixel preview is very helpful and reminds me of a similar new feature in Illustrator CS5. The Export For Web dialog box is also a good addition, and I think it is laid out more clearly than Adobe’s comparable dialog box. The one thing I don’t understand is why the JPEG settings allow for CMYK output, but everything else about Export For Web works well.

New tools make CorelDRAW X5 a specialized application

CorelDRAW X5 introduces several new tools, and I find that they make the application quite specialized and able to do things I don’t see anywhere else. The B-Spline tool refers to some complex mathematics but for the illustrator the result is a tool that builds very smooth shapes easily. I prefer this tool to anything in Illustrator or CorelDRAW because I find it tough to get that level of smoothness—even with the Pen tool—without some tweaking to finesse the anchor points.

CorelDRAW X5′s improved Connector and Dimension tools also include a new tool, Segment Dimension, that can detect the sides of an object and generate dimension markings for separate sides. Interior designers, architects and technical illustrators will find these tools very useful, though other designers may not need such technical tools. Creative illustrators will probably be more interested in the improved Mesh Fill tool, which works just like Illustrator’s Gradient Mesh but with a different interface.

Conclusion

There are several other improvements to CorelDRAW X5 and the Graphics Suite, including document-level color management and easier color handling between applications, but I wanted to focus on the tools specific to CorelDRAW X5 and its development as a multi-functional workhorse. It doesn’t have the range of tools Photoshop and Illustrator might have, but it has some specific tools I don’t see elsewhere and I am impressed by the strides made in web graphics and digital asset management. It would be a good buy for many designers who need good software at a good price.

CorelDRAW X5
Part of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5
Corel
US$499/$199 upgrade
Rating: 8/10

Goodbye PMS, hello PANTONE PLUS

Today Pantone announced the widely-used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® has been discontinued immediately and replaced by the new PANTONE PLUS SERIES®. This is an historic moment for graphic designers everywhere who have used the old “PMS” colors and have many numbers committed to memory.

pantoneplus

“PANTONE PLUS takes what designers and printers know and love about the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM and supercharges it with a host of new features, colors and digital tools,” said Ron Potesky, senior vice president and general manager of Pantone. “The PLUS SERIES provides designers with greater freedom for selecting, specifying and matching color. And, since the PANTONE PLUS SERIES is based on the widely used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, there’s no training or new equipment required to start pushing the boundaries of creativity.” Pantone is framing this change as the “next generation” or “modern version” of the PMS but it’s clear to me that the PLUS SERIES is not the same thing—it’s probably better.

A little history: Goe in 2007

In 2007, Pantone released the Goe™ System with 2,058 new colors, chromatically arranged swatchbooks, new base inks and digital and interactive tools to help select Goe colors. I remember a lot of online discussion about this new system when I covered the news that year, but I never did see it used in the field. I work in Iowa so you can take that observation for what it’s worth.

I wondered at the time whether Goe could compete with the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, which has almost 50 years to entrench itself in the design community. I thought Goe would not have a real chance to emerge with PMS still active. I asked Ron about this and it seems Pantone deliberately made Goe’s release vague, refusing to give it a clear position in the Pantone family of products. The intention was to let customer behavior dictate how Goe and PMS would co-function in the marketplace, but I don’t think this strategy was very effective. From my perspective, without a specific target market Goe was left to find a small niche in the packaging and specialized printing industries, leaving the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM’s position in the design market almost unchanged.

You gotta pull the trigger

I think Pantone has realized the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM had to go in order to make way for the next generation of color tools in PANTONE PLUS. It’s a sensible move because PANTONE PLUS has some features superior to PMS but keeps some elements of PMS to make the transition easy:

  • 224 new solid colors—1,341 total
  • Chromatically arranged swatchbooks
  • Swatchbooks are printed on text-weight stock, not cover-weight (100# text for coated, 80# text for uncoated)
  • Formulated with the same 14 base inks that constitute the PMS
  • Metallics can now be coated and varnished without changing luster
  • Reference numbers for PMS colors are unchanged (new colors begin at 7548)
  • Swatchbooks have a color-checking swatch on the inside back cover that helps judge studio lighting for a proper swatch check
  • The COLOR BRIDGE swatchbook (used for finding CMYK equivalents of PLUS colors) has swatches on the inside back cover, suitable for swatch capture like a Macbeth color checker
  • A PASTELS + NEONS family of 154 pastels and 56 neons is now available for active sportswear markets
  • A free COLOR MANAGER application will be available for updating Quark and Adobe products’ swatches and converting spot colors to CMYK

Pricing

According to Giovanni Marra, Pantone’s Director of Corporate Marketing, there is a small price increase of less than $5.00 per swatchbook. The most common product, the PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE, is $109 for coated and uncoated books; the three PMS books (coated, uncoated, matte) are $125. Other swatchbook sets are anywhere from $79 for the metallics and pastels/neons to $125 for the CMYK set and $209 for the COLOR BRIDGE set for matching PLUS and CMYK colors. Chip packages are $169–175 with the SOLID CHIPS set running $259. All products are available today except COLOR BRIDGE and the public beta version of COLOR MANAGER, which will be available in June 2010.

Beginning last March, Pantone also made Goe slightly cheaper:

  • GoeGuides are $20 less
  • GoeBridge is $10 less
  • GoeSticks are $40 less
  • The Goe Systems are also $40 less

I predict many designers will just go on living with their old swatchbooks and familiar colors (Reflex Blue, anyone?) but Pantone has just made the essential decision that will see PLUS replace PMS within a few years. Sounds good to me, because the chromatic arrangement and new colors makes PLUS a better color family without making things hard for printers.

Sidebar: myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online

xrefapp

This has actually been in the news since early April, but Pantone has released the myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online. This application is designed to cross-reference PANTONE color libraries and find color matches. The application includes all color libraries so users have full access to the PANTONE MATCHING System, Goe and the new PANTONE PLUS system in June 2010. The online application itself is available for free at www.pantone.com/xref and the iPhone app is available at the iPhone App Store for $1.99 (compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 and higher on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad).

REVIEW: gDoc Fusion

gDoc Fusion is a simple utility that brings files together and converts them to a single PDF or XPS file. (XPS is Microsoft’s e-Paper format comparable to PDF). Fusion does its function very well and those who don’t own Acrobat or other PDF/XPS-creating applications might find Fusion useful.

Works with most files, not all

Fusion works with a variety of file formats including PDF, XPS, Word (.doc and .docx), Excel and a variety of image formats such as JPEG. A really simple and well-executed drag-and-drop interface displays the file; allows for revisions to several PDF attributes such as metadata, security, comments and bookmarks; and exports the file to PDF or XPS. The PDF export settings are not the same as Adobe’s presets but they are a good set for corporate customers. They even include presets for the archival PDF/A specification but I wasn’t able to access these when saving my PDF files—maybe this is because I’m working in a virtualized Windows environment on a Mac. There is also a decent (but not perfect) export function that will create Word documents.

I often write articles in Rich Text Format (RTF) and handle plain text files more and more in order to get away from the sluggish behemoth that is Microsoft Word. This makes Fusion a problematic tool for me because it doesn’t read text or Rich Text files.

Flick View makes reading slower

I classify Fusion as a utility application because it’s main function is to convert and save files into other formats. The one thing that makes it stand out as a content reader is Flick View, a view option similar to iTunes’ Cover Flow and that now found in Acrobat 9′s PDF Portfolios. There are drawbacks to Flick View:

  • The maximum magnification setting only fits pages to Fusion’s default window size, which is not very large. I tried maximizing the Fusion window and hoped the pages would enlarge but they didn’t.
  • There is no button to snap from page to page: there are only buttons for scrolling (fast or slow) and to snap to the first or last page.
  • Flick View’s scrolling speed is fairly slow, even with the fast setting. It does seem to improve the more you use it on a document.

I don’t recommend using Fusion as a reader for electronic documents, but as a file conversion utility it works well and it’s a full-featured product for producing PDFs. A user in a corporate environment who needs a lean utility for producing PDF or XPS files from a variety of formats should look into gDoc Fusion.

gDoc Fusion
Global Graphics
US$200
Rating: 7/10

Adobe eLearning Suite 2 Catapults Captivate 5 to Mac

els2

Adobe Systems today announced the upcoming eLearning Suite 2 and Captivate 5, to ship in June 2010. CS5 was just announced last month and has begun shipping already, so it makes sense the eLearning Suite, which shares several apps with Creative Suite, would be right behind it.

The big news is the suite’s central application for building e-learning products—Captivate—is now available for Mac. Dr. Allen Partridge, the Product Evangelist for the eLearning Suite, tells me this makes the eLearning Suite the only e-learning solution available for Mac—other competitors like Articulate Studio are Windows-only and until now Mac users had to use a presentation tool like Keynote or an application like Flash Pro or Director. This will open up huge e-learning design opportunities for many Mac-using creative professionals.

The combination of products in the eLearning Suite hasn’t really changed. It includes:

  • Captivate 5
  • Dreamweaver CS5 with Course Builder elements
  • Flash Pro CS5 with Learning Interactions
  • Photoshop Extended CS5
  • Soundbooth CS5
  • Device Central CS5
  • Bridge CS5
  • Acrobat 9
  • Presenter 8 (Windows only)

The central component in the eLearning Suite is Captivate 5, which as I mentioned is now available for Mac and Windows. Most of the new features in eLearning Suite 2 are found in Captivate:

  • A retooled user interface that borrows a lot from the Creative Suite UI
  • Object styles and master slides to streamline page and object production
  • Leveraging Acrobat.com for collaboration and tracking/reporting
  • The Captivate Results Analyzer, an AIR application for reviewing test and quiz results
  • Better video format support, on-the-fly encoding with Media Encoder CS5 and video synchronization across multiple slides
  • A Twitter widget for communication and collaboration between students and instructors

There’s also some improvements in the eLearning Suite itself, mostly around “roundtripping” of assets between Captivate, Flash, Photoshop and Soundbooth. The most important of these roundtripping options is Live Capture from Flash to Captivate 5, which I’m most curious to try when the review software is made available.

Adobe reports many new features provide major productivity gains. A third-party usability study concluded the roundtrip functions provide anywhere from 21% to 36% more work done compared to the previous eLearning Suite. Simulations scored a huge 39% productivity improvement. This will be good news to previous Captivate and eLearning Suite users.

Captivate 5 will retail for US$799 or upgrade for US$299. The whole eLearning Suite will retail for US$1,799 and upgrade for US$599—obviously a big savings over buying all these applications separately. Mac users who use eLearning Suite 1 on Windows will have a cross-upgrade option to get the new Mac version without purchasing a full license. All products will ship in June. I will write a full review of Captivate 5 when the suite becomes available.

InDesign CS5 First Impressions

id_box

InDesign CS5, announced today with the rest of Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 (CS5) applications, has already proven to be a solid and dependable product in my toolkit. InDesign is actually not one of the products I beta-test for Adobe so I haven’t used InDesign CS5 for more than a couple months, but in that time I’ve played with many new features and have enjoyed the experience.

InDesign CS5 is included with the Design Standard and Design Premium suites as well as the Master Collection.

“Not about the new stuff”

“Not about the new stuff” is written in my notes from my visit to Adobe headquarters in January, and this is a good way to classify the differences between InDesign CS4 and CS5. As with Illustrator CS5, InDesign CS5 doesn’t have many radically new features: several features augment basic functions like creating text frames and organizing page elements. However, some of those simple additions constitute radical departures from InDesign conventions—can you imagine text flowing outside of its frame?! You can now with InDesign CS5.

Now a multimedia publishing tool

id_mediapanelInDesign CS5 previews and controls video with the new Media panel.

InDesign has been a Flash-publishing application since CS3 and CS4, but InDesign CS5 sports several panels designed to handle video, animation and multimedia functions, making Flash publishing a larger aspect of the application. In the past this print/media combined strategy has not performed too well—QuarkXPress’s HTML publishing capabilities come to mind—but the InDesign team believes multimedia and Flash will be most valuable to publishers as they look for multiple revenue streams and try to embrace the Internet to do it. I was at Adobe the day Apple announced the iPad and the synergy between the iPad device and InDesign-built eBooks (exportable to the widely-supported EPUB format) and Flash was apparent. But Adobe has a near-impossible task in convincing Apple to put Flash on the iPad and its other devices, and my experience as a print designer is that many of my customers still consider print and electronic publishing to be separate things.

InDesign CS5 introduces five new panels in the Interactive category:

  • Animation, for building animations with the same motion presets in Flash Professional CS5,
  • Object States, which can build multi-state objects such as slideshows and text that responds to simple mouse input,
  • Timing to control timing and playback for interactive and animated elements on the page,
  • Media, a video monitor and playback interface for tweaking video in InDesign, and
  • Preview, which will show all multimedia on the page in real-time.

id_interactiveThe five new Interactive panels in InDesign CS5. Click the image for a better view.

The panels are easy enough to understand and use, though there are quite a few interactive panels now—nine total—and you have to move back and forth between them to produce multimedia in InDesign CS5. Some streamlining of the interface would be a good feature to add in the next version of InDesign. The other advancement for multimedia in InDesign CS5 is the ability to export files as Interactive PDFs or FLA files for further editing in Flash Professional CS5. The Interactive PDF export dialog box is a simplified version of the standardized PDF Export dialog box, and I don’t understand why it is different from that interface (now called Print PDF). I thought a exporting preset for interactive PDFs would have been less confusing. As for the export to FLA, the new text engine in Flash Professional CS5 makes it easier to work with FLAs produced in InDesign CS5. I haven’t tested this feature extensively so I can’t report on any difficulties or benefits, but I will do so in my full review.

id_flashA layout shown (left to right) in InDesign CS5′s Preview panel, layout view and in Flash Player. Click the image for a better view.

As with Word, track your changes

Oddly enough, the feature I use most in Microsoft Word is for tracking changes. InDesign CS5 now does the same thing, tracking changes and giving the user a way to accept or reject changes later. The Story Editor and the new Track Changes panel facilitate this new feature. This is a very useful addition and I’m already experimenting with adding it to my workflow. The major problem is Track Changes cannot be turned on by default and it works on a per-story basis, so it doesn’t seem efficient to use it on all stories in all publications. The other downside is changes are tracked and shown only in the Story Editor, a text-based editor that InDesign has had for a long time. Changes aren’t shown in InDesign CS5′s Layout View, unlike Word.

Improve your organization with Layers and Mini Bridge

There are two major additions to InDesign CS5 designed to assist with organizing assets both inside and outside the InDesign file:

  • The Layers panel has been rebuilt and now functions much like Illustrator’s Layers panel. Elements can be individually selected from the panel and layers can be nested and drilled down all the way to individual objects. This is an example of one Adobe product looking to another for ways to improve.
  • Photoshop CS5 may have Mini Bridge as an extension, but it was developed by the InDesign team and InDesign CS5 sports it as well. In InDesign CS5, Mini Bridge can not only navigate external files but can also show linked files for a particular document, making it something of an internal “File Browser.”

id_layersThe new Layers panel.

One more new feature indirectly related to organizing assets will appeal to users who hate to handle all the fonts associated with projects. Document-Installed Fonts is a feature new to InDesign CS5 that makes the application basically serve as a font management program for the fonts in a particular project—the user manually creates a font folder and InDesign CS5 will move the needed fonts to that folder and install and uninstall them on demand. Printers won’t have to copy and install designers’ fonts anymore—InDesign CS5 will do all the work without a need for other font management applications. The InDesign CS5 press documentation says the Fonts folder generated during packaging will also work as Document-Installed Fonts, but I’ve not tested this particular method yet. In any case, this is a novel way to attack the problem of moving fonts from client to vendor without fouling up typography or copying fonts.

My favorite: multiple page sizes and column spanning/splitting

A new Page tool now lets you resize and modify individual pages in a document, something that previously required a third-party plug-in to accomplish. Magazine designers who often work with gatefolds and other folded pages are going to be thrilled. The tool works great and settings can be changed in the tool’s Options bar. Unfortunately you can’t do the same modifications from the Pages panel, which would have been a smart place to also include this feature.

My favorite feature in InDesign CS5 is something very radical and at the same time very simple: modifying column layouts for text selections. For example, a bulleted list of several items can split into two columns without requiring a two-column text box like before. Conversely, a headline can span two or more columns and break through the column bounds. I love this feature because it really makes multi-column layouts easier to work with and the improvement in typography is beautiful. I used to do this work by nesting text frames into other text, but it’s all unnecessary now.

id_splitspanA bulleted list (left) split into two columns and a subheading (right) spanning two columns. Click the image for a better view.

My other favorite: object grids and the Gap tool

The InDesign team must have had grids and frame boundaries on their minds in the last year because, along with breaking column frames with text spanning, InDesign CS5 has two beautiful features for creating and spacing objects. When dragging the mouse to create a text frame or object, you can use the keyboard’s arrows to build grids of multiple objects. For example, you can use File > Place and select six images, then drag a single image box and use the Up and Right arrows to make the one box into a 2×3 grid of six boxes. The images will then place into all the boxes and your work is done. Frame Fitting Options and the new Auto Fit feature will let you fill all the frames as you like and keep them that way even if you resize your boxes.

The other new feature is the Gap tool, which lets you adjust the gaps between objects and page boundaries. Position the Gap tool between any two objects and you can then “position” the gap itself by dragging. Aligned gaps—such as those found in large grids as described above—can be moved as a group or independently. If you have Auto Fit turned on for your boxes, images within the frames will resize to fit or fill as directed. This feature doesn’t excite me too much because I don’t often build large grids of images, but I know many publication designers do and the productivity improvements possible with this set of new tools is worth trying out.

My first impression

There are more features in InDesign CS5 that I am saving for my full review, such as the Content Grabber and live captions, but I wanted to convey the out-of-the-box thinking that went behind some of InDesign CS5′s new features. I never would have expected to see text flow right out of its box or such a large suite of multimedia tools in what is really a page layout tool. Industry changes are making InDesign a very different product than what it was ten years ago, and I will be very curious to see how the print community welcomes it.

Adobe InDesign Celebrates a Decade of Publishing Innovation

PRESS RELEASE

SAN JOSE, Calif., — March 9, 2010 — Launched in late 1999 and created as a successor to Adobe® Pagemaker® software, Adobe InDesign® revolutionized the publishing industry with its unrivalled technology and features. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Adobe is releasing a commemorative book titled “Page by Page: 10 Years of Designing with Adobe InDesign” that highlights the product’s evolution and features designers who have helped make InDesign a success. The PDF version of the book is available on Adobe.com and the limited edition print version will be available through Blurb in mid-April. Additionally, to mark the occasion, the company will be releasing 10 new InDesign tips and tricks video tutorials on Adobe TV.

Rapid Innovation in an Evolving Market
As publishing evolves, Adobe continues to lead the industry, revolutionizing how creative professionals design and produce publications. Entering its second decade, InDesign is poised to change the publishing industry again, allowing designers and production professionals to deliver page layouts beyond traditional print to online media and mobile devices, including eBook readers, smart phones and a new generation of tablet devices due later this year. Adobe has changed the course of desktop publishing with InDesign, giving creative professionals the freedom to create what once seemed impossible and to extend delivery of engaging documents to more than one channel.

“Page by Page: 10 Years of Designing with Adobe InDesign”
Designed to provide an inside look at the company’s stewardship in moving publishing from print to digital solutions, the 10th anniversary book examines the role of InDesign and the InDesign Family in transforming the layout and editorial workflow at agencies, corporate publishers and traditional publishers worldwide. The book also details the evolution of InDesign from its public debut in 1999 to today and includes sample work created by designers for publications such as Marie Claire, publishers like Condé Nast, and cutting edge design agencies such as Modern Dog and Mucca Design.

Quotes

  • John Loiacono, senior vice president, Creative Solutions Business Unit at Adobe
    “InDesign took on an entrenched competitor and won through innovation and customers who demanded more from their software. Now InDesign is seen as an essential tool for enabling publishers to deliver in print and build new businesses around digital publications.”
  • Suzanne Sykes, creative director, Marie Claire
    “InDesign was the breakthrough publishing had been waiting for, and Marie Claire was lucky to be one of the first to take advantage of it.”
  • Michael Strassburger, co-founder, Modern Dog
    “As InDesign began to dominate the publication design world, we were nervous that Adobe could become less attentive to its customer base. But it has been exactly the opposite. Adobe has continued working hard to improve InDesign, including actively soliciting customer input.”
  • Matteo Bologna, president, Mucca Design Corporation
    “With the arrival of InDesign, I was finally freed from the weight of QuarkXPress and allowed to just design – and make mistakes thanks to the Multiple Undo feature!”

About Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign CS4 software, available for both Mac and Windows®, breaks down the barriers between online and offline publishing. InDesign lets you design, pre-flight and publish a broad range of documents in print, online and mobile devices. Whether you work in a design team or on your own, InDesign has consistently delivered breakthrough features and workflows that simplify page layout so creative professionals, production professionals and print service providers can make quick work of everyday tasks and deliver error-free engaging documents across media.

Helpful Links
Link to InDesign 10th Anniversary Video Tips and Interactive Timeline
InDesign Facebook fan page
Follow InDesign on Twitter
Follow InDesign Gurus Unleashed on Twitter [-- ed.]
Links to relevant Adobe TV InDesign CS4 tutorials
Link to Adobe TV

About Adobe Systems Incorporated
Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with ideas and information – anytime, anywhere and through any medium. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Design Icon I.D. Magazine Folds After 55 Years in Print

Devastating news for the design world: After 55 years in publication, I.D. Magazine, America’s foremost design publication, has folded.

I.D. was the oldest design magazine in the country, and was the one-time employer of many noteworthy figures, including Bruce Mau. Its yearly design competition, the Annual Design Review, was the oldest and biggest design competition in America, and had been operating ever since I.D.‘s inception. The competition was also the magazine’s cash cow; F&W, I.D.‘s publisher, plans on continuing the event and publishing the results online.

In the course of its publication, the magazine won five National Magazine Awards: For General Excellence in 1995, 1997, and 1999; for Special Interests in 2000; and Design in 1997. That amounted to an astounding haul for a magazine with only 30,000 readers per issue. Nonetheless, I.D. had not turned a profit in seven years, and was beset by competition from shelter magazines and mainstream glossies, which have been aggressively adding design coverage, owing to rising interest in design among mainstream audiences.

Read the complete story on Fast Company.