With over two years having passed since its last major update, Adobe's Creative Suite 5 faces high expectations - users want to see dazzling new features introduced alongside refined basics and enhanced performance. From the looks of it, the hulking software behemoth that is CS5 has met that challenge.
When reporting on something as large as CS5 it's difficult even to summarize the most significant changes - it's no longer a bundle of a few major programs, but instead a conglomeration of software (between 6 and 18 programs depending on which edition you buy). Still, one must try, so here is a summary of the most interesting changes throughout the suite. If you're hungering for more details, Adobe's Web site is teeming with them.
Photoshop -- Many of the new image and photo tools present in Photoshop CS5 Extended also exist elsewhere in the Creative Suite. One of these tools is the new Mixer Brush that holds multiple colors on a single tip, blending with the paint already laid out in your image. You can even define how "wet" the existing paint is, creating effects ranging from wet-on-wet to dry-brushing. Bristle Tips is another neat painting tool that mimics real-world brush media with startlingly accurate and detailed effects.
Perhaps one of the most amazing features added to CS5 is Content Aware Fill, which enables you to erase something completely from a photo, instantly replacing the erasure with convincing fabricated imagery based on the surrounding area. You really have to see this in action to believe it. Similarly impressive, Puppet Warp, enables you to distort and warp images with extreme accuracy, and the new Refine Edge feature is much better at detecting edges than its predecessor. Many of the new Photoshop tools, also present in InDesign and Illustrator, are more easily understood through observation than description - which makes Adobe's feature video tours especially useful.
For photographers, Photoshop CS5 brings enhanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging, enabling users to combine nearly identical pictures with various exposures to create images with light levels balanced throughout the picture (and also create surreal and hyper-realistic images). Although Photoshop has included an HDR module for a while, this version adds a Remove Ghosts option that eliminates semi-transparent areas that differ between source images. This problem crops up often with HDR images because elements within the frame, like trees or grass, move slightly between exposures and appear ghosted when the images are merged.
A new version of Adobe's raw image converter, Camera Raw 6, supports over 275 camera models and improves the overall image quality of imported photos. More specifically, the converter offers enhanced sharpening, noise removal, and the capability to edit TIFF and JPEG files as well as those in raw image formats.
Adobe incorporated several long-awaited, low-level improvements. The Mac version is finally 64-bit native, which eases working with large files on 64-bit-capable systems with sufficient RAM. Enhancements to the OpenGL engine improve the handling of 3D graphics, and users can now drag and drop files onto a document to create a new layer. The latest version also brings panel-customization capabilities, new workspace management options, and a mini Bridge that enables users to access Photoshop's file manager from within the program.
Illustrator -- Illustrator CS 5 features a new perspective drawing tool that draws images with convincing depth in 1-, 2-, and 3-point perspective; a Beautiful Strokes tool which provides precise control over the variable width of any brush stroke; a new Shape Builder tool for creating anything from a simple speech bubble to an amorphous blob; the capability to create and warp 3D images, logos, or buttons on any layer easily; and enhanced capabilities for designing graphics for the Web and mobile devices.
InDesign -- InDesign CS5 most notably enables users to add interactivity, navigation, motion, sound, and video to documents and presentations by exporting projects to Flash Professional. In the latest version, text changes can be tracked, multiple page sizes can coexist within single documents, paragraphs can span multiple columns, ebooks can be more easily produced in the EPUB format, and the Layers panel functions more like the Photoshop and Illustrator versions, giving users more direct control over items in pages. Also, giving and receiving feedback has been made easier with added support for Adobe CS Review, a component of the CS Live online services.
Dreamweaver and Flash -- Dreamweaver CS5 includes integrated support for content management systems, CSS inspection, integration with Adobe BrowserLab, support for Subversion, and PHP custom class and site-specific code hinting. Flash Professional CS5 includes a new code snippets panel, an ActionScript editor, XML-based FLA source files, wide content distribution, and improvements to working with video.
Purchasing Options -- Adobe provides a smorgasbord of purchase and upgrade options, with the entire suite available in five configurations (upgrade pricing varies with each bundle):
- Design Standard includes InDesign CS5, Photoshop CS5, Illustrator CS5, and Acrobat 9 Pro for $1,299.
- Design Premium includes InDesign CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, Illustrator CS5, Flash CS5 Professional, Flash Catalyst CS5, Dreamweaver CS5, Fireworks CS5, and Acrobat 9 Pro for $1,899.
- Web Premium includes Dreamweaver CS5, Flash CS5 Professional, Flash Catalyst CS5, Flash Builder 4 Standard, Photoshop CS5 Extended, Illustrator CS5, Fireworks CS5, Acrobat 9 Pro, and Contribute CS5 for $1,799.
- Production Premium includes Photoshop CS5 Extended, Illustrator CS5, Flash CS5 Professional, Flash Catalyst CS5, After Effects CS5, Premiere Pro CS5, Soundbooth CS5, OnLocation CS5, and Encore CS5 for $1,699.
- Master Collection includes everything (except Photoshop CS5, since Photoshop CS5 Extended is part of the lineup) for $2,599.
Each suite also includes Bridge CS5 and Device Central CS5; the Production Premium and Master Collection bundles also include Dynamic Link. Also, all of the major programs remain available for individual purchase (prices are listed on the same configurations and upgrades page linked above).
According to Adobe, the software is scheduled to ship in the middle of May 2010.