Creative Suite 2, by Adobe
Posted: 27-Apr-2006

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Judd Spitzer Class: PRODUCTIVITY
  Reviewer: Diane Love  

Overview
Renown for its multi-platform photo editing software, Photoshop, the folks at Adobe are at it again, making their Creative Suite of tools even better with Creative Suite 2 (CS2). With Adobe CS2, you will find yourself in the realm of design with six major software packages: Acrobat 7.0 Professional, used for creating consistent documents no matter what platform or set of fonts you may have; Photoshop CS2, a high-end photo editing software package; Illustrator CS2, a vector graphics design program; InDesign CS2, a desktop publishing package; GoLive CS2, a web design package; and Version Cue CS2, a collaborate working tool. You may be quick to compare this software package to the Macromedia Studio MX Suite; however, there are many differences between the two design packages, and while some comparisons exist, there are other aspects of both packages that stand strong and stand alone.

Review Contents


System Requirements

  • 500 MHz PowerPC G4 processor
  • Mac OS X 10.2.6 and later
  • 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB available disk space

Testing Systems

  • iMac 17" 800Mhz G4
  • iMac 17" 1 Ghz G4


Installation
There is no doubt that this is a very large installation. Get out your coffeepot and be prepared to swap disks for quite a while. There is a significant amount of heavyweight software to load up, but despite the size and time, installation really is a straight forward process.

One thing to note is that Adobe has now taken more control over the activation process. Unlike previous versions, just entering a serial number will not allow you to use the software. Adobe switched to an activation scheme similar to Macromedia Studio, where you must go through an Activation process that connects with Adobe's server. This Activation keeps track of the number of activations that serial number has, and with CS2, you are limited to two (allowing you to use the software on two machines).

This new activation process will thwart software piracy, which is likely the intent of this change, but it could also be an issue if you need to reload the software on your computer after a crash, or perhaps if you are moving the software from one machine to another. More on this later.

After installing and activating the Creative Suite, it was time for the updates. CS2 will ask you to download the latest updates, and that takes a bit of time as well to finish up. Once you are done with that, you can get right to work with the Creative Suite applications.

When the dust settled after the installation, a brilliant fresh green leaf was immediately noticeable in the menu bar. A click on the leaf displayed the Version Cue menu, including a set of Version Cue preferences.

The other applications all have equally bright and beautiful new icons, and each starts up with a panel that displays the following choices: what's new, browse extras and new / open document options (some have tutorial and video links). Startup times seem pretty long compared to applications such as iLife and Microsoft Office.

The following sections will provide summaries of each of the major components to CS2.

Photoshop
It's probably most appropriate to start with Photoshop CS2, as Photoshop is likely the most popular application of the CS2 suite.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 is the premiere photo editing software on any platform. Photoshop CS2 is designed as a High End Professional title, but many of its features can be easily tapped by the average user.

Photoshop has been around for quite awhile. I used a copy of it back in the early 1990's for use with a scanner. The quality and features packed into Photoshop CS2 truly will take even the novice into territory once reserved for photo restoration experts. Photoshop CS2 provides the capability to work with a large variety of image formats natively using the powerful tools provided.

If you already have Photoshop CS, there are a number of new features introduced in Photoshop CS2. One new feature is integration with another CS2 product, Adobe Bridge. While Bridge is a stand-alone application, it is a requirement if you desire to do batch processing of photos. Specifically for PS CS2 files, you can do processing on files in Bridge while you continue to work in PS CS2. Bridge is your gateway into Adobe's stock photo service, where you can pay for some great royalty free photos to use, or even order prints. The only thing that seems to be missing here is a way for people to easily access their iPhoto library and get busy with their photos.

One of those coolest new features is Vanishing Point. Vanishing point allows you to change the perspective within a photo. This works best with objects such as buildings, however you can do many things, such as place text on objects and use the edges as areas to define the objects in a more 3D-esq style mode.


New Vanishing Point tool


Image Warp is another nice new feature that allows you to take an image or part of an image, and re-distribute it based upon a grid. Using the grid, you can easily match up the image to revolve around spheres, cylinders or whatever crazy shapes you have in mind. This can also be handy to exaggerate different parts of a photo. Lots of uses and can be used intuitively .

Red-Eye Correction, while it seems like a no brainer since most all the low end photo touch-up programs have it, is now just a one click function. The usage seems to be pretty intelligently implemented. When you select an eye in a photo, you just have to get close and photoshop will fix the eye quite easily.


Single click Red-Eye Correction - Before and After


If you ever had the need to work with those animated GIFs, then you'll love the new feature Graphics in Motion. You'll be able to create some quick animated GIFs. Normally you would have to find a plug-in or even use a third-party application to get your animation set up. Graphics in Motion makes it easy within Photoshop. Everything is very customizable, including frame hold times and whether or not to loop. This is great for creating personal advertising on your own website.

Smart Sharpening is another new feature, great in a number of different ways. First off, it does live updates on your photo, yet it also gives you a large preview window showing you specific areas of your photo that you are most interested in. I think that many people will find this very useful in touching up slightly blurred photos. Smart Sharpening is located in the filters, exactly where you would expect to find it.


New Smart Sharpen dialog

Photographers will love the new support for RAW format. Photoshop CS2 has built-in support for the raw format provided by most of the leading camera manufactures. The advantage of the RAW format for the professional photographer is that what you shoot is what you get on your computer. This support extends into your ability to edit your photos in the raw mode without converting to a JPEG. This means that your final output is of the same quality without compression as the original that you shot.

Photoshop CS2 now includes an enhanced Adobe Help Center. I'm not sure what is wrong with the Apple Help system, but it seems that Adobe wants to have some consistent look and feel in the cross-platform environment. There is adequate help provided as well as a third party disk filled with video tutorials to help you get started.

Some other new features worth noting: Advanced Noise Reduction, 32-bit high Dynamic Range (HDR), Optical Lens Correction, Smart objects, new PDF engine integrated with Version Cue CS2, menu customization and event-based scripting.


Conclusion
Overall, Photoshop is a great product, and there are new features in CS2 for most everyone. Photoshop CS2 makes a necessary transition from a virtual stand-alone application to software packaged together into a tightly integrated suite of creative collaborative tools. Adobe makes great use of high-end Macs, and doesn't dumb down the software to placate older machines. The performance is still strong enough to use every day. While on my older machine, it does take some time to load initially, once it gets going, it seems as fast as ever. Whether you're looking to add Photoshop to your Mac as either part of the Creative Suite 2 or stand alone, you can be sure Adobe has added many great and powerful new features, such as RAW format editing and integration with Adobe Bridge. You may wonder why you didn't upgrade sooner.

Pros

  • Easy to use Red-Eye tool
  • RAW camera Format support
  • Fantastic smart sharpen image filter
  • Great image manipulation tools
  • Strong image management through the Adobe Bridge


Cons

  • Pricey for the home consumer
  • Still no integration with Apple's iLife suite
  • Education is required to get the most out of Photoshop


InDesign
Adobe InDesign is a professional page layout application which is geared to producing printed output such as magazines and brochures, as well as to PDF and the web. It works with other members of the Adobe CS2 suite, for example by exporting to GoLive and importing from Photoshop and Illustrator as well as from Microsoft Word.

While there is overlap between word processing and page layout, the focus of word processors is to originate content, whereas page layout is about presentation of content that may be originated in other applications. The hallmark of page layout is the capability to place multiple text flows, each in multiple connected frames which can be adjacent or on separate pages. By contrast, while many word processors have a simple text frame capability, a word processed document is generally a single flow from beginning to end. InDesign offers drawing and word processing functionality including drag and drop text editing and spell checking.

With InDesign your starting point is that you have a set number of pages to fill - for example you may have decided in advance to produce a 4 page newsletter or a 40 page magazine. In general when you open a magazine you are looking at a left page and a right page, which taken together constitute a "spread". InDesign encourages you to design to those spreads and displays spread pages side by side.


InDesign Spread


Like Illustrator, InDesign works with the true-to-life concept of an artboard where you put the final work, while you keep scraps of things you are working on off on the side.

In the end you may want to print onto paper twice the size of your magazine and fold it in half. You won't print the pages in spreads, but in the order that they will be in the folded pages. For example, for a 16 page magazine you would have to print page 16 on the left of page 1, turn over and print page 2 on the left of page 15. Word processors in general can't do this. InDesign comes with a handy plugin, InBooklet, that looks after this for you for a simple document and can be upgraded to create documents with more complex bindings.

In the early days of page layout applications, using a computer was more efficient and accurate than the old fashioned methods, but far less creative. With a phototypesetter, a process camera, scissors, glue and technical pens you were not confined to vertical and horizontal alignments of rectangular text frames. Today with InDesign, I am hard pressed to imagine something I could do manually that couldn't be done with InDesign, whereas InDesign suggests all kinds of things that would have been extremely time consuming at best, or more likely impossible to do in the olden days.

For example, although InDesign lets you set type in evenly sized vertical columns if you want to, it's equally possible to choose a layout that's more in keeping with its subject, in this case the megaliths of northern Scotland. All the time of course, the text flows after each tweak of a corner of the containing frames.


Wrapping Text


As well as text editing, positioning, and typographical features (such as glyphs and kerning), InDesign has drawing tools similar to Illustrator's. One point to note is that there are small differences in the palettes between Illustrator and its siblings. For example in the tools palette, the tools with multiple options can't be torn off like they can in Illustrator - in this respect InDesign is like Photoshop.

InDesign is easy enough to come to grips with for anyone who has used a page layout or desktop publishing application in the past. Experience with Photoshop or Illustrator will make the user interface familiar. There is a comprehensive help system with tutorial sections which cover the most important "getting started" topics. If you are moving to CS2 from CS, the splash page can take you to the InDesign CS2 website where you can watch short but concentrated Quicktime videos of tutorials on the new features.

InDesign CS2 is a major upgrade over InDesign CS. Fabulous new features include anchored objects, object styles, and support for layered objects. Anchoring objects allows you to define precise positioning of a graphic relative to a paragraph (for example) and to lock that position against accidental mouse gestures in the vicinity of the object.

Object styles allow you to define a reusable named format for objects in your InDesign document and reapply them to other objects. If you change a previously styled object manually, the style offers you the option to reapply the manual change to all other objects of that style. Example applications include applying consistent positioning and drop shadows.

If you import a layered Photoshop file, InDesign can now allow you to hide and show layers in the Photoshop file without going back to Photoshop; the same is true for layered PDFs. Here are some illustrations of this feature in use.


Imported Photoshop document with multiple layers


Import a photo with several layers into InDesign. Select Object Layer Properties and, in this example, turn off the layer containing the sea, ensuring Preview is checked. Now it's possible to pour text into the blank area by setting InDesign's Text Wrap tool to follow the alpha channel of the image:


Extracting only the layers you want for your InDesign document


Unfortunately, although the layer control works, on the review machine (1GHz 17 flat panel G4 iMac with 1GB memory and 80G hard disk with about 5 GB free at best) it worked extremely slowly, sometimes taking up to 25 seconds to respond to a command to turn on or off a layer - which would be achieved in an eyeblink in Photoshop. I hate to complain that it didn't "beachball" while I was waiting - but I have to, because without the beachball I could continue to turn preview off and on and lose track of what InDesign was supposed to be doing and end up going round in circles. Once I developed the habit of clicking once at a time and then waiting with one eye on the second hand of my watch, I began to believe that it worked.

Workflow-oriented features include improved import of MS Word and RTF, XML support, plus InCopy assignments. For Word import, you can now define how Word styles map to InDesign styles. InCopy assignment refers to the capability to assign articles within your magazine to named members of your editorial staff using InCopy, a separate copy editing application that is not part of the CS2 suite under review.

Less exciting are the new features of Adobe Bridge and InDesign snippets. Bridge is basically a browser that lets you organize and find all the files that you might want to import into your InDesign file, including Photoshop, Illustrator and Microsoft Word files. Bridge can zoom in or out on its content so you can see enough of a candidate file to decide whether it's the one you want without actually opening it. Snippets is the name for the capability of dragging bits of your InDesign file out into Adobe Bridge and leaving them there for use in different files later. What you get out of Bridge depends wholly on how much time you commit to organizing your media within it.

Finally, there's one euphemism in the new features list. Seemingly, InDesign CS2 is not file compatible with InDesign CS. What to do? Write a conversion application and have your marketing team claim it as a feature. Honestly!

Conclusion
Adobe InDesign is an industry standard page layout application which is geared towards print publications and capable of exporting to electronic media and the web. It offers unlimited flexibility in bringing any visual design you can imagine into print, and the CS2 version has some new features which add to usability and improve workflow. Adobe InDesign CS2 is recommended for professional users and for serious amateurs, especially those who have access to the discounts available for students and educators.

Pros

  • Totally flexible positioning, rotation, scaling and transformation
  • Drawing tools
  • Anchored objects
  • Object styles
  • Can hide and show layers in Photoshop and PDF files


Cons

  • Activation
  • Performance issues with layered Photoshop file manipulation
  • File format can't be opened by InDesign CS without conversion


Illustrator
As its name suggests, Illustrator is a vector drawing package for producing 2-D illustrations. Despite its high quality and huge feature capability, it is specialized to illustration and so it doesn't readily support organization charts, software engineering diagrams, or scale drawings.

Since the end result of using Illustrator, a vector drawing program, and Photoshop, a bitmap editing program is in both cases a piece of visual art, how do you choose one or the other? The key is that anything you draw in a graphic program can be resized or reshaped non-destructively, whereas in a paint program if you draw something and don't like it you have to erase it and draw it again. With CS2 though, there is convergence between Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as with other members of the Suite such as InDesign. For example, Photoshop has filters which turn a photo into a mosaic or a watercolor - Illustrator offers all the Photoshop filters but they are applied to vector objects - mind blowing! And Illustrator also offers sophisticated text handling capabilities from InDesign.

Illustrator's Help function is comprehensive and contains some "getting started" tutorials as well as reference material on each function. For people who already know Illustrator and just want to know what's new for CS2, there is a wonderful Demonstrator feature which takes over Illustrator and draws for you while a voice explains what's going on.

Illustrator offers all the usual drawing package functions for lines, curves, rectangles and ellipses - and also less usual functions such as spirals, grids and stars of up to 1000 points. In each case once you have selected the tool you can either click and drag to draw the default shape or click to fill in a dialog with exact dimensions and parameters for the shape.

Illustrator allows you to work at a high level of accuracy - for example you can set the drawing grid to snap to a fortieth of a millimeter or less. Practically, at maximum magnification, snapping at less than this amount isn't very different from turning off grid snap. Illustrator's default units are the printing units of picas and points but you can also use inches, centimeters or millimeters. One small disappointment is of course that you can't set Illustrator's grid so that 1 inch = 1 foot and then read off sizes in feet for room plans. You can draw room plans if you like but all scale conversions have to be done elsewhere.

You can not only vary the line thickness of the lines that you draw but also select different brush shapes and transparency to give effects more like paint as shown below.


Illustrator Brushes


Illustrator's concept of path has many ramifications - you can adjust the path that defines an object, convert points on the path to be corners or smooth, join objects together so that a new path bounds them all or cut the path with a scissors tool.

In most drawing packages you can define the order of objects so that one object is on top of or underneath another. However, suppose you want to draw interlinked objects like a chain or
Celtic Knotwork. Illustrator allows you to do this by selecting part of a closed path, copying it and pasting it on top.

Illustrator gives precise control over text including kerning and tracking and aligning to paths. Here's an example with a drop shadow:


Text on a Curve


Illustrator allows you to define gradient fills in great detail. Below is the gradient palette set up for a multicolored radial gradient, followed by an example of applying that gradient to a star with 100 points on a black bacground.


Illustrator Gradient palette


Applying gradient to a 100-point star


Illustrator CS2's Live Paint function allows you to pour paint not just into closed objects but into the shapes formed when objects intersect. This is familiar in paint programs but groundbreaking in a draw program, since the paint flows as you move the objects relative to each other.

It's delightful to be able to align objects using the mouse and smart guides without resorting to alignment dialogs (which are also available). Another neat feature is to be able to save different views of your work that you can then pick from a menu, allowing you to toggle between zoomed in and zoomed out.

Frustration sets in when Illustrator won't do what you know it ought to, simply because you haven't wielded the mouse in exactly the way it demands. For example, you can use the direct selection tool to reshape an object's path by clicking on the anchor points in the path but if the object is already selected when you start, this won't work.

Complexity starts with having 3 mouse pointers and a Free Transform tool where many programs get away with one mouse pointer. In the real world we don't have to use one hand to pick up a lump of clay and a different hand to squish it and yet another hand to pull a corner of it, but that's life with Illustrator. Another example is the big list of Photoshop filters in the Filters menu which is duplicated in the Effects menu. In the Effects menu the filters operate in a live fashion allowing you to change settings or remove the filters after you apply them; in the Filters menu the same filters operate in a permanent fashion allowing you to manipulate the resulting object's new anchor points.

Conclusion
Adobe Illustrator is an industry standard package specialized to creating illustrations for creative media using vector graphics and text. In addition to its awesome power and accuracy, it also offers a familiar interface to users of other Adobe products such as Photoshop and Elements and a help system which can get you productive with a moderately steep learning curve.

Pros

  • Accuracy
  • Power
  • Type features
  • Brushes, filters and effects
  • Live Paint
  • Demonstrator for new features


Cons

  • Installation issues
  • Activation
  • Long startup time
  • No scale drawing capability
  • Quirks with mouse operations



GoLive
GoLive is the Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) tool designed to help web designers to put together a fantastic website. Adobe is well known for its software designed to create brilliant looking off-line content, but GoLive is one of those products that is designed to help fill the void between paper and the web. While many web designers will tell you that they have their favorite web design software, most will agree that the ability to get a site up and running quickly and easily is their goal. Adobe GoLive CS2 is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) HTML editor that targets mostly professional web-designers; however, anyone can take advantage of the power GoLive CS2.

From a web design aspect, you should be aware of enabling technologies that help bring a website to life. The basic foundation is HTML, and GoLive CS2, just like many other web design software packages, provides a strong WYSIWYG interface. In some ways it is like word processors that are creating Rich Text Format behind the scenes; that is, once you get started, the codes are hidden away until you're ready to upload your pages.


GoLive quick sample of WYSIWYG page


With WYSIWYG, you just drop your elements into the page and type just as you would with a word processor. Additionally, if need be, you can edit the code in the HTML Editor, or preview the page in your favorite browser.

CSS has become the rage for web designers. It takes much of the effort out of the redesign of pages, since much of the formatting can be placed in separate files that can apply to an entire website. So for instance, you wanted the font changed from Times New Roman to Arial, you could just update your CSS file, and your entire website would reflect the change. All modern browsers are equipped to handle CSS and plug the HTML into a layout that has been "pre-designed". GoLive CS2 makes modest improvements in the handling of CSS. Most noteworthy is its ability to take HTML and CSS developed elsewhere and render it properly for editing within GoLive CS2.
One thing that is missing is a CSS preset pallet that allows for "One-Click" CSS updating.

GoLive uses a drag and drop model for all page development. While you can code HTML or whatever you'd like directly into the editor, this style of page building is as easy as it comes. Basically all the building blocks that are available are laid out in floating pallets on your screen, and then you drop those elements into the page and lay them out in the way you would like your page to look. Just for comparison, Dreamweaver, considered by many to be the direct competition, uses more of a word processor interface with a toolbar across the top of the screen.

GoLive includes the standard tool palette that Adobe users are accustomed to in all the CS products, and objects also have a handy inspector window that is used for viewing and editing details on a specific object (such as an image, link, etc.).


GoLive Inspector palette


There are lots of new tools to help design blog pages, such as support for Movable Type and TypePad. These are services provided to help people publish their own web logs (blogs). This offers specific code that can be dropped into your page to support the special requirements of these blogging programs, so that your pages are customized to fully utilize the power of the software.

Another interesting feature is the ability to import from InDesign CS2. InDesign is a program used to create newsletters and other Paper-Based content. The concept of design once and publish everywhere is a great idea. So now I can simply design my newsletter then publish it as a webpage. My only thought is that designing for the web and designing for paper/pdf are two completely separate things. This is really a concept that Adobe has been trying to merge, with little success. Flash enabled websites and more dynamic content has really been the ruler of the web.

Conclusion
Adobe GoLive CS2 is a powerful WYSIWYG HTML editor designed for professional web designers, yet easy enough to use by the hobbyist. GoLive has a very strong collaborative design element using Version Cue. Version Cue allows different groups, such as an art department, a programming department, and a web design group to all have input into the final product without losing control of the entire project. Note, however, that Version Cue is a separate application, so you would need to either purchase it separately, or obtain both GoLive and Version Cue as part of the entire CS2 package. While GoLive's tools are extensive and useful in designing big web sites over time, it's interface could be improved for helping to design websites more easily and more quickly. GoLive does include a number of templates to help you get started, but I found the templates to be lackluster. GoLive provides some phenomenal support for several technologies, including CSS. Beginners may be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of options provided in GoLive, but for anyone looking to do some serious web site design, GoLive is an excellent tool providing powerful features, excellent site management, and good support for new web technologies.

Pros

  • Great interface with other CS2 applications such as InDesign and Version Cue
  • Easy to use elements supporting blogging, using TypePad and Movable Type
  • Enhanced editing of CSS
  • Good site management of static files

Cons

  • Lack of large library of robust templates
  • PHP support requires server support for testing
  • Beginners can become overwhelmed by the options, and lack of "cookie cutter material"



Acrobat
Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional allows you to convert files to portable document format (PDF). This format's primary advantages are platform independence and preserving the appearance of your document. For example, if you distribute a Word document, you may find that its appearance changes due to the fonts that are present or absent on the recipients' individual computers. This can affect the appearance and feel of the document or the pagination resulting in unwanted page breaks. With PDF, you can be confident that what you publish will look the way you want it to.

I created a small document containing 3 levels of structured headings in Microsoft Word and capriciously added a 2.4 MB image of my dog without any consideration of the needs of the eventual audience for print quality versus download speed. Here is how the resulting 2.6 MB document looks in Microsoft Word - note the document map on the left which shows you the three levels of headings.


Document in Microsoft Word


I created a PDF from this Word file using the built-in Mac OS X capability and each of the Adobe options. I named each resulting PDF file according to the creation method and sorted them by size, largest first. Here is a snapshot of the Finder window showing all the files including the Word original:


Various PDF output test

All methods produced a file that looked correct and was readable online. However, as you can see, the built in Mac OS X PDF saving did a poor job with regards to file size - the PDF was 4 times the size of the Word original. The higher quality Acrobat settings produced a file approximately the same size as the original, but the standard and smallest file size options produced relatively tiny files that still looked good on screen. The difference between 11.1 MB and 96 KB is huge when you consider download times and storage.

Bookmarks, just like the Word document map illustrated above, allow you to navigate a long document and read it online without printing it. I knew that the Mac OS X PDF print would not create hierarchical bookmarks from the Word heading styles. I was dumbfounded to discover that Acrobat 7.0 "Professional" for Mac OS X will not do this either.

The Windows version includes the Adobe PDFmaker application which offers a window allowing you to define which Word styles become bookmarks: this function is entirely absent in the Mac OS version. Worse still, the help for Acrobat appears to be written for both Mac and Windows versions and rather than coming out clean and saying the Mac version doesn't do automatic bookmarking, the help evades the issue in a manner that leaves discovery of the awful truth in the hands of the hapless user.

Support for forms is another area where Acrobat for Mac OS X provides the basics but seems to lag behind the Windows version. The help on this topic is frustratingly bad; at every turn, it extols the virtues of the Windows version's added application, Adobe Designer; it totally fails to explain how forms in a PDF work; it doesn't even discuss the forms tools that are available in plain old Acrobat-without-Adobe-Designer. The user interface also has some deficiencies - the menu options for actually adding form fields won't be found under the Forms Tasks toolbar button, nor under the Advanced -> Forms cascade menu. Instead you have to know to look under Tools -> Advanced Editing.

In order to be accessible via assistive technology such as the screen readers used by blind people, the information in a document must be available as text. This is a more subtle problem than just supplying alternate text for each picture or graphic. Semantic information, such as "this document consists of a main section called "Sporting" with subsections called "Spaniels", "Retrievers", "Setters" and "Pointers"..." is conveyed visually by text size and presentation; to make it available via a screen reader, this semantic information must be tagged, in a very similar way to the heading styles in a Word document. Also, text must be tagged to state what language it is in - otherwise how will the screen reader know how to pronounce it?

The big surprise here is that Acrobat had no difficulty tagging all the headings in my test Word file; it didn't need me to manually apply bookmarks first. It reported that I hadn't supplied an alternate text for the picture or stated the language. I was able to supply the alternate text for the figure and the only difficulty I had defining the language was the absence of "dog latin" in the list of available alternatives. Acrobat can also speak a document aloud to check how a screen reader might render it. All in all then, Acrobat provides a set of tools that you will find useful if you are a conscientious provider of accessible PDF documents.

Conclusion
Adobe Acrobat 7 Professional for Mac OS X is capable of producing PDFs with a variety of optimizations for smallest file size, high print quality or standards compatibility; it has valuable features for making PDFs accessible, making one PDF from multiple files, creating forms, collaborative commenting, annotation and reviewing and security. Frustratingly, it lacks important features compared to its Windows equivalent, but costs the same, $449 as a standalone package. The most unbelievable deficiency for the review team, who are familiar with the Windows version, is its inability to generate bookmarks from headings in Microsoft Word files; this is an essential task in producing a usable PDF of a large technical document. It's also disappointing that the help describes features only available in the Windows version and that menu items for functions that are absent in the Mac OS X version are present but permanently disabled. It's difficult to recommend Acrobat 7 Pro as a stand alone product at it's retail price and it's current lack of features. As apart of the CS2 bundle, however, it is a nice tool to have, and the only tool, really, for creating efficient PDFs on the Mac.

Pros

  • capable of producing tiny PDFs from large documents
  • features for creating and checking accessible PDFs
  • create one PDF from multiple source files, adding headers and footers
  • create interactive forms
  • comments, reviewing and graphic annotations
  • security

Cons

  • can't generate bookmarks from heading styles in Microsoft Word documents
  • help describes features that are only available in the Windows version
  • can't create layered PDFs from Mac OS X available file formats
  • menu items for functions which are absent in Mac OS X version are present and permanently disabled

Version Cue
Version Cue 2 (VC2) is both a version control application and project collaboration tool enabling you to have multiple people work on the same files at the same time. The primary users would be offices that have different departments working on different aspects of a project, such as an Art department for illustrator files, a photo department for photoshop files, a layout department for InDesign files, etc. All of these different files can find themselves neatly placed into a VC2 folder for review and updates. Some people may see this as merely a version control tool, similar in some ways to Visual Source safe with an implemented front end, integrated within the CS2 suite, but it's power and useability come from the collaborative review processes.

VC2 organizes related files into "projects". A project is nothing more that a folder within Version Cue that contains files on a server. The server can be on your local network, or can be any arbitrary IP address.  There are two different ways to set up a project.  You can either use the Adobe Bridge, and easily create one there, or if you have Version Cue administrative privileges, you can create a project from within your web browser.


Using Adobe Bridge to create a Version Cue project


Adobe Bridge is file browser application that provides the glue integrating the CS2 suite together. Adobe Bridge provides an easy
interface to access and create Version Cue projects that can be reviewed and worked on by individuals throughout the network. Additionally Bridge has other capabilities, such as enhanced batch processing of Photoshop/image files, thumbnail and filmstrip reviews, search, use advanced scripting, and access Adobe Stock photos. Adobe Bridge specifically provides a direct link to the Version Cue workspace for ease of maintenance and access.

Version Cue, however, misses out on a great Mac-specific opportunity. Many Mac Users have .Mac accounts. This uses a different interface than a local server. It would be great to see some work done to help smaller users leverage their .Mac accounts with this collaborative content management tool.

If you have had the pleasure of working in a collaborative work environment, then you understand workflows and file servers, etc. However, in many collaborative processes, you download files to your system to work on them, then upload them back to the server. Version Cue 2 takes a smarter approach by having the users work on the files right on the server. This means that you don't have four other copies sitting around your desktop, and then have to guess which document you meant to put up on the server. While you can work on the file locally and save it locally, when you select "Save A Version...", that version is saved on the server.

A VC2 project does not merely have pointer files; these are the real files used to create your project. In many cases there could be 5 or 6 versions of the same file stored at this location. The big concept to grasp with Version Cue 2 is that all documents stored within a VC2 project area are versioned, not merely CS2 documents. Once the document is "tagged" to also use VC2, then you can save that document without the use of Adobe Bridge.

When you save a file you are presented with the ability to provide comments on your changes.


Saving a Version


As stated before, you do not need Bridge to open project files, it just makes it easier to do so. If you open a file using any of the CS2 products, then use the Adobe Dialog (there is a button to choose it), you will see a link to access the Version Cue workspace. From there you can find items that you want to work on.

Another aspect of VC2 is that you can have people take projects in different directions and maximize their creative talents by working on the same files without causing a problem with the original source file. This is called using "Alternates." This is very helpful when you ask a few people to provide inputs on the same file.

Conclusion
Adobe Version Cue is a version control application and project collaboration tool enabling you to have multiple people work on the same files at the same time. If you are not alone in your creative pursuits, then Version Cue will help even two co-workers bring together their project with fantastic results. No more emailing of large files, or wondering if you have the right version, Version Cue 2 sorts out the latest versions and quickly provides them to your desktop. It's a snap to administer and you can be up and running in less than 30 minutes. Navigate to find your projects and files using Adobe Bridge or whatever CS2 program that you are using. While Version Cue doesn't leverage .Mac, or integrate version control on software other than CS2 projects, it is a powerful collaboration tool that will surely maximize efficiencies of work groups and small offices.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Strong Version Control
  • No need to email files


Cons

  • No .Mac support
  • Awkward support of 3rd party files for version control


Reviewer Discussion

The CS2 Bundle was reviewed by Mac Guild staff writers Judd and Diane. Judd and Diane had a discussion about the product with the Mac Guild editor-in-chief to further discuss the product. Key points from that discussion are shared below for the benefit of our readers.


Judd: Choosing my favorite tool out of CS2 is a tough one. I really like Photoshop CS2, but I was pretty satisfied with the features of Photoshop CS. There were a few nice new features, but I didn't think Photoshop CS2 was that much better than CS. I really liked Acrobat. Acrobat CS2 offers some great features that previous versions were missing, and the ability to create smaller PDFs over the built-in Mac OS PDF creation is a nice plus. It is fast, offers built-in OCR, it offers the ability to create smaller PDFs than OS X can create, and the resulting PDFs are platform independent. For a web designer, smaller PDFs is very important.

Diane:
Unlike Judd, I found the Acrobat experience to be infuriating. Acrobat is certainly my least favorite tool of CS2, but I never had the experience of using the previous Mac version, so I didn't see the improvements that Judd recognizes. If the Mac is supposed to be a professional platform and we are going to pay for Acrobat professional, then it should be able to do bookmarks from word heading styles, and it should not contain permanently disabled items in its menus. It should offer the same forms editing capabilities as the Windows version. It seems that, with Acrobat, Adobe basically took the Windows UI, and disabled options rather than removing them. This was then dished out to Mac users, not only keeping us from using the option, but taunting us that the option is there... for Windows users. For example, the Bookmarks tab option menu contains "New Bookmarks from Structure..." which is permanently disabled. For creating forms, Adobe provides a separate application that comes with Acrobat for Windows, but not for Mac. As a Mac user trying to learn about forms from the help system, it just keeps telling you to use this separate application (that doesn't exist). Mac users have to create the labels in a 3rd party application like Word, and then create the text boxes in Acrobat, and this is very cumbersome.

Let's say I want to create a form. On a Mac system, I have to make the form in Word, perhaps drawing the boxes using Word table cells, then I import the document into Acrobat and make the fields inside the boxes. On Windows, I can use Adobe Designer to make the form. I don't know anything about Adobe Designer because it doesn't exist for the Mac. However the help system on the Mac continually refers to it.

Acrobat aside, there are some very powerful CS2 tools that I like, and picking a favorite is a tough call. I have always loved Photoshop, and I have admired Illustrator and Indesign from the distance for many years. I got on really well with both of them. I gave Indesign the highest score, but I am not doing much print layout any more. I find that I use Photoshop the most, and so it would have to be my favorite tool. The new RAW import feature is very helpful.

Judd: With regards to Acrobat, I would have to agree that Adobe seems to have shortchanged Mac users on some pretty basic features. The Bookmark one is an especially big pet peeve of mine. However, even with the shortchanging, I still do see it as the one application that I simply cannot "live" without. I don't know another application that allows you to edit PDF files.

My least favorite CS2 tool would have to be GoLive. GoLive didn't seems to provide the big improvement that I expected from earlier versions. GoLive is an excellent program; however I expected to see some major changes and improvements. For starters, I don't think that the CSS editing feature is as easy to use as it could be. I would like to see a much more robust library of templates and artwork to help you develop your site, and finally, better support for developing interactive websites. Dreamweaver is still the stronger player in the webdesign area.

Diane: A couple of tools that many people may not be familiar with are Adobe Bridge and Version Cue. These products appear to be intended for professionals who generate a large amount of Adobe content. Version Cue helps you keep track of versions, and Bridge allows you to view any content from any program. For example, InDesign adds snippets that let you select some content from Indesign, drag it into Bridge where it can be used in another document. Given my needs, these tools weren't as valuable to me as the big hitters in CS2, although if I was a professional graphic designer or photographer that could be a different story.

Judd: My impression of Bridge and Version Cue is a little different. Bridge and Version Cue are really separate programs. Bridge is a very expanded version of the browse feature found in Photoshop CS. Version Cue is a server based program that allows workgroups to work on any CS2 document using version control. The audience might be an advertising agency or a small printshop that has both photo folks and layout folks. I think that single users don't necessarily need that level of version control; however, Bridge does allow for some batch processing. I would agree that it isn't the most important program in the CS2 package, but it's nice to have.

Diane: I would like to add that if you want a complete version control program, then you want it to work on any content, not just content from a particular set of applications.

Judd: The two programs that I was not that familiar with are InDesign and Illustrator. I thought that both were fine applications Coming from the ancient days of Pagemaker, I found InDesign to be a great layout program, but if you're new to the program, I don't think that you will quickly push out a newsletter (unless you have some predesigned templates). Illustrator was simply awesome, I was able to do some fantastic things, such as changing photos to vector drawings. It was easy to import photos, adjust a few settings, and just like that, the photo would look just like a drawing. The process was speedy, and the results were great. It uses a feature called LiveTrace. Basically you can have it trace all the lines, and if you select LivePaint, it will fill in the traced image with color. You can also select how many colors that you want it to use (see figure below).


Using the LiveTrace feature of Illustrator

Another great feature of Illustrator was the use of brushes. There are a lot of people producing free brushes out there, which further expands the capabilities of the program. The brushes allow you to have preset artwork assigned to your objects. Adobe does provide quite a few brushes and that gives you something to work with out of the box. For example, being able to create ropes and chains without having to hand draw them is quite nice.

Diane: The thing I like about Illustrator is that it is a vector program. What you draw in a paint program is static; that is, if you don't like it, you can touch it up, redraw it and even apply effects to regions, but you can't manipulate the basic architecture. A vector program such as Illustrator provides you that kind of control. Illustrator really pushes the limits on some regular drawing features and breaks the mold in other areas.

Overall, the CS2 package provides some powerful tools satisfying a wide range of needs. There is a lot of convergence between all the applications now, providing much better integration. However, if you only work with photos, then purchasing the entire suite would be overkill (and expensive). On the other hand, if you are into graphic design in general, want to do newsletters, etc., with innovative layouts, then Create Suite 2 is exactly what you need. Each of the programs are expensive on their own, and so they are all a better value in the package than individually. So even if you wanted 2 or 3 of the applications within the suite, the full package may be the best way to go. Additionally, there is a substantial educational discount open to any child, student or educator.

As an example, we have a wall with some lights that we don't like, so we drew a scale model of the area in Illustrator. We got photos of new lights from the manufacturer's website and stuck them into the drawing scaled to the correct size to verify that our design choice would work. I had to use Photoshop to remove the background and lighten them so they looked like they were turned on. This was a joint effort with Photoshop and Illustrator. It would be hard to do all that with just one program or the other.

Judd: In closing, I have to re-iterate that the new activation scheme is the biggest problem with CS2, and something should be done to find a better balance between protecting Adobe's bottom line and respecting paying customers. Requiring that the software connect to Adobe servers in order to use the software, in my opinion, is one step below spyware. The hassles that the activation process can lead to can really turn your experience with CS2 sour.

Activation process aside, CS2 is simply awesome. A creative individual can go very far in designing and developing some great online and offline content.

Diane: Activation is an extra step that makes it harder to use what you own. If you go into a store and buy a hammer, you can use it without phoning the manufacturer. On the other hand, I have always found Adobe telephone support for previous registration issues to be very good. I was disappointed with some installation issues I had, which seemed to be related to installing as admin and then using on a different account to access the software. This should not happen and I should not have to deal with dialogs saying "error in Line 1" (although this did eventually fix itself).

Although Acrobat was my least favorite application, I did want to say one more thing in favor of Acrobat. I found it to be very conscientious that Acrobat includes a feature for creating accessible PDFs (for people with disabilities).

On the whole, I was very impressed with the CS2 suite. I would also say that upgrading to Photoshop CS2 wholly depends on the new features. For some users, RAW support or lens aberration correction are essential features making the Photoshop upgrade well worth it. It's a delight to be able to work with Illustrator and InDesign, and even Acrobat is handy to use, even if it's not what you get for Windows. I'm interested to see what will happen when Dreamweaver enters the product lineup, and I'm also curious to see how CoreImage will be used by Adobe in Photoshop.



Final Words

Diane's Final Thoughts
It was a real privilege to review the CS2 package. I have used Photoshop for a long time, and Photoshop CS2 has some great new features. I've admired Illustrator and InDesign from a distance for many years and really enjoyed getting to know them. While I was disappointed by some of the features absent in the Mac version of Acrobat, it remains a useful member of the CS2 package.

I would recommend CS2 to any professional user who needs any single one of the products - they are a better value taken together; to any advanced hobbyist who enjoys graphic design - for example graphics for websites can be beyond the capabilities of Adobe Elements and iPhoto; and finally to anyone who has a student or educator in their household and therefore qualifies for the educational discount.

Judd's Final Thoughts
It is great to see a tightly integrated suite come out of Adobe. The files and products work together rather than being a loosely bundled bit of creative software. If you can afford to get the entire suite, it is definitely worth it, as no single application substantially overlaps the capabilities of the others. If you have a slower G4 or G3 machine, you may find that this program is a bit too processor intensive for you, so it is important to match your computer with this software to avoid performance disappointment.

Finally, as both Diane and myself found out through the documentation, there are features that are provided in Windows versions of the software that are not provided in the Mac versions. Hopefully we will see that this is resolved in future releases. Overall, this is one of the MUST HAVE Mac applications there is for the creative professional.



Product Ratings

Product Rating
Photoshop CS2  
InDesign CS2  
Illustrator CS2  
GoLive CS2  
Acrobat CS2  
Version Cue CS2  
Entire Suite