Tag Archives: Adobe

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.

REVIEW: Adobe Captivate 5 for Mac

captivate-box

Adobe Captivate 5, released last July, is the first version of Captivate to be available for Mac OS and so it’s the first version to be on the radar of many creative professionals who produce eLearning material through other products like Flash but don’t work with Windows. The Adobe team did a very good job porting Captivate to the Mac—it looks and feels just like its Windows counterpart—but creative users might be a little surprised by the differences between other creative pro apps like Flash and Captivate, which reminds me of PowerPoint.

The user interface

I’ve noticed two different user interface strategies at Adobe in the past couple years (excluding their video applications, which have their own interface design). Creative pro applications from Adobe either have an older user interface with multiple panels and many settings—think Photshop and Illustrator—or a newer, cleaner interface with a sidebar and fewer panels, segmented to show and hide groups of settings easily. Flash Catalyst CS5 is a prime example of this newer design, and Flash Pro CS5 uses some elements of both.

Captivate 5 offers a new user interface based on the newer version, and it’s very clean and easy to use. Like with Flash Pro CS5, the Properties Inspector is the main panel in the sidebar that provides most of the controls needed for everyday operations. I happen to like the older user interface, but that might be because I’ve used it for years in Photoshop and other Creative Suite apps. However, I prefer to have a lot of controls at my fingertips and the Captivate user interface is clean to the point where it might be a little dull and not as useful. For example, the alignment controls are in the menu bar—there’s no Align panel, which is common in other apps.

On the other hand, PowerPoint users might find Captivate 5’s user interface familiar. The panel layout reminds me of PowerPoint’s, and tools and settings are sometimes in similar positions. Ultimately, I think Captivate’s roots in the PC market and its connections to PowerPoint influenced the direction the user interface took. It’s an improvement over Captivate 4.

One more note that relates to user experience: unlike its predecessor, Captivate 5 now allows multiple Captivate projects to be open at the same time. I think it goes without saying that this is a vital improvement and one that will be universally praised.

New editing features

captivate-effects

The Effects menu (in the Timeline window) has several effects for transitions and other events.

Captivate 5’s killer feature is, of course, being available to Mac users for the first time. That in itself makes Captivate 5 notable. But PC users looking to justify an upgrade will want to look at the new features, which are mostly productivity enhancements that are major improvements and also longtime features of other software on the market:

  • Master Slides are simply slide masters that can apply a consistent layout to a group of slides. PowerPoint has had slide masters for years and in Captivate they provide a tremendous benefit.
  • Object Styles, a longtime feature of other creative apps like InDesign, allow users to save and apply design and typographical settings to elements.
  • It’s kind of buried in the Effects panel, but new animation effects are really nice—the list of effects is fairly long and they provide some original transitions I’m not used to seeing in other applications. Related to this is the new Widget API, which are all built with ActionScript 3 starting with Captivate 5. There’s several new classes that respond to more behaviors like a slide change or a video event. Captivate 4 had widgets as well, but they have been improved in Captivate 5.
  • Span & Synch Video allows a video clip to play across several slides and still allow navigation and slide changes. Captivate 5 has an Edit Video Timing dialog box where slide transitions can be synchronized with the clip.

captivate-master

Master slides allow consistent design application.

captivate-styles

Styles can be applied to several kinds of elements in Captivate 5 to make designing faster and less prone to errors.

Things like animation, master slides and styles are not new. Captivate has followed a winding road of evolution since starting out as a screen recording utility (Flashcam) and demo-recording tool for Flash (RoboDemo) before it was acquired by Adobe and turned into an eLearning application. This might explain why Captivate has lacked some basic presentation and layout tools until lately. I think Captivate 4 was the first version designed for layout and presentation, and Captivate 5 has gone maybe twice as far to solidify that purpose.

captivate-videobox

When video is inserted into a project, the slide duration can be made to match the video or the video can span multiple slides.

captivate-video

A spanned and synched video shows up in the slide filmstrip (left) and can be previewed across multiple slides.

New distribution features

Captivate was designed to support the collaborative nature of eLearning. Captivate 5’s major new features is integration with Acrobat.com and its use of Acrobat.com as a learning management system. Connecting with LMSes was an important feature of Captivate 4, but the collaborative nature of Acrobat.com and its various online apps also makes it a nice solution for eLearning if a LMS isn’t already in place.

The Acrobat.com experience is basic but useful. The eLearning product is basically uploaded to Acrobat.com and from there users can log in and participate. As with everything on Acrobat.com, a free Adobe account is required. The benefit of Acrobat.com is its tracking and reporting features, which record and report users’ scores within Acrobat.com and without a LMS. Unless you require a standards-compliant LMS, Acrobat.com provides a solid solution.

Conclusion

Captivate 5 is ground-breaking if only for the reason that it’s on the Mac: many creative pros who have been building eLearning products with Flash or PowerPoint now have another option tailored for the job. I also think Captivate 5 has several major improvements that aren’t necessarily original but are time-tested and very useful. I think there’s other areas that can be improved, particularly if Adobe wishes to make it more desirable for the creative pro market, but considering its short time as an eLearning product I think it has come far.

Captivate 5
Adobe Systems
US $799/ $299 upgrade
US $1,799/ $599 upgrade with eLearning Suite 2
Rating: 9/10

Adobe MAX: Android, AIR, Edge, HTML5 and jQuery

Adobe MAX provided several news items and inspiring developments, but of course some of it is out in the wild now while others are only in the rough stages. Here are my impressions of several announcements made by Adobe at MAX.

Android and AIR

The strong penetration of the mobile marketplace by Android proves that Adobe was wise to develop for that operating system. Adobe announced AIR 2.5, which supports Android as well as Apple’s iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS, and this really sets them apart as a platform-inclusive service provider. A more comprehensive news article on this can be found here.

AIR 2.5 is available today, as is the BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK. I can’t tell yet if AIR 2.5 will boast strong performance, but it’s important that it does. Since Apple banned Flash from iOS, some people have said online that Flash is a buggy and cumbersome technology that should be eliminated everywhere. I don’t see that myself, but if AIR 2.5 runs the same way then it will get the same criticisms.

The Edge prototype and HTML5

One of the most interesting early sneak peeks for me happened in the first keynote, when a prototype application codenamed “Edge” was demoed. Basically, Edge converts simple timeline-based animation to HTML5. A good demo can be found here on Adobe TV. Adobe also demoed a rough Flash-to-HTML5 export in its sneak peeks.

It’s important to notice Edge is not Flash: its focus on transitions and animation looks a lot like Flash Catalyst, which can produce Flash content but is not as robust as Flash Pro. My review of Flash Catalyst CS5 is here. I see Edge being rolled into Flash Catalyst at some point, perhaps as an HTML5 export feature in Flash Catalyst CS6. It performed well but, like Flash Catalyst, Edge only produces a subset of the what’s possible in Flash.

Again, Adobe is wise to push hard to get its content production tools on all platforms. Flash Player is still ubiquitous—CTO Kevin Lynch reported Flash Player 10.1 has the best market penetration ever seen with Flash Player—but the design community has its eyes on HTML5 as the next standard and device and software manufacturers need to follow their lead, whether or not it’s the best option for developers and consumers. I think it’s ironic some people criticize Adobe for sticking with the Flash Platform, while the things they demoed at MAX revolved around the adoption of HTML5 as an alternative.

jQuery

John Resig, the creator of the popular jQuery framework, sat in on one of the keynotes as Adobe touted some internal development happening with jQuery and jQuery Mobile, the latter of which is still in the alpha stages. There was some vague allusions to how Dreamweaver might integrate with jQuery in the future, and if that’s the case I would be curious how it combines with—or replaces—the Spry framework Dreamweaver already has. But details were scarce and there’s not a lot to report on this front.

Conclusion

I think that compared to last year’s MAX, this year touched on more platforms and runtimes. This is a response to the fragmentation of the developer marketplace due to HTML5 penetration and also the number of mobile operating systems coming out all at once.

This could be a great thing for future development but I personally worry that developing for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and HTML5—and possibly XHTML—will get us away from the standards-based mindset that has worked well in the web design community. The idea of “write once, publish everywhere” may still be possible, but it’s hard to see how it will work in practice.

Photoshop Family Product Discounts Through December

Adobe is putting out some holiday discounts for Photoshop family products from Monday, December 13 until Sunday, January 5. This includes all products in the Photoshop family, including the consumer-oriented Photoshop/Premiere Elements 9 bundle which non-professional users will enjoy. It looks like Photoshop Elements 9 alone is not included in the discounts, but it currently has a $20 rebate through the end of the year that makes it $79.99. For $20 more, you can take advantage of the discount and get Premiere Elements 9 in the bundle.

Here are the discounts:

psepre9
Photoshop Elements 9 & Premiere Elements 9 Bundle
US $99.99 (save $50)

pslr3
Photoshop Lightroom 3
US $249.99 (save $50)

pscs51
Photoshop CS5
US $649.99 (save $50 off full version or $25 off upgrade)

pscs5e
Photoshop CS5 Extended
US $899.99 (save $100 off full version or $25 off upgrade)

Adobe MAX: Digital Publishing Suite

The unveiling of the Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) at Adobe MAX interested me more than any other news, since I am a developer who’s also a print designer and I’ve worked heavily with print publications in the past. Unfortunately, we’ve known about the DPS for some time—having had a sneak peek of Condé Nast’s WIRED Reader and The New Yorker months ago—and we still need to wait for the DPS to actually be available to buy next spring (you can use it now through the prerelease program though). However, Adobe revealed a lot and I’ve been looking at the material from both the designer and developer perspective.

InDesign has changed little

I had expected more tools or changes to the publication designer’s workflow, but this isn’t really the case. Everyone should note the Digital Publishing Suite is a set of new services and AIR applications, and there’s just one plugin to add to InDesign CS5, which is required. The best demo of the DPS/InDesign workflow I’ve seen is this one from Terry White, and there is really no changes to InDesign itself. The main points to remember are:

  • Design for the iPad’s 1024×768 screen. This is already available when a document’s Intent is set for Web in the New Document dialog box.
  • Build one InDesign file per article, and horizontal and vertical versions for each if you want it to change with the iPad’s orientation.
  • InDesign’s interactive features are supported, such as hyperlinks and rollovers, but not its rich media features such as video. An AIR app, Adobe Interactive Overlay Creator, can be used to generate this media and the resulting SWF files can be placed in InDesign. These SWFs are converted to iPad-friendly media when the document is bundled.

Creating horizontal and vertical version of your publications is a mild nuisance but it is optional—the Adobe Content Viewer allows for single-orientation publications. Having to create a document for every article and ad seems very cumbersome. I think segmenting one document into sections—already an InDesign feature—would be a great way to keep everything in one file and still separate articles and ads for use on the iPad.

After a document is bundled and prepared for iPad, it will be viewed on iPad with the Adobe Content Viewer. It should be noted this is designed to work with several tablets, including Android tablets and the upcoming RIM Playbook (shown in the MAX Day 1 keynote) as well as the desktop via an AIR app.

The rest of the suite

The meat of the Digital Publishing Suite is in its various services:

  • Production Service takes the InDesign document and makes the final assembly, including the addition of metadata and export to a variety of formats including HTML5. This includes the Adobe Digital Content Bundler app, which Adobe plans to integrate into the hosted service.
  • Distribution Service stores documents in the cloud and distributes the content to the Adobe Content Viewer. This includes a dashboard for library content and reader notifications.
  • E-Commerce Service monetizes the enterprise on retailer platforms or mobile marketplaces such as the Apple App Store or the new Adobe InMarket (also announced at MAX).
  • Analytics Service, supported by Adobe SiteCatalyst/Omniture, provides an impressive analytics dashboard including not only general page views and trends but also the way readers view and read the publication.

A full list can be found in this PDF.

The price

The big news should be the large price tag associated with the Digital Publishing Suite. The cheaper Professional Edition is US$699 per month on top of a per-issue fee that is based on volume. The Enterprise is a totally customized solution that gives publishers total access to the API and integration with back-end services like subscription management, but it’s a negotiated cost with Adobe and constitutes a multi-year agreement.

I think a lot of people hoped to build iPad publications with InDesign when they saw the WIRED Reader hit the Intenet a few months ago—imagine using File > Export > iPad just as easily as exporting to PDF! It would have probably been that easy if Apple allowed Flash on the iPad. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and along with the iPad conversion there’s also the leveraging of Adobe’s purchase of Omniture and the inclusion of its analytics in the DPS. All this makes the suite far removed from the cheap and simple export some people might have hoped for. Instead, it’s priced for serious publishers and its focus on analytics, distribution and e-commerce shows it’s been developed for the business side of publishing.

Adobe tells me they expect to put a reseller program in place so DPS customers can resell the service to smaller publishers and independents at a cheaper price. There’s no details on this yet but it’s good to see Adobe at least thinking about how to penetrate the small and mid-sized publisher market. I know there’s a lot of potential there, as the publishing business in general is full of small publishers and self-publishers.

Participate now

If you want to try the Digital Publishing Suite now, visit Adobe Labs and download the package. You can also learn more by visiting the Digital Publishing page on Adobe.com.

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/.

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

Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5 Review

I use both Premiere and After Effects for a few different projects specific to my web design and DVD work, such as producing graphics and video for websites or building DVDs of clients’ personal photos and videos. As such, my review won’t be as technical as true video professionals but I hope it will show some things that become easier in my work now that CS5 has been released.

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Premiere Pro CS5: Performance and data

Premiere Pro CS5 is a totally different beast than its predecessor, thanks to its new Mercury Playback Engine and a GPU designed to fully leverage it (see my NVIDIA sidebar below). The Mercury Playback Engine represents a redesigned playback engine for Premiere that’s designed to handle HD footage and even ultra-HD footage coming from the newest cameras on the pro market. I’ve not handled such material in my work but I do shoot HD video and it’s never been very easy to work with until now. Premiere Pro CS5 gives you a performance boost even without a GPU, but when paired with one playback is practically in real time and there’s no need to grab a cup of coffee when rendering a project at the end.

The other major advancement is Premiere Pro CS5’s embrace of metadata from other applications to create a tighter workflow. Adobe Story, an online service for pre-production scriptwriting, will produce metadata that marks up a Premiere project with shot lists and placeholders for footage to be capture with OnLocation CS5. The metadata also helps Adobe Media Encoder CS5 transcribe better speech for captioning and other uses and even remains in Encore CS5 so Encore-exported video is keyword-searchable.

All the metadata improvements above foster a tapeless workflow, where footage and story can go from the camera straight to the computer and then out to DVD or online video. Like many groundbreaking features, I think all this will be better in CS6 than CS5, where it remains an incomplete solution depending on your needs. The shot lists aren’t too detailed and working with the metadata requires actors and actresses to stick with their scripts. Speech Search is much improved from CS4, but it can be improved further too. Still, I really like the thought behind the new paradigm and the buzzword of the digital photography industry for years—”metadata”—now has a potentially strong application in the video industry.

There’s several small improvements to Premiere Pro CS5 as well:

  • Automatic scene detection is now available for HDV tapes.
  • You can import assets from DVDs.
  • Premiere can find and remove gaps between clips on demand.
  • You can drag a clip on the New Sequence button to create a new sequence that matches the clip’s attributes.
  • Adobe’s keyed application, Ultra, is now included with Premiere. Ultra has also been enhanced to better tackle uneven lighting and real-world imperfections during capture.

Premiere Pro CS4 users may not find Premiere Pro CS5 to be a compelling upgrade unless they are working with ultra-HD footage—perhaps from a RED camera, which Premiere handles very well—or are interested in a tapeless workflow. Those who have the funds to buy a GPU like NVIDIA’s Quadro FX 4800 for Mac along with Premiere Pro CS5 should consider the upgrade even more just for the extreme speed increase. But CS3 users who skipped the CS4 upgrade should definitely make the upgrade—things have changed since 2007.

Sidebar: NVIDIA’s Lightning-Fast New GPU for Mac

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Performance is always one of the “new features” in Adobe’s creative applications—with every upgrade it seems they find new ways to eke out faster functions, though they’re not always as fast as hoped. Premiere Pro CS5’s Mercury Playback Engine is yet another new feature focused on performance, but this one delivers: it’s the greatest performance improvement I’ve seen in any of Adobe’s products ever.

What makes it truly awesome is GPU acceleration, and to achieve that users will need a GPU—a graphics processing unit that replaces the weak video cards that usually ship with all computers. The Mercury engine is designed to work especially well with NVIDIA‘s CUDA technology, and I had the chance to test Premiere Pro CS5 with the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 for Mac. NVIDIA supplied me with some extremely impressive charts and graphs showing unbelievable improvements. Playback that Premiere could run only at quarter-speed ran at practically the full frame rate. A HD timeline exported to MPEG2 Blu-ray took 75% less time than with the software alone.

I also tested the Quadro FX 4800’s performance with a sample project of my own, and I was impressed again. I had roughly 80–85% speed improvements to encoding to Blu-ray and also to FLV from a HD project. The Blu-ray export took seven minutes with Premiere alone and one minute with the GPU enabled. The FLV export also took seven minutes without the GPU and one minute with it.

As impressive as that is, my HD project performed better yet when I tested the full resolution playback. The target frame rate was 23.98 and the display frame rate was 23.00. Without the NVIDIA GPU, Premiere achieved only a 7.67 display frame rate and dropped 1,029 frames. The GPU restored the performance to 100%, achieving a 23.67 display frame rate and dropping zero frames. I don’t know how the GPU was able to score such a high display rate, but that’s what Premiere’s statistics reported.

What does this mean for everyday users? First, if you work with HD or other intensive formats like RED 2K or 4K, you will want to make the most of the Mercury Playback Engine. This engine is designed to handle the high-definition and ultra-high-definition video being produced today. Second, I learned that no one can really get by with the stock video cards anymore. I run a new Mac Pro and figured my video testing would perform well with or without the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800, but the card Apple put into my machine was really a sorry excuse for the GPU. I think the GPU might be as important or more important for video producers than the machine itself. I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Quadro FX 4800 for Mac users serious about getting the most out of Premiere Pro CS5. Without it, Premiere Pro CS5 is half the upgrade it could be.

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After Effects CS5: Remastered for HD and ultra HD

Like Premiere, After Effects has made HD and ultra-HD video a primary focus in CS5. There’s no rewritten playback engine like what Premiere Pro CS5 has, but After Effects CS5 is now a 64-bit application and thus takes advantage of large amounts of RAM. RAM previews now run very smoothly, and I rarely have trouble with them anymore. I don’t work with ultra-HD footage so those users may still pine for a better solution, but for the average user working with a HD camcorder After Effects CS5 will work much more beautifully.

After Effects CS4 users received mocha for free, and at the time I said it alone made the CS4 upgrade more valuable because of its motion tracking abilities. mocha was really just an add-on to CS4, but now it’s updated with handling of hand-drawn masks and feathered masks with variable widths. The result is a more natural mask that can handle camera movement and more complex composites. mocha also works better with After Effects CS5 and now shares its motion blur data, making it possible to recreate the same motion blur with other elements in After Effects.

I was introduced to After Effects through my work with Flash, which at the time used a fundamentally different timeline. I still grapple with After Effects’ timeline sometimes, especially with the notion of creating keyframes manually all the time. After Effects CS5 offers an Auto-keyframe mode that will create keyframes whenever major parameters are changed (including position, rotation, mask properties and camera changes among others). The only thing I wish is that Auto-keyframing could be turned on by default on all compositions, but if you click the button in the Timeline panel you’ll be set for the entire project.

My favorite new feature in After Effects CS5 is the Roto Brush, which will automatically rotoscope objects from their backgrounds. I’m an old Photoshop user so to me it functions somewhat like that app’s Quick Selection tool. To use the Roto Brush, draw a stroke on the foreground object to keep it or the background to mask it out, and After Effects detects the object’s edges and modifies it with each frame. The end results always seem to come out wonderfully and After Effects even compensates for motion blur, background color in transparent foreground edges, and edge chatter across frames. After Effects’ paint tools provide any final touches to the mask.

And now some key features that I also like in After Effects CS5:

  • If you work with some high-end Panasonic or RED cameras, After Effects CS5 natively supports the AVC-Intra 50 and AVC-Intra 100 codecs, plus R3D files of various permutations.
  • You can align layers to a composition’s boundaries for a better layout.
  • Photoshop adjustment layers are supported in After Effects CS5 and can be applied to any After Effects layer. Other Photoshop features, including Repoussé 3D elements, are supported.
  • You can color-code panel tabs with colors from the composition, footage or layer’s label.
  • A new Refine Matte effect will apply the Roto Brush’s superior edge tracking to alpha channels, making cleaner keyed footage and masked elements.
  • If you like to script, After Effects CS5 has added some parameters to access motion blur, text tracking and per-character auto-orientation.
  • The Color Finesse plug-in has been upgraded to version 3 and includes new hue/sat curves, vibrance control and a highlight recovery tool designed for high dynamic ranges.
  • Another plug-in included in After Effects—for the first time—is FreeForm by Digieffects. FreeForm produces some nice 3D effects such as bent and warped layers and distorted text. I keep saying Adobe needs to produce a 3D application, but for now they seem content to add 3D tools to After Effects and Photoshop.

After Effects CS5 seems like a less necessary upgrade than Premiere Pro CS5, but that’s probably because After Effects doesn’t have a game-changer like Premiere does with its new Mercury playback engine. Still, the Roto Brush is a beautiful improvement that will change the way users rotoscope in After Effects and the 64-bit rewrite makes the application more powerful. All its other small improvements make After Effects CS5 a smart upgrade for particular users who need its specific features or hardcore users who can’t say no to an upgrade.

Premiere Pro CS5
Adobe Systems
US$
Rating: 9/10

After Effects CS5
Adobe Systems
US$
Rating: 8/10