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Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 review

From £1,238 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Adobe

The primary focus of Creative Suite 5.5 is support for technological developments in the wider world - such as tablet-based digital magazines, HTML 5 on the web and stereoscopic video production.

The primary focus of Creative Suite 5.5 is support for technological developments in the wider world - such as tablet-based digital magazines, HTML 5 on the web and stereoscopic video production. Here's our preview of Adobe Creative Suite 5.5, based on time spent with Adobe previewing the final code. Our full, expert review will follow later when we've spent some time with the full release.

Latest: Adobe CS6 review

The only addition to Photoshop CS5 is that now it can communicate with other devices over a network, which offers some intriguing possibilities. Adobe showed us prototype iPad apps that take advantage of this. Easel is a painting app similar to Brushes, from which you can send 'sketches' directly to Photoshop. Color Lava is a colour palette creation tool that can send schemes over a network to Photoshop.

InDesign CS5.5 sees the formal introduction of the Folio Producer tools for creating interactive publications. Previously in beta, it's already been used for digital editions of magazines such as Wired. The Interactive Overlay Creator has become a panel within InDesign - making creating and adding elements like controllable video, slideshows and web content much easier.

Adobe has also attempted to make creating ePub-format ebooks easier. A new Articles panel allows you to place elements from a layout in the order you want them to appear when exported as a single-threaded ePub file. There's support for dynamic image resizing so one ebook will work across devices with different resolutions.

InDesign CS5.5

A new Articles panel allows you to place elements from a layout in the order you want them to appear when exported as an ePub file

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5: Greater effects

After Effects sees the greatest number of new creative tools. The Warp Stabilizer filter offers image stabilisation without having to manually select tracking points. For areas that are missing at the end of frames, the filter can either zoom in to crop these out, or recreate the areas based on other frames. The Warp Stabilizer can also remove motion artefacts.

Depth-of-field effects such as bokeh can be created using the new Camera Lens blur filter. Cameras can be turned into stereoscopic 3D rigs - which creates nested compositions of left and right eyes (so you can output left and right videos separately) with controls over stereo depth and distance. You can also view stereoscopic content using the 3D Glasses effect.

After Effects 5.5 gains better controls for lighting falloff, support for time codes, more video formats, including native footage from Red cameras, and more LUTs.

Premiere Pro 5.5 gains support for keyboard shortcuts from other editing tools such as Final Cut Pro and Media Composer, to make moving from those programs easier, and the Merge Clips command for quickly matching video to audio recorded on separate devices. The Media Encoder has been give a 64bit makeover for better performance, can act as a central renderer for video including rendering AE comps.

Soundbooth CS5 has been discontinued in favour of adding many of its key features to the more full-featured audio editor Audition - now available for the Mac - which also gains a new playback engine, multichannel support and more.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5: Focus on HTML5

On the web side, the focus is on HTML 5 and designing for multiple devices. Flash Pro 5.5 includes better content scaling for when a project is output at resolutions for the iPhone andiPad, for example. You can quickly rasterise Symbols for better performance on mobile devices.

Dreamweaver CS5.5 gains the Multiscreen Preview panel, where you can see how your site looks on devices from smartphones to tablets to desktops. Support for HTML 5 includes CSS3 code hinting and support for it in the CSS panel and Live View. Support for the open source PhoneGap platform in Dreamweaver CS5.5 allows native Android and iOS apps to be created in the web design tool, while new JQuery integration makes JavaScript creation easier.

The application design tool Flash Catalyst includes more control over how interfaces resize on different screen types, a Common Library panel for elements shared with developers using Flash Builder 4, custom-skinnable components and improved interactions.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Expert Verdict »

Pricing structure: Master Collection £2,764 (upgrade £571)
Design Premium £1,811 (upgrade £380)
Web Premium £1,715 (upgrade £334)
Production Premium £1,811 (upgrade £380)
Design Standard £1,238 (upgrade £286)
Subscriptions: Photoshop CS5 £34 per month
Design Premium £85 per month
Master Collection £140 per month

Users of Photoshop and Illustrator will be disappointed as these programs have been barely touched - they’re still called version 5 - but there’s a lot to like on the interactive and video side in CS5.5. And if a suite is too pricey, Adobe has added a subscription option, designed to make it easier for small companies to manage costs.

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