Tag Archives: CS5

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.

prcs5-box

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

quadro-fx4800

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.

aecs5-box

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

Flash Professional CS5 Review

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Flash Professional CS5 is in an odd position nowadays. As part of the expanding Flash Platform, it now shares Flash authoring with Flash Catalyst CS5 and Flash Builder 4 as well as the third-party products on the market. Flash content is deployable with PDF now as well as Flash Player and Adobe AIR, online and offline. And other Adobe products like InDesign CS5 can publish Flash content as part of a larger push toward digital publishing.

However, Flash Professional CS5 does have a place thanks to its unique combination of drawing, animation and ActionScript. No other Adobe product has quite the same balance between creativity and application development, and while I think its specific market is shrinking (developers can move toward Flash Builder 4, creatives can move toward InDesign and Flash Catalyst CS5) it also provides a place for designers who can do both code and creative.

Typesetting is still a chore

I have never enjoyed working with type in Flash the way I have in InDesign or even Photoshop and Illustrator. Macromedia‘s old user interface just has never been very type-friendly. Flash Professional CS5 has a new type engine that supports the Text Layout Framework now built into Flash Player 10, and it’s a big improvement. Many typographic controls are now supported including leading, kerning, discretionary hyphenation and digit case and width. Paragraph-level controls such as columns, margins, indention and vertical justification are also included.

The new type controls are a vast improvement but compared to InDesign and Photoshop, Flash Professional CS5 has a long way to go in terms of actual usability. Even though using them are frowned upon, I sometimes need to use horizontal and vertical scaling—but neither are included in Flash Professional CS5. The Size and Leading items in the Properties panel have no up/down arrows beside them, which are often useful. You still have to select the setting and type it in. Photoshop’s “scrubby sliders” are still the best way to quickly modify settings in any Adobe application, and those were borrowed from Adobe’s video applications. But I am grateful for many improvements to typography in Flash, especially columns, and consider it a major improvement.

Two improvements to two tools new to CS4

The Deco brush tool and Bones inverse kinematics (IK) system were both new to Flash Professional CS4, and in CS5 they have been improved:

  • The Deco brush tool has many more drawing effects that create particle systems, grids, decorations, fire, lightning and other effects. The Symmetry Brush might be the most interesting: it creates multiple symbols rotated around a center point. This can be useful in some projects. Several of the other brushes are actually fairly weak: the Flame Brush just produces a mash-up of vector shapes colored like fire, and the Building Brush creates basic clip art of buildings. You should play with the new drawing effects and see if any can add something to your own projects.
  • Flash Professional CS5 introduces Spring for Bones, which adds resistance to bones as others move around it. This results in more natural poses and animations, and even though there’s only two settings for it—Strength and Damping—they really shore up the naturalness of IK animations in Flash. IK animations in Flash Professional CS4 could sometimes look unnatural because bones didn’t really have resistance. The Spring settings changes that.

There’s also two nice improvements to video in Flash Professional CS5. Cue points, which can be inserted at points within a video to trigger ActionScript or other interactivity, can now be defined in the Properties panel. Developers who take advantage of this can change the way users experience their Flash video content. The other great improvement is playable video on the stage—until now, you had to test your movies to see the video play. This was a very annoying aspect of working with video in Flash and I am very happy to see it resolved!

ActionScript improvements for the beginner

ActionScript 3 can be tricky, especially if you are used to earlier version of ActionScript. Flash Professional CS5 introduced the Code Snippets panel, containing sample code for a variety of common functions, and custom class code hinting and completion in the ActionScript editor. Both of these are actually fairly useful for the expert coder as well as the beginner, but it’s novices who will benefit the most. In particular, the snippets in the Code Snippets panel are annotated with comments that explain how the snippet works, and in better detail than what you find in the reference docs. If you want to learn ActionScript 3, a combination of books like the Classroom in a Book series and these snippets would be a good training resource.

Publish your Flash content anywhere…almost

Adobe has done a great job in the past year of spreading Flash publishing capabilities across its products. Acrobat 9 and Reader can play Flash content in a PDF. Flash Platform applications can publish to Adobe AIR, which runs on computer desktops. Adobe Device Central, which is a fairly mature application now, makes it easy to design Flash for mobile devices, and the Open Screen Project is spurring device manufacturers to support Flash. The OSP encompasses BlackBerry, Android devices and several other mobile devices on the market, and if it works Flash will be available across the mobile market as well as the desktop market, where it currently enjoys almost total market penetration.

However, as I’m sure everyone reading this knows, Flash can’t publish on the iPhone, iPad or any Apple mobile product. The technology is there with Flash Professional CS5 and the new Packager for iPhone, which compiles Flash and ActionScript code into native iPhone code, but just before CS5 was announced Apple changed the iPhone developer agreement and banned all apps built with cross-compilers like the Packager. Adobe opted to leave the Packager in Flash Professional CS5 but will not develop it further, guessing that Apple will never let Flash users produce content for their devices.

I never did actually build an application and test it with the Packager for iPhone, and I doubt I ever will—which is a great shame, because I was really looking for to using it. But without Apple’s blessing, applications built with Flash technology can go no further than the testing environment.

Conclusion

Flash Professional CS5 would have been a spectacular upgrade if the Packager for iPhone could actually publish to the iPhone. Without it, the application has a few major improvements but most new features are updates to existing features and I see much more development being applied to Flash Builder and the new Flash Catalyst. The addition of the Text Layout Framework is an important step toward supporting better typography in Flash, and designers who are serious about Flash and type will consider that reason enough to spend $199 on the upgrade.

If you consider yourself a creative or a coder but not both, this may be the time to think hard about switching to Flash Catalyst CS5 or Flash Builder 4. Flash Professional CS5 is still a phenomenal application that created an entire industry, and the upgrade makes sense for many Flash designers and developers, but the fragmentation of the mobile market and the expanding Flash Platform has made the future of Flash unpredictable.

Flash Professional CS5
Adobe Systems
US$699/$199 upgrade
Rating: 8/10

Illustrator CS5 Review

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

Much more useful

In “First Impressions” I said I wasn’t sure Illustrator CS5 was a necessary upgrade, but some of the new tools have impressed me more and more since then. One thing I’ve learned to do is simplify my illustrations with variable-width strokes, replacing shapes made with the Pathfinder panel or shapes drawn freehand with the Pen tool. It takes some practice and sometimes the controls aren’t refined enough to get the exact shapes I want, but variable-width strokes can usually achieve what I want.

One trick in particular that I tried was to build the Nike logo with a single stroke. It’s a perfect candidate—a simple shape with a clear line connecting the two endpoints—but even then it was tough to achieve. The sharp turn in the brand is very hard for the variable-width stroke control to get without bending the turn on top of itself, but I was able to do it and I hope to publish a tutorial on this when I can.

Even though I still use the Pathfinder panel for a few things, I am using the Shape Builder tool more and more to combine objects. It’s very intuitive, well-designed and effective. Another major improvement for usability is artboard alignment. There’s no way I could go back to moving my artboards around manually and aligning them by typing in measurements! I’m also labeling my artboards now for organizational purposes.

One more feature that has proven really useful is the Perspective Grid, which I am really grateful for every time I create the illusion of depth. Snapping objects to the grid and moving them along a z-axis has really simplified the process of creating depth, and everything remains live so ease of use is not compromised. It does require handling the two perspective tools added to Illustrator CS5, and I think Illustrator has a huge array of tools as it is, but the benefits outweigh the learning curve.

Some features not as useful

I haven’t found Drawing Modes to be useful—I still prefer to move objects forward and backward rather than interrupt my flow to change modes. I’m trying to get used to Draw Inside but I still fall back on opacity masks, which feel most comfortable to me.

The Bristle Brush has also turned out to be something I don’t use very often, which has surprised me. It makes some excellent painterly effects and brings Illustrator closer to Photoshop and Corel Painter, but perhaps due to force of habit I still go to those apps for those effects and use Illustrator mostly to create logos, graphics and other hard-edged products. The Bristle Brush just hasn’t been compelling enough to make me skip Photoshop for those painterly brushstrokes. I am also wary of throwing that much transparency and objects at a commercial print job: the Bristle Brush really does produce a lot of transparency and that can tax even the most professional hardware.

Conclusion

The more I use Illustrator CS5, the more I find I like its new features. It seems like a really useful upgrade, and anyone who works a lot in Illustrator should at least get the 30-day trial. Many designers use Illustrator only for a few specific tasks, but even they could get some use out of variable-width strokes, perspective grid and the Shape Builder. These three features make fundamental Illustrator work faster and more productive.

Illustrator CS5
Adobe Systems
US$599/$199 upgrade
Rating: 9/10

Photoshop CS5 Review

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

The best upgrade in a long time

In my “First Impressions” article I said Photoshop CS5 could be the most exciting upgrade since Photoshop CS, and I think that’s turned out to be true. Photoshop’s performance is noticeably speedier for me, thanks to the rewritten 64-bit code that employs more memory and handles larger files. Of course, your performance will depend on the processor, memory and video card you are using so for some users the 64-bit change will not add much.

I find myself using Content-Aware Fill and the Spot Healing Brush with Content-Aware more and more, and it’s become my main retouching tool. Content-aware technology was jaw-dropping in Photoshop CS4 but the fill and brush are superior methods to apply it and it finally achieves a complete one-step retouching technique. The Clone tool, which Photoshoppers have used for years, is great but its one weakness is you have to replace the brushed area with something already existing in the image. Content-Aware technology naturally has to do the same thing—it can’t choose pixels that aren’t in the image—but it has an uncanny ability to mix things up and create a very natural replacement for what’s removed.

The one difficulty I have with the Spot Healing Brush is it will still make the same mistakes it has in previous versions—even when I’m using the Content-Aware mode. I often have to remove timestamps from point-and-shoot photos and the tool will sometimes replace the timestamp with bits from the same timestamp, even when Content-Aware is the selected mode. It seems Content-Aware works best with larger areas that don’t overlap with busy backgrounds or foreground elements, which is what all the retouching tools work best with.

I had also expressed some reservations about the Refine Edge feature, which I hoped would perform as a background removal tool like the Extract filter used to do. After testing, I’ve found that Refine Edge works well in some situations but in others the Background Eraser tool does a better job. What’s missing from Refine Edge is the ability to analyze how background contaminates fine edges such as hair, which the Background Eraser tool also lacks.

On an image with frizzy hair on a white background, I got a decent background extraction with Refine Edge but the hair’s edge was gray—a combination of white and the dark hair color. I got a much better result after applying a high radius and shifting the edge, but this also knocked out some of the foreground subject too. A two-layer approach would probably be the ideal Refine Edge workflow—one layer with aggressive Refine Edge to get the fine edge and another to restore the foreground as needed. This is not as precise as the Extract filter used to be, but it would be faster.

What I’m not using

Maybe it’s because I’m too used to my old working methods, or maybe it’s because I just haven’t needed them lately, but there are some things in Photoshop CS5 that haven’t proved useful to me:

  • I never got into HDR photography, mostly because the ghastly colors HDR techniques have created never appealed to me. The new Merge to HDR Pro is designed to get HDR back to its original intention of expanding dynamic range, but I’ve not used it much at all. Another reason why I don’t use it is because most of my imagery is either going to print—which doesn’t show maximum range—or being used as graphics on a website.
  • When I want to paint digitally, I use a Wacom tablet and Corel Painter. Photoshop CS5’s new Bristle Tips and brush engine work very well but I sometimes come across performance issues, especially when I’m mixing paint with other colors in a photograph, and I haven’t used the new brushes much except when I want to make some artistic effects. For all my retouching work, the usual soft-edged circular brush works well.
  • A few months ago I was used to docking Mini Bridge to the bottom of my screen as a quick and easy way to access files, but even at its small size it took up enough of my screen that I decided to close it and just access images with the Open Recent command. I am usually working on a small set of images over and over again during a project, and Open Recent gives me access to them without needing another open panel. I still think Mini Bridge is a great addition that makes things a lot handier.
  • I’m still not into Photoshop’s 3D features very much, including Repoussé, Photoshop CS5’s 3D extrusion tool. When I want to produce 3D assets I’m used to using Strata 3D, though if Adobe were to produce a standalone 3D application and include it in the Creative Suite I’m sure I would use that. But the 3D tools and panels in Photoshop CS5 don’t seem as intuitive to me despite the various improvements to 3D in CS5. The best thing Photoshop 3D has going for it is its compatibility with the other Adobe CS5 applications, such as After Effects.

Conclusion

No matter whether or not you use all of Photoshop CS5’s new features, every one of them works as advertised and I don’t have a major complaint about the upgrade. Professional Photoshop users will want to upgrade for the Content-Aware technology alone—it’s twice as useful when applied as a fill or a stroke instead of when scaled, like it was in Photoshop CS4. HDR enthusiasts will want to look at Merge to HDR Pro and 3D enthusiasts will really want to see Repoussé and the expanded 3D features.

Photoshop CS5
Adobe Systems
US$699/$199 upgrade

Photoshop CS5 Extended
Adobe Systems
US$999/$349

Rating: 10/10

Dreamweaver CS5 Review

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

What CSS can do for you

Dreamweaver CS5 got quite a few new features focused on making CSS easier to use, and they have changed some aspects of the way I work with CSS. I still do a lot of hand-coding and don’t care to use the CSS Styles panel and its new features. I do like the Inspect button, which will put the Design view into Live View and color various properties of the CSS elements such as margins and padding. You can turn CSS rules on or off as well in the CSS Styles panel, which helps you see how the webpage is affected by specific rules and properties.

I love the Inspect feature for specific situations but most of the time my troubles with CSS happen with properties that aren’t easily seen, such as position, display and float/clear. I try to do a lot of my CSS positioning without absolute positioning when I can avoid it, and CSS1 and CSS2 tricks like floats aren’t really designed for the task. I wish Dreamweaver could solve these situations, but Inspect doesn’t provide easy solutions.

Handling CMS-generated websites

In my “First Impressions” article I mentioned Dreamweaver CS5 handles dynamic websites generated by PHP-based content management systems (CMS). At the time I couldn’t figure out how to get Dreamweaver to work with a website of mine that uses ExpressionEngine, and a little research suggests Dreamweaver CS5 actually doesn’t work with ExpressionEngine. Joomla!, Drupal and WordPress are the three CMS’s that Dreamweaver CS5 will handle dynamically—and there’s no support for the ASP-based CMS products out there, though there aren’t many.

Dreamweaver CS5 has taken an important first step toward working with dynamic websites but there’s a lot more to be done. Other dynamic systems, such as e-commerce products which are coming up more and more in my work, aren’t covered by Dreamweaver and I don’t do anything more than the design and production in that application. If you run Joomla!, Drupal or WordPress often, then I’d purchase Dreamweaver CS5 since it works beautifully with those products. Other CMS’s—like ExpressionEngine—don’t gain anything new.

The Inspect button is my favorite new feature, but the redesigned Site Definition dialog box is a close second. It makes creating new sites and handling multiple remote servers and environments much easier, though I think this says more about the weaknesses of the previous interface than the strengths of the new one in Dreamweaver CS5. Improvements like these are doubly important because interfaces like the Site Definition dialog box are used very often and if they aren’t well-designed they really grate on you. The other great new interface improvement from Adobe recently is the new File Import interface in Photoshop Lightroom 3, and that one proves that a lot of time and effort can be saved with a flexible and simple interface.

About the HTML5 Pack

Adobe released a Dreamweaver CS5 HTML5 extension a couple weeks ago that adds some HTML5-specific elements to Dreamweaver CS5. HTML5 has become a buzzword now that Apple is throwing it around as a replacement for Adobe Flash (which it really isn’t, at least not yet). I’m sure many web designers will switch from XHTML to HTML5 and Adobe has tried to embrace HTML5 even with the uncertainty around web video and whether it threatens its Flash products.

The HTML5 Pack should be a no-brainer for designers wanting to learn HTML5. The pack includes a couple HTML5 starter layouts accessible from the New Document window, but these layouts are fairly simple and don’t have many HTML5 elements other than the semantic additions such as

and

Interview with Heavenspot’s Chevon Hicks

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While at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles I had the great opportunity to interview Chevon Hicks, a creative professional who is Founder, Creative Director and President at the highly regarded digital ad agency Heavenspot. Heavenspot gained a niche producing websites for motion pictures and Adobe is now their largest client. Creative Suite users will recognize their work: Heavenspot produced the demo materials for CS4 (“Double Identity”) and CS5, and helped develop Photoshop.com as well as Adobe’s “Brilliant” site that recently won a People’s Choice Webby.

I wanted to distill some of Chevon’s ideas and comments into tips you can easily remember and apply to your own creative work or life.

Look for the best learning experiences when starting out.

Chevon started interning at a creative agency when he was 15 years old, and he credits that experience as a big help when starting Heavenspot. Interning is not a glamourous start to a career but if it provides an awesome learning experience and lots of “learning by observation” then it can be worth it in the long run. My own first job was as an ad designer at a daily newspaper, which set me up to be a very productive designer for the rest of my career.

Be a big fish in a small pond.

Chevon said running an agency is Los Angeles is tough—there are more high-profile clients but also a lot more talent in the city. It’s a lot more easier to be an expert in a smaller market, and while that might also mean smaller and less prestigious clients Chevon says overall it is easier to be successful in the smaller markets. Even where someone gets their start is not necessarily a big factor: Chevon hails from Gary, Indiana and came to Los Angeles later.

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Be creative in other ways.

Chevon is a musician, DJ and animator as well as a designer. He used to play in a band with Amanda Ghost, now president of Epic Records. Chevon’s point is that great designers and creative professionals are often creative in more than one way and can leverage that experience in different ways that make their work better.

Find a niche—and stick to it.

Chevon says success often depends on gaining a specific niche for your work or business. Heavenspot started out as a website to showcase Chevon’s artistic work but eventually the firm gained a niche for developing websites for movies. Being at the top of that niche gives them a strong brand presence. Some creative professionals—including myself—will also say that a successful designer can generalize instead of specialize if the final product is solid.

Designers are sometimes tempted to take projects that don’t quite fit their niche, and Chevon says at least a few projects should not be taken if they don’t fit. “If you don’t say no now and then, your yeses are meaningless,” he says.

Be cool and be good.

Of all the factors for success, it’s not surprising that simply producing great work that turns heads is the largest. Chevon and Heavenspot produce very striking, sometimes Flash-intensive work and it always looks cool. It would be hard to judge whether their work is the best on the Internet but it’s definitely good and the combination of good and cool is a winning one.

Photoshop Extended CS5 First Impressions

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Today Adobe announced the upcoming release of Creative Suite 5 (CS5) and its vast array of applications for creative professionals. Photoshop upgrades to CS5 along with the rest of the applications and I’ve been working with Photoshop Extended CS5 for several months now as a beta tester and reviewer. I believe Photoshop CS5 is a more compelling upgrade than Photoshop CS4 was and there are some very smart new features coming to Photoshop users everywhere.

Why Photoshop without Extended?

Before I go into Photoshop CS5’s new features, I should point out the are still two version of Photoshop:

  • Photoshop Extended CS5, which has special features for certain professionals and is included in all CS5 suites except Design Standard, and
  • Photoshop CS5, which has a smaller feature set and is included only with CS5 Design Standard.

I don’t know why Adobe continues to sell Photoshop CS5. Every professional I know uses Photoshop Extended CS5, though that may change with this new configuration of suites: the difference between Design Standard and Design Premium is only the addition of four web design applications, and print designers can easily do their work with Design Standard. But so far there’s no compelling reason to use anything other than Photoshop Extended CS5 so that’s what this article and my upcoming review will cover.

The File Browser is back

It’s true: the File Browser, that handy little asset management tool from way back in Photoshop CS, is back and I think it’s better than before! Adobe had moved digital asset management from File Browser to Bridge but that application turned out to be too cumbersome and overpowered for some users. Bridge has improved over the years but the Photoshop team has an extension called Mini Bridge that provides a leaner and more useful experience.

Mini Bridge provides only a few features from Bridge including file preview, filmstrip/thumbnail views and access to image processing functions such as Photomerge or the new Merge to HDR Pro. It’s not very powerful but it’s very accessible and easy to work with, and I like docking Mini Bridge to the bottom of my screen so I can access the filmstrip. Bridge’s Compact and Ultra-Compact modes come closest to Mini Bridge’s ease of use but Compact mode can still get in my way and Ultra-Compact mode is not really useful enough for me. I think users who loved the old File Browser will love Mini Bridge.

HDR reclaims its old intentions

Merge to HDR was introduced in Photoshop CS2 as a tool to boost photography’s tonal range, but it was used and overused by some professionals to produce work that is close to surreal. Overdone HDR photography is usually easy to spot with its extreme range of highlight and shadow as well as oversaturated colors. I personally like the artistic expression in such HDR photography but I don’t use it in my own work.

Merge to HDR has been augmented in Photoshop CS5 to “Merge to HDR Pro,” and I think it comes closer to making HDR photography a useful tool for everyday professionals. One simple example is the new Remove Ghosts feature that eliminates ghosting caused by misaligned shots: it works great and will probably salvage a lot of work. Previously, such ghosting was sometimes removed by exaggerating HDR effects, making the “surreal” HDR style more common.

ps_hdrproThe Merge to HDR interface is more useful and detailed now with Merge to HDR Pro.

There’s a lot more to Merge to HDR Pro, including settings for precise control of edges, glows, tonal settings and color. Things that were done before in Photoshop can be done in Merge to HDR Pro. There’s also a preset menu available that gives you 14 custom settings for everything from photorealistic to surreal imagery. Photographers who haven’t been comfortable with HDR photography in the past due to its lack of control should look at the new features in Photoshop CS5.

ps_hdrpresetsThe HDR presets that will ship with Photoshop CS5.

If you like the wild colors in HDR photos but actually don’t care to shoot multiple exposures and do the work with Merge to HDR Pro, Photoshop CS5 has a new HDR Toning feature in the Adjustments menu that recreates the HDR look for 8-bit images. Unfortunately it’s not available as an adjustment layer, but it’s available in Image > Adjustments and it does a good job of recreating that HDR look. I’m curious to see if any color correction gurus will consider it as a color correction tool, because at first glance it produces colors close to the Lab color space, which has been proven to be a useful colorspace for corrections.

Refine Edge: Still not Extract

ps_refineedgeThe Refine Edge dialog box in CS4 (left) and CS5 (right). Click the image for a better view.

I lamented when the Extract filter was removed from Photoshop CS4 because it was the best background-removal tool Photoshop had. The Background Eraser and Magic Eraser tools were just not as good. In Photoshop CS5, the Refine Edge has been rebuilt with much-improved edge detection and interpretation that almost makes it a replacement for the Extract filter. This would be a phenomenal addition, since the Extract filter was a very difficult feature to use, but so far I don’t think Refine Edge duplicates Extract’s results. It was hard for me to retouch edges despite Refine Edge’s new Refine Radius and Erase Refinements brush tools. I am still working with a beta copy of Photoshop Extended CS5 so I am not passing judgment on Refine Edge yet, but so far it’s a fair improvement but not a replacement for the Extract filter.

More 3D improvements in CS5

I keep waiting for Adobe to produce a standalone 3D application, but for some reason they continue to load Photoshop Extended with more and more 3D tools. In CS5 we have a new 2D>3D extrusion feature with its own name—oddly enough, “Adobe Repoussé.” When I saw this name appear in the Photoshop prerelease beta program I hoped it would be temporary, but it looks like it will be a permanent addition to the product. I don’t have a problem with the name myself but I can see how it would be confusing. Repoussé basically extrudes 2D shapes into 3D shapes, the same way Illustrator has been for years with its 3D filters. Repoussé is more powerful than Illustrator’s filters and finally gives Photoshop a method to produce its own 3D objects.

There’s also some improvements to the current 3D tools in Photoshop Extended, including support for 3D materials and a new ray-tracing engine for handling lights, reflections and refractions. Photoshop Extended CS5 can also produce cast shadows with the Shadow Catcher feature. This all helps to make Photoshop Extended CS5 a better producer of realistic 3D objects.

Better brushes

Photoshop has always prided itself on its brush engine, but I’ve preferred Painter to Photoshop any day for digital painting. Photoshop CS5 introduces a new Mixer Brush that behaves like Painter’s brushes—responding to canvas wetness, “paint” load, mixing and flow—and a Bristle Tips feature that delivers conventional fine art brushes—such as fan brushes—to the Brushes panel.

I had a really fun time testing these new painting features out. Some brushes feel a little stiff but some fiddling with the settings can make these brushes work very much like real paint brushes. Right now I prefer working with paint on a blank canvas rather than an existing photograph, because photos tend to dominate any color on your brush, but with some practice and more tweaking of the settings I hope to improve my results.

Nips and tucks

Photoshop Product Manager John Nack seems to mention the “nips and tucks” every time a new version of Photoshop is released. With CS4 it seemed like these small improvements actually outnumbered the big new features, but this time around they do not. I think this bodes well for Photoshop CS5. However, these small productivity enhancements really do make Photoshop CS5 a more valuable tool. Here’s a list of my current favorites:

  • Perhaps the most well-known Photoshop tip is using the Ruler tool and Rotate Canvas to straighten an image. Now the Ruler tool has a Straighten button in its toolbar that will straighten an image for you. However, the button actually executes a Rotate Canvas and Crop at the same time, so undoing this requires two undos.
  • The Gradient tool now has a neutral-density preset.
  • The Zoom tool now zooms in and out gradually if you hold the mouse button.
  • 16-bit photos can be saved as 8-bit JPEGs in one step.
  • Lens Correction is in the Filter menu and does much more auto-correction. This filter has been much improved and I’ll cover it in more detail in my review.
  • Default values for layer styles can now be modified and saved.
  • A new on-screen heads-up display (HUD) lets you select colors without going to the color well on the toolbar.
  • A Paste Special menu item in the Edit menu lets you paste inside and outside elements.
  • Workspaces will now remember any changes made to it, so if you move a panel or change a keyboard shortcut it will stay that way. You can reset workspaces as always.

The big one: Content-Aware Fill and Spot Healing

I wanted to save what might be the most jaw-dropping surprise until last: Content-Aware Fill and Spot Healing. Photoshop CS4 impressed many with its Content-Aware Scaling, which can accurately judge how to scale an image and scrap or create detail without losing important elements. Photoshop CS5 takes it a step further with Content-Aware Fill—available with the long-standing Edit > Fill command—and the Spot Healing Brush tool, which now has Content-Aware as an available mode. These two new features have made the rounds on YouTube, having been demoed at some events such as Adobe MAX’s Sneak Peeks, and elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowds.

ps_cafContent-Aware Fill before (left) and after (right). Ironically, the new Content-Aware technology in Photoshop CS5 works better as a fill than as a brush.

I’ve been using Content-Aware Fill and the Spot Healing Brush tool for my retouching and they have performed well in the past few months I’ve used them. Content-Aware Fill performs the best: it is very smart about figuring out what is subject and what is background in an image selection and recreating the background to cover up the subject. The Content-Aware mode of the Spot Healing Brush performs well too but less so—sometimes it will pull detail from unrelated areas to replace brushed areas, which is the problem I’ve had with the Spot Healing Brush in general. But I am only working with a beta version so I’m withholding judgment until I get the final product to test.

My first impression

Photoshop Extended CS5 could generate excitement like I haven’t seen since Photoshop CS first hit the market. The Content-Aware features by themselves make this an upgrade worth considering, but for me it’s Mini Bridge and the improved Refine Edge that make Photoshop Extended CS5 far more useful. There’s many more new features besides these that I will look at in my full review.

Dreamweaver CS5 First Impressions

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Dreamweaver CS5, just announced today as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 (CS5), has actually been doing duty in my web design business for several months now—I’m a beta tester for several Adobe products including Dreamweaver. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay Dreamweaver CS5 is that it has performed like a shipping product from the first day I got it. Dreamweaver CS4 users will not find too many differences between that application and Dreamweaver CS5, but there are some major improvements in handling CSS and working with dynamically-generated webpages, such as those created by PHP-based content management systems (CMS).

Dreamweaver CS5 is included with the Design Premium, Web Premium and Master Collection suites as well as a standalone product.

Improvements for CSS

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have been the primary method for controlling websites’ designs and Dreamweaver has emphasized it for a few years now. The application gets a few new CSS-related features with every release, and Dreamweaver CS5 is no different:

  • A new Inspect button produces colored overlays that help visualize the margins, widths, padding and other properties of the CSS box model. If your paragraphs or divs have any of these properties, click Inspect and then hover over the elements with your mouse to reveal these properties. The CSS Styles panel will also highlight the particular rules you are hovering over, which is handy.
  • CSS styles can now be disabled or enabled in the CSS Styles panel—hover over a property in the panel and click the icon, and Dreamweaver CS5 will comment out the rule in the CSS code. I find this to be more useful than the Inspect feature, because you can toggle properties and get immediate feedback on what they do. Designers who constantly check their CSS changes in browsers or Live View can now disable CSS properties and see the results in Design view or Live View.
  • The CSS-based starter layouts have been redesigned to use simpler CSS classes and include more comments in the code and the actual page text. Ironically, there are significantly fewer layout templates in Dreamweaver CS5 than in its predecessor. I don’t use these canned layouts myself because I prefer to build mine from scratch, but intermediate and beginner CSS users will benefit from their educational value and even expert CSS users can get a jump-start on a project with these layouts.

dw_cssenableYou can click the “no-smoking” icon in the CSS Styles panel to enable and disable styles. The colored overlay on the paragraph shows the width, padding and margins for that element.

Improvements for PHP-based CMSes

The most game-changing improvement in Dreamweaver CS5 is its support for PHP-based content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. The new Dynamically Related Files feature basically compiles all the CMS-related PHP files and use them and Live View to generate dynamic pages just like the CMS would. You can navigate pages like you would in any other browser, work with JavaScript-powered navigations and move from page to page on internal and external servers. Dreamweaver CS5 even can bring data into pages from external databases.

dw_cmsThis image shows the prompt to “discover” dynamic files (inset left), the list of files after discovery (inset right) and Dreamweaver CS5’s ability to render a dynamic page (background). Click the image for a better view.

I tested these new CMS-related features at Adobe in January and they work very well for the common PHP-based CMSes like WordPress. I want to do some further testing for my upcoming review because I actually prefer to use a paid PHP-based CMS called ExpressionEngine and my first attempt to use Dynamically Related Files with an EE-based website did not work. I will figure out what I did wrong and report back in my full review.

PHP coders will enjoy the new custom class code hinting and site-specific code hinting available in Dreamweaver CS5. Dreamweaver now provides hinting—even for code that hasn’t been saved yet—for PHP core functions, objects and site-specific hints for customized code like those for blog themes and content management systems.

dw_sshintsYou can get code hinting on a site-specific basis, based on its CMS…

dw_phphints…and you can also get PHP code hinting.

Other than that…

…there aren’t a lot of major features beyond those for CSS and CMS handling:

  • Those who read and liked my piece on Adobe BrowserLab will be glad to hear Dreamweaver CS5 has an integrated BrowserLab preview. BrowserLab, like similar services, will take a snapshot of a webpage previewed with one of a variety of web browsers. The service is now improved because there are more browsers available and you can also freeze JavaScript interactions in Live View and preview them with BrowserLab.
  • New support for the open-source version-control application Subversion lets users move files and synchronize changes with the remote depository. You can also revert to previous versions of a file.
  • One change that I particularly appreciate is a redesigned Site Definition dialog box. Every website designed with Dreamweaver is first set up in this dialog box and it hasn’t always been user-friendly. There’s not really many improvements to this other than a new look and feel, but some new prompts and the ability to start a site without having every detail filled in makes this dialog box an improvement over the one in Dreamweaver CS4.

My first impression

The quantity of new features in Dreamweaver CS5 is not large, but what is included are improvements vital to the way web designers and developers work today. Dynamic websites powered by content management systems are all around us and Dreamweaver needed to address the lack of tools and interface to handle these sites. The Webkit-powered browser within Dreamweaver and introduced in CS4 was a catalyst for the improvements in Dreamweaver CS5, and interaction has now become as manageable as images and layouts.

InDesign CS5 First Impressions

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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.