A First Look at Adobe's Creative Suite 4

September 29, 2008 1:22 am

Tags: Adobe, Creative Suite 4, CS4, Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Master Collection, Photoshop

Well, it became official on Tuesday, September 23rd, and the word is spreading fast. The new Adobe Creative Suite 4 has arrived on the scene, and in grand fashion! This is a serious new lot from Adobe, and I'm here to give you a "first look" at a portion of what has to be the largest across-the-board upgrade yet.

With several suites available, just as with CS3, there is something for everyone, whether your work is in print, web, or video production. I had the chance to look at the CS4 Master Collection pre-release beta, which included the following:

Creative Suite 4 Master Collection:

  • Adobe InDesign® CS4
  • Adobe Photoshop® CS4 Extended
  • Adobe Illustrator® CS4
  • Adobe Acrobat® 9 Pro
  • Adobe Dreamweaver® CS4
  • Adobe Flash® CS4 Professional
  • Adobe Fireworks® CS4
  • Adobe Contribute® CS4
  • Adobe After Effects® CS4
  • Adobe Premiere® Pro CS4
  • Adobe Soundbooth™ CS4
  • Adobe OnLocation™ CS4
  • Adobe Encore® CS4
  • Adobe Bridge CS4
  • Adobe Version Cue® CS4
  • Adobe Device Central CS4
  • Adobe Dynamic Link
  • Adobe Media Player

So, I will run through some of the major time-saving, creativity-freeing enhancements that have been realized with a few of the products in this release. The things that will make your work easier and alot more fun. I will also point out some of the cool new features and tools now available in a few of the individual programs in the suites. And while this is a basic "first look" presentation, we will soon be posting in-depth articles on many of these programs listed above in coming weeks. I also encourage you to check the Adobe TV links provided at the end of this article for more information on the products.

Adobe has clearly continued to spend a great deal of time in integrating the programs within the suites, so you have an easier time switching between them and you will now be seeing more familiarities among the user interfaces. What's more, you can fully customize (and save) the workspace in many of the programs, which in itself is a huge time-saver. We only just started to see this in the CS3 release.

But, let me start off with Flash CS4, as I was really excited about this one in particular. Flash had quite the overhaul as far as the look of the user interface and it's ease of use. Now, I know I'm not alone when I say that Flash was a bit difficult to approach in previous versions and basic functions were quite tedious, especially for new users. Not anymore.

Some key things in the new Flash CS4:

  • The properties panel is now aligned vertically, the timeline defaults at the bottom of the screen, and the look on the whole is much more in line with that of other programs in the suites.
  • Animation is now object-based, and you can now easily apply motion tweens directly to objects. Really, in just a couple of clicks, you can quickly create a basic animation. You can also quickly change motions directly on the stage and the keyframes will automatically be created for you.
  • Further, you have complete control of an animation through the new Motion Editor panel. And, I do mean complete, as you can see in the below picture.

Motion Editor in Flash CS4

But, there are other really cool new things in Flash CS4, such as the new "bones" tool which you can use to make armatures and distort shapes, etc., and the new "deco" tool which you can use to make pattern effects. These and more I will show you in-depth in a separate article.

Moving on to Dreamweaver CS4, the web designer's best friend, you have the workspace switcher and arrangement options to fit the way you work, as in other programs in the suites. But, the a really cool new addition I must tell you about is the new "Live View" feature. This allows you to see your work as it will appear live in a browser, without having to open a browser window. The new "Live Code", on the other hand, shows you the code generated by browsers while you are navigating your "live" page.

Further, you can now bring PSD files directly into a Dreamweaver CS4 page to create "Smart Objects", which is to say that you can edit the object directly without even opening Photoshop.

Now, how about Illustrator CS4? The cool new user interface experince brings you things like the before mentioned workspace switcher and arrangement options, to the new spring-loaded panels. This is really cool as all you have to do is drag a selected piece you are working on to the appropriate panel you want to work with and drop it in.

Artboards! This is the way to work on multiple project-related items at once in a single file, and easily update style changes, etc. across the artboards at once. And you can make these changes quickly using those spring-loaded panels I just mentioned. Just click-drag-spring-drop...all in one fluid movement.

Some other cool new things in Illustrator CS4:

  • A new Blob Brush tool which allows you to sketch fluidly with excellent control.
  • Gradient controls directly on an object, rather than trying to work specifically via the panel, so you can see effects immediately.
  • Other enhancements have been made to smart guides, graphic styles, the Appearance panel, and more.

Photoshop CS4. Oh yes, Adobe's flagship app has definitely received a lot of attention since CS3, mainly in exciting enhancements to existing tools and features.

Clone tool preview

Some really cool new things in Photoshop CS4:

  • Context-aware scaling is really something, in that you can transform an image in such a way that you don't distort the subjects in the image. So, meaning that if you are trying to squeeze an image, for example, the subjects in the image don't get the squeeze as well.
  • There are also spring-loaded keyboard shortcuts that can be customized to switch between tools quickly and easily.
  • And as someone who loves working with the Clone tool, the new Clone tool preview makes it a whole lot easier to use, and much more precise.
  • I also really liked seeing that Adobe Kuler is now accessible in Photoshop CS4, as it has been in Illustrator. For more information on Adobe Kuler, click here.
  • There is now an Adjustments palette, with even a new "Vibrance" adjustment, and also a new Masks palette, for precisely editing layer masks.

Adobe Kuler Panel

On the video production side of things, with the likes of Premiere Pro CS4, After Effects CS4, and Soundbooth CS4, there have also been numerous enhancements and exciting new tools, which will also be covered in coming weeks.

Overall, this is a bold, beautiful, and solid release from Adobe. There is something for everyone to be excited about, and the workflow enhancements alone make this upgrade seriously worth thinking about.

A must to check out is Adobe TV, where you can see the official launch video, as well as video presentations of some of the individual products, by Adobe's product team leaders.

For more information, as well as pricing and availability, please visit: www.adobe.com.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with ideas and information—anytime, anywhere, and in any medium. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
Renderosity Homepage


September 29, 2008

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Article Comments

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 29 September 2008

Hey Nick, Thanks for the Adobe CS4 pre-view. I too am excited about the Flash CS4 upgrade, and especially the new "bones" tool. There seems to be a huge trend in Adobe software, especially in the new CS4 line, to make the applications user-friendly while maintaining its high-end aspects. It is just like Christmas in September! I look forward to future articles and reviews on Adobe's CS4 software line. Dee Marie

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 September 2008

The CS4 looks very interesting. I can't believe people actually said that it was going to be a "point release", this is like a completely rewrite of the software. Simply amazing.

Elcet ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 02 October 2008

As a regular Adobe Illustrator user and expert since 1999, I'm pleased to notice that Adobe has really put forward functions that are useful for the user, instead of imagining crazy novelties that can be funny but led to multiply the bugs (which was the case in Illustrator 9 and 10). In fact, most changes from CS3 to CS4 appear to be in an easier interface. I am pleased also that older users aren't lost in that version. Another point, it works on Windows XP, and in Mac OS 10.4 with the "classic" Mac G series. The VERY bad point is that it incredibly pumps on resources. I have a Mac G5 2x2GHz with 4Gb RAM and a Radeon 9600 Pro 256Mb graphic card, which on the whole makes an incredibly powerful unit although not just brand new. Psd CS4 works… but some functions are out of order (and the most interesting ones for a Renderosity artist, of course). What Adobe seems not to have understood is that most graphic actors are very poor people, e.g. in my country average illustrators earn some 1000 euros per month (approx 1350 USD) while they work some 60 to 65 hours per week. So they cannot work on recent computers. Because from CS3 to CS4 there are most interface changes, the new version should not pump on resources more than the "old" suite, so I can imagine that from the programmer's point of view it has not been written correctly. My conclusion is therefore as follows: for few weeks the CS3 suite is still on the market, if you think to upgrade which is not stupid (e.g. the 3D functions, some new adjustment layers and dynamic Filters are fantastic progresses in Photoshop CS3 — 3D Layers in Psd CS3 Extended only), BUY THE CS3 TODAY, and keep the free upgrade to CS4 for the time when you will be wealthy! Edouard ELCET, Professional comics illustrator, Paris

DreamWarrior ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 02 October 2008

Thank you, Nick! I've read about Illy and PS, but didn't know Flash had such a major revamp. I'm glad! Maybe I can tackle animation someday soon!