Today’s Obsession: Creative Suite 5.5

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Adobe's Color Lava for the iPad

Now that the dust has begun to settle over Adobe’s new pricing model, let’s have a lookie-loo at CS 5.5’s internal changes. A point upgrade from Adobe is a weird thing, and the last Creative Suite release to do that was CS 2.3, around the time they ate Macromedia. That release came bundled with Dreamweaver and Flash, for obvious reasons, and was Adobe’s first major push into interactive content that showed they understood it in the least. It also came right after they announced Photoshop CS3’s existence, the first CS app to be rewritten for Intel processors rather than PowerPC.

This release is kinda like that, but for tablets. For those of you still on the fence about tablets being the Next Big Thing, you can get off. They are, and you’re late.

This release sports no new features to Illustrator or Photoshop. However, Photoshop gets a new Touch SDK under the hood, which allows tablet-based apps to interact with the application. (This brings to mind a hilarious video from the release of the iPhone).

To complement that SDK, Adobe’s releasing some new iPad Apps, most directly Adobe Nav. In a nutshell, you use it to connect your iPad to a desktop install of Photoshop and hold your palettes and tools there. This means you can now work in full screen without losing access to your tools.

Color Lava is Adobe’s take on a color mixer, which I like quite a bit as a concept: it’s a mixer which lets you smudge colors around with your fingertips, save a swatch file and send that to Photoshop or send the current color to your foreground/background color picker.

The most innovative of the three new touch apps is Eazel, which basically lets you paint on your iPad, then send it to Photoshop. The interface is interesting in that it lets you use all five fingers in combination to pick different tools. It makes the painting process a lot more like playing a piano. The painting makes more sense to me, in that the color can spread from brushes, bleed into neighboring colors, or be treated as dry paint.

InDesign and Dreamweaver both get tablet-based updates too, and, it shows why, as of CS5, InDesign suddenly looked like a web design tool. This version gives you prebuilt items that can be published for the tablet through Adobe’s Digital Publishing, and essentially build magazines for the iPad for sale through iTunes. Here’s a demo video of one being built from Adobe TV.

Dreamweaver essentially has three new feature sets: a workflow to allow for products that need to work across multiple screens, primarily desktop, tablet and phone. Here’s Scott Fegette talking about that.

And new support for HTML5, I mean HTML, as well as CSS3. There’s also integration with JQuery and a new Webkit-based live preview.

For the full press release, here’s Adobe’s primary blog post about it, in which they refer to part of their userbase as “peeps,” which fills me with delicious schadenfreude.

Ultimately, yes, I think the update is worth it for designers who must be on the bleeding edge of technology, particularly with InDesign’s new touch publishing. I think the ultimate response is that this will further splinter the design professions into micro-professions, which is great. This is a great time for print-only designers to dig their feet in and tell their clients, “this is what I’m good at, and we have departments for other media.” Print’s going nowhere; it’s just making room for other disciplines to deal with the disposable content it’s not good at. While it’s important for us as designers to be aware of the new media changes, we don’t all need to be savvy in making those changes.