Adobe Creative Suite 5 - an in-depth guide

Adobe's Creative Suite 5 has just been announced, and here we have all you need to know about the new collection of creative tools, including step-by-step guides to the main applications. It's expected to be on the shelves by the end of May, featuring revamped versions of its leading arts, design, video and animation tools -- plus two new web-design applications, Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder.

The suite features new tools to improve your art (such as Photoshop CS5's new 3D extrusion tool Repoussé, right), and mundane but useful productivity aids (such as InDesign's Gap tool) that make using the suite that bit smoother.

Behind the scenes are some seriously ramped-up components -- such as 64-bit After Effects and Premiere Pro to make animating and editing faster than ever -- and at last a 64-bit Photoshop for Mac (Windows went 64-bit with CS4). In today's time-sensitive workflows that means more than any amount of whizzy features.

With each new version, Adobe tweaks Creative Suite's interface to make the applications work more smoothly, both on their own and together. In version 5, these include a new Mini Bridge -- a slimmed-down version of Bridge that works within Photoshop CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, and InDesign CS5, providing image access and management.

As before, you can buy most applications individually, as a bundle (Web, Production, and Design bundles), or as a Master Collection, featuring everything.

Photoshop CS5

Photoshop seems to introduce a 'wow' feature with each version. This time round there's more than one. Digital artists are well served with the Mixer brush, a new paint system with a 'wet canvas' method for picking up multiple colours on a single tip, and mixing and blending them with the underlying hues on the canvas. The Content-Aware Fill tool removes elements from an image, magically filling the space with matching lighting, tone, and noise.

The Refine Radius tool makes creating accurate selections of intricate elements such as hair more achievable.

More than ever, Photoshop is a tool for digital photographers. The Lens Correction filter provides quick camera- and lens-specific correction for three common lens-related aberrations: geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting.

For 3D workflows, there's the Adobe Ray Tracer (ART) 2.0. This progressively renders 3D scenes with an option to re-render after a pause, or perform selective renderings.

Another significant feature is Repoussé, which lets you quickly extrude text to create logos and 3D artwork. Once a model is created, you can use new tools to easily load a material and drop it into different meshes. Also new, the Shadow Catcher feature lets you easily generate and adjust a shadow on the ground plane of a scene.

For further realism, you can use an HDR image to light your scene, or create depth-of-field effects by adjusting the zone of sharpness with the new Distance and Blur controls.

Click here for step-by-step guides to the new tools in Photoshop CS5.

Illustrator CS5

True perspective comes to Illustrator CS5 with the Perspective Grid tool, which allows you to use a grid that supports drawing directly in accurate linear perspectives. You can also create objects in flat space and then apply them to a perspective plane, automatically transforming them into the correct shape.

Illustrator users also now have the Bristle Brush, offering vector painting that resembles natural brush strokes. Painting control is substantial: you can blend colours and set bristle characteristics such as size, length, thickness, and stiffness or set brush shape and bristle density. You can also finely control stroke width, dashes, arrowheads, and how brushes stretch along a path.

Meanwhile, better corner handling makes stroke shapes behave predictably in tight angles or around sharp points. There's also Draw Inside, which offers instant masking, and the Shape Builder tool, which lets you merge objects, break overlapping shapes into distinct objects, and more.

To prepare graphics for the web, Illustrator offers a new Align to Pixel Grid option, anti-aliasing character options and nine-slice scaling, enabling you to resize symbols while maintaining proportions.

Illustrator CS4 introduced multiple artboards; in CS5 you can work on 100 artboards of varying sizes in a document. There's also now an Artboards panel, where you can add, delete, and duplicate boards with panel controls or keyboard shortcuts.

Click here for step-by-step guides to the new tools in Illustrator CS5.

InDesign CS5

Of all the new Creative Suite applications, InDesign has seen the greatest efficiency boosts, with a raft of apparently small but incredibly handy little additions that solve bumps in the process of laying out pages.

So, for example, the Selection tool now allows you to quickly rotate frames, and position and scale frame content such as images using on-screen handles.

Persistent frame fitting maintains the relationship between images and their frames, even when the frame dimensions and white space change. New controls make it simple to change the look and feel of a frame as you go, for example dragging a corner of a frame to directly affect its radius and shape.

There's new support for different page sizes in a single document; InDesign also now automatically installs packaged fonts when you open a packaged document.

The useful Span Columns paragraph attribute means that, you can have a headline or crosshead span two columns; Split Columns does as the name suggests.

Creating interactive documents is easier than before in InDesign CS5, as Adobe has tidied its controls into the new Animation, Object States, Timing, Media and Preview panels.

Click here for step-by-step guides to the new tools in InDesign CS5.

Dreamweaver CS5

The centrepiece of the Web Premium collection, Dreamweaver CS5 integrates with Adobe BrowserLab, one of the new CS Live online services, which provides a preview of web pages and local content with multiple viewing and comparison tools. Also new for CS5, CSS Inspect displays CSS properties when designing web pages. This lets you quickly locate and modify a CSS-based element, including padding, border, and margin, then select the element in Live View to view its corresponding CSS rules and properties in the CSS Styles pane.

Dreamweaver now offers authoring and testing support for designers working with content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal (click here to see how to edit a Wordpress template in Dreamweaver CS5). The Dynamically Related Files feature provides direct access to a page's dependent files, while Live View renders the page as it will appear in your browsers, complete with dynamic, database-driven content and server- and client-side logic. Meanwhile enhanced Live Code highlights changes as they happen.

Flash CS5

Flash CS5 Professional gains the ability to output a project -- such as a game -- as an iPhone app or for other mobile devices. This is a major feature that will help plenty of creatives take their first steps in app design.

Flash also takes a leaf from Adobe's typographical tools by offering the Text Layout Framework, which adds kerning, ligatures, tracking, leading, threaded text blocks, and multiple columns. The new text engine also works better when importing from InDesign and other Adobe products.

Improvements to ActionScript editing and the ability to work with Code Snippets make coding for Flash far easier. Animation hasn't been forgotten, either -- using the new Spring option for the Bones tool, you can design more realistic-looking motion for jointed, flexible objects.

Alongside Flash Professional are two new packages: Flash Catalyst for designing desktop apps and Flash Builder for coding AIR apps. Click here to see how to create your first app in Flash Catalyst CS5.

Fireworks CS5 continues to develop as a web and interactive workflow tool; many of the bugs that saw the CS4 version get slammed by users have mercifully been ironed out.

Premiere Pro CS5

Premiere Pro is the heart of the Production Premium suite. It now features an enhanced, native 64-bit system architecture, and the Mercury Playback Engine, which dramatically ramps up performance for editing HD. There's also improved support for a range of formats.

More than the other suites, Production Premium takes advantage of metadata. It's useful for Adobe Story, a new script development tool, while OnLocation captures metadata as you shoot. Metadata streamlines searching for clips while you edit in Premiere Pro. Running Speech Search in Premiere Pro transcribes spoken dialogue then converts it into metadata. This makes locating footage simple -- as does the Face Detection feature.

Metadata also boosts Encore, allowing you to turn your DVD and Blu-ray Disc projects into web DVDs that now include a keyword-based search interface.

After Effects CS5

The 64-bit-enabled After Effects is much faster. Editing and compositing are greatly improved by the introduction of the new Roto Brush. Another new effect, Refine Matte, takes advantage of the capabilities found in Roto Brush and can apply them to any layer with a problematic alpha channel, such as keyed footage. After Effects CS5 also offers an Auto-keyframe mode, where modifying a property automatically turns keyframing on and adds a keyframe at the current time.

As with Premiere Pro, the variety of formats that After Effects supports has been extended, while support for XMP metadata is another new arrival.

Brilliantly for those working in motion-graphics and animation, enhanced colour management and new custom Color Look-Up Table (LUT) support ensures colour consistency across multiple devices. AE CS5 also includes Mocha Shape, Color Finesse 3, and Digieffects FreeForm plug-ins.

Click here for step-by-step guides to the new tools in After Effects CS5.

The roundup

So is it a must-buy? That all depends on your needs. In CS4, Adobe seemed to concentrate on improving integration between its applications. This time round, the focus is on improving each individual app, and the decision over whether this is a must-have upgrade for you or not depends on how much you will benefit from the special new tools of each program.

Some -- such as Roto Brush in After Effects or the Gap tool and Split Columns in InDesign -- promise to be huge time-savers. Photoshop's Content-Aware Fill also offers a quick way to carry out a common task, while the new brushes it shares with Illustrator which mimic real paint effects will have a big impact on the digital art scene.

Many will benefit from the ability to explore iPhone app development in Flash.

Other changes -- such as the move to 64-bit for After Effects and Photoshop for Mac -- offer a big enough performance boost to convince many a wavering creative.

This story, "Adobe Creative Suite 5 - an in-depth guide" was originally published by Macworld U.K. .

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