With the release of Creative Suite 5.5, Adobe has added some fairly significant improvements to their suite of development and design tools. However, just as significantly, Creative Suite 5.5 introduces a new Adobe strategy to update their core suite more frequently in order to respond to the rapid changes in technology today.
Key among the technologies addressed by Creative Suite 5.5 is the rise of mobile devices and the need to develop applications for the many new smartphones and tablets in use today. Also, much of the new functionality is geared towards developing applications and websites that take advantage of the emerging HTML 5 standard. Several new capabilities available within Creative Suite 5.5 also take advantage of the touch interfaces available in devices such as Apple's iPad.
However, this is still a point release and users shouldn't expect to see massive changes in the interfaces of the Adobe products themselves (as is often typical of the larger full version number releases). Also, not every product in Creative Suite has been updated to a full 5.5 version. Major products like Acrobat, Photoshop, Fireworks and Illustrator have only seen minor additions in this release.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, while much of Creative Suite 5.5 has improved features for creating content for Apple iOS devices, for the most part these capabilities aren't fully available for Windows-based developers and will often require a Mac version of the suite in order to build and deploy the iOS apps.
To test the functionality of the new Adobe product, I evaluated the Creative Suite Master Collection, which includes most of the components of Creative Suite. The Adobe suite comes in several different bundles of components (including Web, Design, and Production) that address different user types. A full listing of the different suite bundles and their pricing can be found here.
Many of the most significant changes in Creative Suite 5.5 can be found in the several tools based on development and deployment of Flash applications, along with the related Flex and Air rich Internet application platforms.
To a large degree, the new Flash development capabilities are geared towards developing applications for mobile platforms. Chief among these is increased support for Android and Apple iOS devices.
A nice feature for mobile developers is the inclusion of content scaling capabilities that makes it possible to resize content for different screen sizes (such as for smartphones and tablets). From the document settings area of Flash Professional 5.5, I could choose to scale content with stage size, which would automatically adjust my application for different screen sizes, making it simpler to develop an app for different devices.
In Flash Builder 4.5, along with the Flex SDK 4.5, Adobe as added features to ease the development of mobile applications. When creating a Flex mobile project in Flash Builder, developers can choose the target platform (such as iOS, Blackberry, or Android) and Flash Builder will create optimized settings and configurations for that platform.
One of the newest components of Creative Suite is Flash Catalyst, which was introduced in version 5 last year. Catalyst makes it possible to create graphical content in Photoshop, Fireworks, or Illustrator and then build interactive content for Flash and other Adobe RIA platforms using those graphical components. A welcome new feature in Flash Catalyst 5.5 is the ability to create resizable components for applications.
Adobe's Dreamweaver has become probably the dominant Web development tool on the market today. With the 5.5 version, Dreamweaver adds several capabilities to address HTML 5 and other emerging Web standards and also adds some mobile capabilities of its own.
Probably the most useful of these was multi-screen support. With this feature, it was possible to get a clean, side-by-side view of how content would display on multiple formats, including desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
On the standard side, Dreamweaver 5.5 includes improved jQuery support, with development of code using the jQuery Mobile Framework now simplified. Code hinting for HTML 5 and CSS3 is also now included and Dreamweaver supports the HTML 5 embedded video capabilities.
New features in InDesign 5.5 take into account the increasing popularity of ebooks and both ebook readers and tablets. These include improved capabilities for creating ebooks and interactive digital magazines and other content.
Among these are increased capabilities for creating ebooks based on the broadly supported EPUB standard. With these features it was possible to easily build ebooks from PDF and other existing content, utilize interactive HTML 5 features and also make sure that the content displayed well on any device, including older readers and ebook apps. An Articles panel in InDesign made it very easy to create EPUB books by simply dragging and dropping content into the panel.
Of course, there are many other enhancements and fixes throughout the entire Creative Suite 5.5. For example, Device Central 5.5, the tool for creating and testing rich content for multiple devices, now includes increased device emulation profiles and HTML 5 emulation. The audio editing application Audition now includes improved workflow capabilities and a native Mac OS version.
There are also increased integrations and interactions between all of the products in the suite. You can find more information on Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 here.
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