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Adobe CS4 Suite Quick Reviews: Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/5/2011

Adobe has revamped the CS3 and introduced the CS4. Do these Adobe CS4 apps still tick?

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    With many applications available in Adobe CS4 Master Suite, we want to provide you with a quick shot review of all the major applications as well as links to What’s New for each.

    Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver are the powerhouses in their specialty of editing images, creating drawings and building web sites respectively.

    Purchasing and upgrading advice: The suite has so many variables that factor in a person’s decision. First, you have a choice in the suites. Second, you have a choice in the individual software. (Photoshop, and Photoshop Extended, for example.) Third, you could be using Photoshop 7 (yes, some people still use it today. Heck, one person I know uses 5.5.), Photoshop CS2 or none of the above.

    After all, Adobe doesn’t release upgrades of individual applications whenever they’re ready. They release them as a suite and upgrade all of them. So some applications will get a worthy makeover while others a skimpy one. Buying Adobe suites does give you more for your money than purchasing one application.

    To help you make sense of what software comes in which packages, see Distinguishing Adobe CS4 Packages.

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    Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

    Design and build dynamic web sites using HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML, JavaScript, and more. Dreamweaver also manages assets and files by project/web site. If you owned Dreamweaver back in Macromedia days, this is version 10.

    What’s new in Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 (pdf)

    Pros: The interface finally looks like it belongs with the rest of the suite. A favorite feature, the insert toolbar, joins the panel. Just click the little arrow and you can see the rest of them. Designers who prefer to do hand coding will feel less hatred toward Dreamweaver CS4 as it makes it easier and faster to view code. Previewing now known as Live Code view works better in rendering how the code looks in a browser without leaving Dreamweaver. You can also interact with the rendered page to test the effects and forms.

    You can view the code and the preview in a split screen so you can analyze and edit code and see instant results. Also cool is InContext Editing, which lets non-web developers (clients, content people, etc.) control content without messing with anything else. In other words, web designers don’t have to update the tedious parts of the site (content and images) and can leave that to the others. CS4 also crashes less than CS3 – but of course, that can vary from computer to computer. CS3 improved Photoshop integration and CS4 takes it another step importing them as Smart Objects.

    Cons: People who design sites with WYSIWYG interfaces might find the new interface more complicated and difficult to navigate. Even the options and busy interface could overwhelm the experienced user (like the author of this article).

    Upgrade: Upgrading from CS3 to CS4 may not be worth it unless you want more code control and more CSS implementation. Dreamweaver CS4 is a solid and complete upgrade for anyone using anything older than CS3, but it could scare those who prefer to stay away from code.

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    Adobe Illustrator CS4

    Create drawings and beautiful works of art such as logos, page layouts and illustrations.

    What’s new in Adobe Illustrator CS4

    Pros: Introduces an awesome Blob Brush tool for better blending. Improves many of current features such as Smart Guides snap to objects, an easier to use Gradient tool with Gradient transparency, an Appearance panel that adds more details, clipping mask Live Preview, and Kuler integration. Finally allows multiple artboards and separations previews.

    Cons: Not many new features.

    Upgrade: Good upgrade for regular users of Illustrator and purchasers of a packaged suite. Standalone – not so much a good upgrade unless Illustrator is the bane of your existence.

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    Adobe Photoshop CS4

    The premiere (you know it!) photo editing software.

    What’s new in Adobe Photoshop CS4

    Pros: 32- and 64-bit versions available. Content-Aware Scaling makes it possible to scale parts of a photo. Fluid Canvas Rotation to rotate image on the screen not the canvas (like a sheet of paper). Supports OpenGL rendering. Improved Bridge including speed and creating collections. Improved Camera Raw with added Clarity slider and selective editing capability. Adds tabs that work similarly to browser tabs. New Mask and Adjustment panels give quick access to common features especially photo enhancement features and edits turn into layers to avoid messing with the original image.

    Cons: Bridge still needs more features. Tabs feature has imperfections. Working with text remains a pain (you’d think Adobe would fix this by now).

    Upgrade: Upgrade verdict depends on how and what you use Photoshop for. Hardcore photographers and image manipulators should upgrade for the new features. Hobbyists and basic image editing won’t need to upgrade unless it’s part of a package deal.