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Hopping Across Platforms

Tushar Kanwar | Print Edition: October 2011

Look around you, and if there is a creative person in your social or professional circle, there's a high chance he or she has used one or the other product from the Adobe Creative Suite at some point of time, if not on an everyday basis. With the release of Creative Suite 5.5, Adobe has upgraded the big daddy of graphics design applications to keep pace with the rapidly evolving needs of publishing and designing media for tablets and smartphones. Mind you, the powerhouse doesn't come cheap, but let's take CS5.5 for a spin and find out whether it's worth your while to get it.

What is new?
The new version of Adobe Creative Suite is meant to add that incremental utility for use on newer platforms like iPads and multimedia-heavy screens. Here's what is new about CS 5.5:

1) DREAMWEAVER: Adobe's HTML-editor-on-steroids has a ton of new features that make developing web apps that port as easily to tablets and smartphones as they do for desktop use. Along with deep support for HTML5, DreamWeaver CS5.5 supports PhoneGap, an HTML5 app platform that uses JavaScript to author native applications for iOS and Android platforms without separately developing for each platform. And with the new Preview mode, you get to see what your web app will look like on the web, phone and tablet resolutions, so changing and tweaking your design to suit all three screens is a cinch. Combined with Flash Professional CS5.5, you get the ability to automatically scale designs and rendering based on the screen you're targeting.

2) PHOTOSHOP: If you're familiar with the previous CS5 version of Photoshop, you may well be disappointed with the minor updates Photoshop has received in the 5.5 version. What it does add is the ability to communicate with external programs, such as Adobe Eazel, Adobe Color Lava and Adobe Nav. Before you get your hopes up too high, these apps aren't the equivalent of Photoshop for the iPad. Instead, each app complements the desktop version of Photoshop by allowing you to create content on the iPad and wirelessly transfer the result to Photoshop (and vice-versa). For example, Eazel allows you to finger paint on the iPad, while Color Lava is a colour-mixing app that lets you create colour palettes on your iPad, and transfer the palette to the desktop when you're done. Nav is possibly the most useful of the tools on an everyday basis, since it lets you select and manipulate Photoshop's tools from your iPad, allowing you maximum screen estate while working with a laptop. Now, for a CS5 user, a lot of this capability can be achieved without the CS5.5 upgrade, so bear that in mind. That said, if you're a new Photoshop user or upgrading from CS4 or earlier, the upgrade is exceptional and well worth it.

 VERDICT: For what has largely been considered a desktop-oriented publishing and design suite all these years, perhaps the biggest reason to consider CS5.5 is the acknowledgement of how important the other screens are fast becoming in our lives. If you're looking to target content or applications for the Web, tablet or smartphone space without breaking your existing workflow, CS5.5 makes for a worthwhile new investment, and depending on how important these screens are for you, possibly even for existing CS5 users. The new CS5.5 is a release you'll love if you're into mobile, video and eBook creation, but more long-term users of Photoshop and Illustrator will be disappointed as these programs have been barely touched.
3) INDESIGN: Arguably the most significant of changes, especially for content creation for tablets and phones, can be seen in the InDesign CS5.5 desktoppublishing program. For example, if you're publishing a book aimed at different devices, you can now choose to maintain one master version, with chapters for each different device. So, you can design a chapter with static images and text for the Kindle, and a multimedia-heavy version for the iPad with videos, MP3 and images. Touch elements are also vastly improved, such as the ability to embed a swipe-friendly slideshow of images or an interactive object into your publications.

4) PREMIERE PRO: On the video-editing front, apart from a number of new effects and blending modes, there are a number of improvements that allow Premiere Pro to take advantage of advancements in hardware. For example, video previews for applying effects are now aided by the dedicated graphics processors that are commonplace in high-end laptops these days.


VERSIONS AND PRICING
Which version you should choose comes down to what you intend to do with the suite. Starting from CS5.5 Design Standard (with Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat Pro) at Rs 77,371, the suite goes all the way to the all-encompassing CS5.5 Master Collection at Rs 1,54,791, with upgrade pricing and volume pricing options available.

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