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Originally published June 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 28, 2007 at 4:13 PM

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Practical Mac | Glenn Fleishman

Massive Adobe upgrade offers lots of improvements

Adobe retooled its product release schedule a few years ago for its vast array of graphics, design, video, Web and publishing tools. Instead of constant updates...

Special to The Seattle Times

Adobe retooled its product release schedule a few years ago for its vast array of graphics, design, video, Web and publishing tools. Instead of constant updates out of sync with one another, the Creative Suite comes out all at once, about every 18 months.

This means offices that employ creative types and creative types who employ themselves suffer a short blight of having productivity blown out of the window as the ins and outs of the new packages are learned.

The goal, of course, is that a new release of a product — in Adobe's case, of nine products — includes improved workflow and efficiency, making up for the lost time required to retrain, and banking that time in the future. Some of the walking-around-and-screaming time is regained, too, if formerly recalcitrant features become easier to use.

In the case of the latest barnburner, Creative Suite 3 (CS3), Adobe's massive upgrade should deliver on that promise. Adobe didn't just accomplish a nearly impossible software feat — coordinating even a couple of programs to work together and ship at the same time is considered rather hard — but it also managed to smooth out rough edges and improve how each program works with every other program.

For Mac users, the single most important fact is that CS3 applications are universal binaries, meaning they operate on both PowerPC and Intel Macs to their greatest advantage using software code tuned for each chip platform.

On a new four-core (two-processor) Mac Pro with 4 gigabytes of RAM, CS3 applications screamed, starting with application launch time measured in a few seconds. Many operations — like applying filters in Photoshop or exporting long documents as PDFs in InDesign — that used to result in long waits on a PowerPC G4 finished in a blink of an eye. (PowerPC G5 users will also see substantial improvements, but perhaps not quite as shockingly so.)

The programs are grouped into five editions that cover design, Web, audio/video production. A sixth edition, the Master Collection, includes every CS3 program. Design and Web editions come in both standard and premium versions, with a difference in the total number of programs included. The a/v edition comes just in a premium release. (The a/v production and Master Collection editions ship later this year when Adobe releases the CS3 versions of After Effects, Premiere Pro and other software.)

Photoshop now comes in two separate releases: an ordinary version designed for handling still images, and Photoshop Extended, which has special features for working with 3-D and animation files, as well as analytical tools for precise on-screen measurement such as needed for medical imaging.

The Extended edition's extras are designed to allow professionals who use special software to move files in and out, like architects using Photoshop to add details to an in-progress design. Extended is included in all premium editions of CS3; the standard editions include the "regular" version of Photoshop.

I've worked with many of the new CS3 applications, including Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver, and Adobe has tremendously improved the flow of elements among programs over previous editions.

Interface redesign has allowed better use of screen territory, allowing dozens of palettes in a program like InDesign to not overwhelm the screen, as they have in previous releases. A clever hover-and-popout design allows easy access to needed details only on demand.


As a longtime Adobe GoLive user, I was disappointed but not surprised when Dreamweaver was slated to replace GoLive as the Web site and layout tool in the Creative Suite. Dreamweaver had won the hearts and minds of Web site developers, even as many non-programmers preferred GoLive.

To my surprise, however, Dreamweaver CS3 has lost much of its older gawkiness. Dreamweaver used to be notable for requiring multiple dialog boxes and mouse clicks to achieve simple results. Now, everything is neatly grouped and easily accessible. I converted a site with thousands of pages built in GoLive over several years to Dreamweaver CS3 in about 30 minutes.

Most people interested in any of these Adobe products already own one or more applications from the company and qualify for upgrade pricing. Adobe prices its suites aggressively, making the cost only a bit more expensive to purchase several applications than to upgrade a single program. Upgrades range from $240 to $1,400; new purchases of editions range from $1,200 to $2,500.

iPhone's unanswered questions: Apple answered one of our burning questions last Sunday: When will the iPhone ship? The answer, revealed in television commercials, is June 29. Two other questions remain, however.

First, how can we acquire one on its release date? Steve Jobs was asked that question at a recent Wall Street Journal conference by celebrity blogger Arianna Huffington. He suggested visiting an AT&T wireless store, rather than an Apple Store, for best results.

Second, what will data service cost? The iPhone will include both a Wi-Fi and cellular data radio that uses EDGE, a standard that operates at about two to three times faster than a dial-up modem.

While one AT&T competitor offers unlimited EDGE and Wi-Fi use (at T-Mobile HotSpot locations) for $30 per month to its voice customers, AT&T's wireless division charges $40 per month for unlimited Wi-Fi on top of a $20 to $80 per month cell data plan.

One hopes AT&T will come up with a better offer by the iPhone's launch.

Glenn Fleishman writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to More columns at

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