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Review: Adobe Creative Suite 3 Combines Two Creative Powerhouses

Adobe's release of Creative Suite 3 offers a look at what the merger of Adobe and Macromedia can bring to the table for image professionals.

When Adobe announced at the end of 2005 that it was merging with Macromedia, there was much hand-wringing in the creative community over which products would survive the merger.

For a time, Adobe simply stayed the course, offering both Macromedia Studio 8 and its own Adobe Creative Suite 2, while staffers worked to find ways to combine the best of both companies into a single cohesive group. Over the last year, it offered us glimpses of what was to come: Adobe added a Flash-based meeting tool from Macromedia to Acrobat 8, for example, and added the ability to insert Adobe PDFs directly into Contribute 4, a former Macromedia product. But it wasn’t until now, with the release of Creative Suite 3, that we got to see the full picture of how Adobe merged its products.

Adobe Creative Suite 3 illustrates how two competing products can be merged into a useful whole. (Click image to go to Image Gallery.)

Adobe has divided the products into three logical groups aimed at different sets of creative professionals -- print, Web, and video post-production -- offering a premium and standard version of each. It also plans to release a Master Collection later this year with all of the products across all three Creative Suite product lines in a single box.

For this review, I looked at a beta of the Creative Suite 3 Web Premium edition. According to Adobe, Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium and Standard, and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium and Standard will ship in April. Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium will ship in the third quarter of 2007.

Overall, it seems that Adobe hasn't tried to come up with any major new functionality changes. Instead, it concentrated on providing a common look and feel, and on finding ways to leverage the strengths of both sets of products, creating easy links among the individual products and a smoother workflow. Most of the changes across individual products are incremental, not show-stoppers by any means, but it's certainly a reasonable start, and Adobe has done a good job facilitating integration across the suite.

What's In The Box?
If you're a Web professional, you won't be disappointed with the results. What follows is a brief description of the suite's contents, along with where it came from:

  • Dreamweaver CS3: Design, develop, and maintain Web sites and Web applications (Macromedia)
  • Flash CS3 Professional: Animation and interface development environment (Macromedia)
  • Photoshop CS3: Photo and image enhancement tool (Adobe)
  • Photoshop CS3 Extended : A set of extensions for Photoshop for vertical markets such as architects or medical researchers (Adobe)
  • Illustrator CS3: High-end drawing tool (Adobe)
  • Fireworks CS3: Image editor and vector-based graphics tool (Macromedia)
  • Contribute CS3: Web content editing tool (Macromedia)
  • Acrobat CS3 Professional: Document distribution, editing, and collaboration tool (Adobe)

Additional tools and utilities (all from Adobe) include: Adobe Bridge CS3 (content management), Version Cue CS3 (project management tool), Adobe Acrobat Connect (Flash-based online meeting tool), Adobe Device Central CS3 (online environment for managing a variety of devices), and Adobe Stock Photos (a subscription stock photo service and directory of photographers).

The Standard version includes everything but Acrobat, Illustrator, and the two Photoshop apps (making it more of a pure Macromedia product package). I can't help wondering they didn't at least include Acrobat in the Standard version.

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