Provides: Updates to the Design Suites from Adobe
Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.8 or v10.6 (Mac OS X v10.6 required for Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 Premium Edition and Flash Builder integration with Flash Catalyst and Flash Professional; Mac OS X v10.6.3 required for GPU-accelerated performance in Adobe Premiere Pro), 2 GB of space. More requirements on minimum specs can be found here.
Premium Retail Price: Ranges from $1,299 (for Design Standard) to $2,599 (for Master Collection). See full range of prices and Suites here.
The CS5.5 Suites provide an opportunity for Adobe to keep some of their products current with the latest technology in the ever-sprinting technological race we live in. New features within Dreamweaver make it significantly easier to design for mobile, tablet, and monitor sized websites all at the same time, using the same content. It wasn't that long ago when "state of the art: websites had developers creating one website for desktops and a completely different site for phones. Now that tablets are becoming part of the digital landscape, developing is getting more complicated, but the updates to Dreamweaver significantly ease the burden. New features in InDesign make it much easier to export your interactive content for both tablets and for standard EPUB. And interactions between Premiere Pro and Media Encoder let you cue up multiple output to a variety of screen sizes. And while the encoding is taking place, you can continue working in Premiere Pro. These are a few of the examples that lead Adobe to provide a nick name for this round of Suites as the "CS5.5 & Any Screen."
[For this review I'm linking to my review of Acrobat X done some time back. New with CS5.5, the Acrobat X release is now standard. There has not been any change in Acrobat X since my last review.]
There's an interesting new development with the Creative Suites: historically, all software companies that had a host of products released them pretty much helter skelter. There was internal logic within the company about how and when products were released, often to coincide with the various product shows. But back in 2001 Adobe made a major shift in product release and created the "Suite" series so that all products were released at one time as a package.
While product managers were probably making great business for the heartburn-medication industry, the suites were very good for consumers for many reasons. First off, it offered more software for consumers who otherwise might not try some of the software titles that they were now getting with their primary intended purchases. But perhaps more important to the consumer, this structure was also helping Adobe focus their efforts to (at least) try to get their software to work better together and also to look (and act) more similar. That's not to say that that has happened completely. Sure enough, key-combinations (e.g., Command-d) in one application might do one thing in one product and do something quite different in another product. But, things are better and the look across products is certainly more consistent (with a few glaring exceptiones caughAcrocaughbatcaugh).
However, there were several problems for Adobe with the way things had developed. With Suites being released (about) every 18 months, Adobe was having problems keeping up with trends in the software industry. In particular, the web continues to develope on a monthly, no weekly, fashion, and Dreamweaver is not able to release new builds as fast as smaller, more nimble companies. Due to government laws, large corporations with shareholders cannot release new features with a small "." (dot) release as can small companies that are self-owned. So, all that can be provided via dot dot updates (e.g., 11.0.2) are bug repairs. To complicate matters, not all bugs are likely to be repaired via small dot releases for fear of creating new bugs by the mere act of squashing old bugs. That's why "inconvenient" bugs are often left ignored while only the game-changing program crashers are typically dealt with.
There were other problems as well including income. The "about every 18 month" schedule meant that Adobe shareholders were not seeing income in a reliable and/or consistent fashion. Businesses have annual financial schedules, not every 18 moths. Plus, if a given Suite didn't provide enough "bang-for-the-buck" to a given group of consumers, they'd pass that release and patiently wait for the next, or the next. For these and other reasons, a new subscription plan now exists.
This new subscription plan (known as a lease in most other venues) has tremendous values for some users as well as limited use for others. Let's look at the costs involved, for example, the Design Premium Suite. The current price of CS5 or 5.5 is $1899. If you wanted to update to 5.5, the update price is $399 (total $2298 for 2 years). If you had subscribed (assuming it was available in the first place) at $95/month, the same two years would be $2280. While only a $20 savings of dollars, it's a lot easier to shell out $95/month as opposed to the normal large sums. The question that one has to ask is if this will now be an annual update, will the update opportunity change? If you take the $399 update fee one more year (for a total of three), the cost then becomes $2697 while the subscription plan then costs $3420. Here, the $20 advantage turns into a $723 deficit.
So, who's best suited for the subscription plan? At a minimum consider the person who is not eligible for updates. Or, perhaps better yet, consider the person who can't figure out which Suite is better for their needs such as the Web Design Suite or the Design Suite, or one who has a single product but could use a full suite for a short period of time. And lastly, if you are someone who's wishing to break into using a full Suite on a commercial basis but do not have the money for a full Suite this moment but can afford a smaller amount on a monthly basis. If you are interested in looking at the full subscription plans, see the listings here.
I find the subscription plan a welcome opportunity from Adobe in that it opens up a number of opportunities to potential customers that would otherwise not really be available. Many are not likely to use it but those who do will probably be grateful for the new avenue for product use.
This new release, CS-5.5, is being release about 12 months after CS5 was released. Across the full spectrum of Adobe's lineup, an interesting selections of the applications received an upgrade, but not all. The full lineup of all the applications (if you were to get the Master Collection), looks like the following:
Not Updated Products
|Flash Builder 4.5**|
* replaces Soundbooth-CS5
** replaces Adobe Flex 4.0
All of the items with a 5.1 designation have no updated or new features whatsoever beyond some amount of bug repair. If these are the applications that you depend upon, you do not need to purchase CS5.5 to remove those bugs. (Any bugs that are dealt with in 5.1 will also be updated with the CS5 versions.) While not a bug update, one variation on this is Photoshop with the the SDK (Software Developers Kit) update that lets you have interactions between your mobile device and Photoshop. As samples of this capability, Adobe has released three new apps that let an iPad interact with Photoshop:
Let me preface here that the updates contained in the 5.5 release tend to be more technical rather than big updates. That's not to say that the technical advances provided are not big updates, they are. But since they are more technical, it's harder for me as a reviewer to give the same level of testing and analysis that I generally try to do with my reviews. Needless to say, this review took a long time because it was time-consuming to do--I had a lot to learn. Because of the time involved, I limited this review to essentially two applications, Dreamweaver and InDesign. I'm providing a link to my complete review of Acrobat X because it is now included with CS5.5. Unfortunately I have very little knowledge or expertise of many of the other applications that have been updated and would not be able to provide an honest viable review. As such, here are some snapshots of the enhancements to the following applications:
See my extended review here.
The battle over Flash was not what Adobe wanted or expected. After Jobs gave the kabash on Flash to ever appear in an iPhone or iPad, Adobe wasn't all that prepared to offer its customers a mechanism to create either Flash media or applications for Apple devices. [There were two issues: Flash generated content/applications and Flash media being played on the devices.] Fortunately, Apple backed off by not adhering to one of their mandates that you had to custom-create any application for an Apple product. But with HTML5 and CSS3, Adobe had other ways to provide mechanisms to create content for Apple products. The problem was Dreamweaver CS5 was not set up to deal with either. DW, is best used when working with code and part of efficient code generation are code hints that let the user enter partial code with DW finishing the rest of the code sections. This is no different than when you are entering your personal information on a web site and your browser already knows your name, address, etc. As I enter" Ga" for my first name, the form is already offering "Gary." Code hinting is just like that. Now, with DW-CS5.5, Code Hints are available for HTML5 and CS3. Thus, DW is now much more efficient when creating sites that use HTML5 and CS3.
So, with Dreamweaver HTML5 and CSS3 enhanced, you can now more easily generate websites designed within DW-CS5.5 with round-corner rectangles, dropshadows, rotated objects, transparencies, the whole nine yards as it were. The catch (yes, there's always a catch) is that not all web browsers use the same HTML5 or CSS3 code. Thus, to do this in DW, you still have to work quite a bit.
For example, let's say you want to do a simple drop shadow. The basic code for this is:
However, to make this work in Opera, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer you need to add all the content below:
And the catch is you have to know to add all that. DW doesn't automatically enter any of it for you.
But wait, there's more (disappointment). In the past one could either enter code on the code pages themselves or in the CSS Styles and Properties Panels as well as the CSS Rule Definition window. All the potential CSS dynamics were there in either location and all was well.
Below, look at the CSS Rule Definition window. Selected is the Box category that contains the corner radius feature. Do you see anything in regards to border radius? So, while DW has been updated for those who Code, those who rely upon a more visual reference guide for assistance are left behind.
Thus, the fact that Adobe got HTML5 and CSS3 code hinting in CS5.5 is outstanding. People who run codes will be delighted but for anyone planning on jumping in and making outstanding websites with a few clicks of a button will be frustrated. Thus, you can score this feature for Coders, not Designers.
Something that sort of lands in the middle is a nice improvement for the CSS Styles Panel. Specifically, when you are looking at the List View or Category View, you will notice some of the attributes have an icon next to them that show a triangle and a plus. Those are attributes that have a collection of options that go together as a package. As an example, below I'm showing the "text shadow" option with this new icon. In the 2nd image below, I show what happens if you click the new icon. Here, clearly placed out are the attributes to set all of a "text-shadows" looks. Unfortunately this feature is only available for the new HTML5 attributes.
Coders and Designers both win with the MultiScreen feature. Simply put, anyone who makes a web page just for desktop computers is wasting time, money, and energy. More people are looking at web sites on their phone or tablets than ever before and in a couple of years, if not sooner, more people will be looking at web sites on their phone or tablets than desktop computers. Have you looked at your web site on a smart phone? Are you pleased? Probably not.
The wonderful news is that it is now relatively simple to take full advantage of CSS and make one web site set to work on phones, tablets, and computers all at the same time using the same content. The key is the dynamic of Media Queries that Browsers can use to automatically switch to the appropriate CSS code. For example any browser that's working with a screen with a Maximum Width of 320 px will automatically go to the CSS designed for the smallest built displays. If the minimum width is 321 pixels through 768 pixels, the display will go to a different CSS to provide the best view for a tablet, and anything larger than 769 pixels will go to a desktop computer. (These numbers can be adjusted to your tastes and you can have more than three different display preferences.)
Each display should have their own CSS file (not required but strongly recommended), but regardless, by taking advantage of CSS, the content doesn't change. All that changes are the jQuerries that send the browser for each device to their respective CSS which are all looking at the same data. Since you (should) have a unique CSS for each viewing type, they do not conflict. The MultiScreen lets you see each version of your site at the same time. Alternatively, if you are viewing your site in one window, as you manually decrease the size of your viewing page, or viewing in a browser, as you decrease the size of your page, the content will adapt and change to the appropriate size-respective layouts.
The mechanism that allows for this division is a form of code called JQuerry. JQuerry can do a lot and utilizing JQuerry, Adobe has added an actual "app generator" built into DW called Phone Gap. Phone Gap utilizes both HTML5 and JQuerry to help you create once and generate 6 different types of platforms (iPhone, Android, Windows, Palm, HP, Symbian, and Blackberry for an environment for application development framework. Below is a screenshot of the default phone view of Phone Gap and starting a template for creating an app.
Once you've started your app, you can now create the pages and content as needed. Obviously this is not for creating games and highly image oriented material, but for content apps, you will do quite well.
In short, if you can work with code you will find DW-CS5.5 a wonderful tool that will help you keep up with the demands of web design. I do fault Adobe for not making the package complete (read "what happened to the Rule Definition Window"), but accessing CSS Category Rule button on the CSS Styles Panel will at least provide the full list of available features to work with. I also feel that I want my computers to do what computers do best: do the drudgery work. That is, if I want a drop shadow or a round corner on a box's frame, I shouldn't be the one to add one for mozilla, webkit, and IE. That's something that DW should be doing. Why am I doing DW's work? Why should I do DW's work?
InDesign was originally made to replace Pagemaker with new (internal) architecture that allowed for greater capabilities beyond what Pagemaker had the potential or capabilities to do. In 1999, the focus and intent on InDesign was for print documents. [It was also a means to hold off Quark whom wanted to buy Adobe to take over the publishing world, but that's another story.]
Now, eleven years later, we have EPUB, Kindle, iPad, and other electronic reading devices and formats and the people said "hey, I want my InDesign document to be displayed in these formats as well!" Adobe had already established ID generating media-rich PDFs but that will not work with electronic readers, especially if you want the ability for changes in text size. If you can change text size, the pages need to be able to re-flow and that doesn't happen in PDFs.
Adobe and the InDesign team has chosen to help the user make electronic documents as easy and as powerful as print documents. In particular, Adobe has made electronic documents, from the EPUB to folio creation a focused goal.
The big frustrating dynamic with the emphasis on electronic publication for this release is that standard print improvements have gone waiting. There are no improvements to tables, footnotes, endnotes to name a few.. Sadly, there can only be so many engineers working on an application at any given time and they need to work with the features that have filtered to the top of the To-Do list. Alas it's all priorities and what are priorities to one user are irrelevant to others. Just accept that needs see-saw back and forth and if the new features are not beyond fantastic for you this release, all I can suggest is to simply wait for the next release (with your fingers crossed because there are no promises).
So, the big focus of CS5.5 is electronic documents, specifically folios and EPUBS. the special news is that there is a bonus feature that is directly benefiting EPUB documents as you'll read a bit later.
Folios are the media-rich documents that you can view, play with, enjoy, and be amazed with on your iBook and other devices. Martha Steward made a great presentation of them at last years MAX (2010). It is typically these features that are pushed in the various advertisements for CS5.5, and how you too could make these great folio applications.
While Folios are in fact easy to create in CS5.5, this is also a classic case of "the devil is in the details" kind of thing. Again, yes, using InDesign CS5.5 you could make all of these rich media things, but what was left out was that making the thing was only part of the process. Notice in the previous paragraph I described this as a folio "application." To exist as a media rich document as we know it, these must be applications as far being displayed in iPads (et. al.,). Yes, there's a difference between an EPUB and a folio. An EPUB is simply a text-rich document (think of a book) that you read from the beginning to the end. There is not necessarily any video and the content is intended to be read/accessed from the beginning to the end. Interactivity is, at best, extremely limited. This is different from a folio application that might be considered like a highly hyperlinked travel book. You read one of these in sections but certainly not from beginning to end.
Part of the process to generate a folio application requires you to register with Apple as a developer. In addition you need to pay a surprising amount to Adobe for the "behind the scenes" activities to turn your document into a folio ready for the iBook. This "behind the scenes" activity was $2995 for 10,000 (iTunes) downloads (at about $0.30/download) or $5495 for 25000 downloads (at about $0.22/download) which if you think about it is not all that much but for someone to come up with the initial money, for the average Joe or Jane, that's one heck of a bundle of cash for something that "seems like a lot of fun and is so easy..."
[Pease note: if this is your business and you are a full professional and you are already publishing a paper magazine, then this is not such a sitcker-shock moment. But for the rest of us, whew!]
However, at this years Adobe MAX, Adobe announced a new plan "for the rest of us" called the Single Edition. With "Single Edition," for the small sum of $395, you're good for one non-repeating folio. Admittedly, after paying no small sum just to get the latest Adobe InDesign CS5.5, to now shell out an additional $395 just to have your single folio available on iTunes seems like a lot of money. On the other hand, if you consider how much it costs to have a real paper book published (which also has nothing to do with your purchase of InDesign) this is a bargain. Also, this does not stop you from sharing your publication with your friends for free. Rather, this provides the ability for you to sell your work on iTunes. You still need to become an Apple developer and you are on your own as far as that dynamic is concerned.
Also, what constitutes a "Single Edition," I'm not sure? If you write (say) a cook book and it becomes a success, does that mean that if you write a new one, does that change your status as a "Single Edition?" I do not know. As stated in the literature, Single Edition means you are not doing "monthly editions." I have a hunch that lawyers will be involved with what constitutes "monthly editions."
Other limitations are often the opposite of what is offered: Unlimited download balanced against not receiving analytic reports. And to let you know that Adobe is not the only electronic folio publisher in town, there is also Mag+, PressRun, Aquafadas, and Twixi Publisher.
To see the various plans that Adobe has for Digital Publication, see this chart here with a full breakdown of each plan (and what each offers) that Adobe provides for generating folios.
To more fully understand the dynamics of what's involved in folio creation, I encourage you to view these series of videos created by Colin Fleming. These are long, deep, and thoroughly informative. AdobeTV has a habit with their videos being somewhat superficial and/or shallow in content. These particular videos are exceptional in that they are longer than most, significantly detailed in information, and worth watching multiple times if you are truly interested in the subject matter.
On a related note, but moving away from folios, InDesign CS5.5 is way out in front in regards to using the latest standards. Case in point is that Adobe is the only software vendor following the new standard "EPUB 3" that provides for media within an EPUB. Ironically, the ONLY device that can handle EPUB 3 is Apple's iBook. Not even the iPhone or iPod, nor even Adobe's own Digital Editions (Adobe software to view EPUBS on a computer, which can otherwise be used for testing your output) can display movies or sound from within a digital book.
Simply, we are very much at the very beginning of a new publishing paradigm. If you are interested in being in the forefront of all that's going on, Adobe's InDesign is a good place to be.
Despite what many chicken-littles may be saying, print is not dead. But whether it is or is not is not the issue: InDesign needs to continue being a print-creation setup software as well as being a creator of electronic publication material. In other words, InDesign is adding electronic printing to its excellent print-based capabilities just as Photoshop has added 3D and video capabilities to its renown digital imaging capabilities. [Note though that there is no InDesign Extended as there is a Photoshop Extended. This means that the new features are just as available to ID users as all of the print features.]
There are a variety of ways to generate electronic books: probably the most common is the EPUB type of book that has common links to iBooks, Kindles, Nooks, etc. The thing that makes these unique (as opposed to the generic PDF) is that you can increase/decrease the font size and the publication will decrease/increase the number of pages to accommodate the change in print (font) size. The way this works is to utilize a lot of the internal dynamics of web browsers (a.k.a. HTML5). The big difference here is that on the web, if you increase the size of the font on the page, the page gets longer and longer. In an ebook, the number of pages increases. But as the font size can be decreased, and as the page size can be auto-resized to fit the reading device, what do you do with the images? How do the images flow amongst the text as the text is altered? Welcome to the new world of printing where the creator does NOT have absolute control of the layout. Rather, with the new InDesign, the creator can guide the control of the layout. Makes you nervous and/or excited? Get in line.
Probably one of the most important new features in this release is the Article Panel. The purpose is simply to make order out of chaos. For anyone who's used ID, you know that on any page there may be many text boxes, images, sidebars, tables, extra doodads some of which are used to enhance a page's look (but do nothing to the content), etc. Consider the example below (but please, not from the designer's standpoint, I'm trying to make a point here).
When you transfer the contents of an article such as this intended for print into the linear world of an EPUB, there's no way that anyone but the article's creator can know what goes where, in what order, and what's important or not. Before CS5.5 the only way to maintain the desired linearity was to use one single text frame for the entire document. That's not likely when using ID. Now, using the Article Panel, you can tell ID what the order is supposed to be and what can/should be included or not.
In the image below I am dragging the text from where it sits on the page into the Article Panel. Once I've dragged the text from into the panel and let go, the text frame snaps back to where it original was and a window pops up so that I can name this new item in the Articles Panel. Alternatively, if you click on an item to select it and then click on the "+" icon on the bottom of the panel, it will also be brought into the Article Panel. Anything in the Panel can be reordered simply by clicking and dragging (up and/or down) to the desired position.
While all this is well and good,, what do you do about an image? If you happen to have a very long article and you drag the image into the Article Panel, it can only lie either before or after the long article. That's probably not what you want and to get around that, you can anchor the image to a particular point in the article.
If you've ever used the Anchor feature in ID in the past, you know how convoluted it is. The bad news is that you can still do it that convoluted way (as it does offer features that are still viable and important). On the other hand, ID-CS5.5 now offers a much more logical and easier way to set anchors, literally dragging to where you want them attached.
As shown below, on the top of the image frame is a new blue handle/link. If you mouse-down on that and drag the blue handle to a place in the text where you wish the anchor to be set, you're done. Yes, it's that simple.
Now that the image is anchored to a specific part of the article, when you drag the article into the Article Panel, the image maintains its position within the article (sort of like grouping them together) and the image will appear at the desired location of the text.
And speaking of images, images can now be resized within the document depending on how far away the page's border is. See the 2nd image below where the dropdown option states: "Relative to Page Width." here you can establish the image's resolution, quality, etc.
While this is all well and good for electronic publications, there's one other dynamic that this can be essential on, Accessible Documents. That is, if you are required to make documents that can be accessed by the blind or people with other disabilities, InDesign 5.5 can now make the process faster, easier, and more reliable. For example, if someone is using a page reader to read PDF documents, when the reader comes to an image, how does the reader know what to say about the image? In the past, one could process the document, open the document in Acrobat and enter alternative text there. But now this can be done within InDesign and, if you have planed the creation of this PDF out from the beginning of image acquisition, in Bridge.
By clicking on an image and then selecting from the Object menu the item "Object Export Options. There are three tags for this Window, let me point out a few of the options: "Custom" allows you to enter whatever text you want, click Done and you are done. Alternatively, if you've entered "Titles," "Descriptions," or "Headline" data in the fields within the metadata within Bridge (one of the built in Panels within Bridge), simply selecting that XMP option, and you are done.
If you are going to be exporting this to PDF, you can establish your necessary Tags at this point (2nd tab) so, for example, you can identify a give item as an "article" and it will be ignored by readers. If you are going to be exporting this as an EPUB or HTML document (3rd tab and bottom image below) you can also set how images will act and react within the structure of an EPUB or HTML page.
When combining the ordering of story parts (from the Articles Panel) with the alternate text and image size rasterization (from the Object Export Options window), you can do the vast majority of the work of setting up a document to be accessible to Reading software long before you even open the document in Acrobat.
Simply put, while the EPUB features in InDesign CS5.5 are excellent, if you are involved in making documents accessible, ID-CS5.5 is essentially essential.
In short, CS5.5 is an interesting quandary: For those who rely upon their software to keep them up-to-date and on the forefront of application/program development, do the new features justify an update when especially the entire suite is not fully updated? Is your primary application updated? If you are trying to create new websites for platforms that vary from the iPhone to the desktop, than perhaps. If your client (or you) wish to print not only to ink and paper but also to the iPhone, iPad and to the Mac, than perhaps.
Also coupled with this is that CS5.5 came out a mere 12 months after CS5, 6 months short of Adobe's behavior in the past and that implies that CS6 might be released 12 months (or so) after the release of CS5.5. We don't know. We can speculate that a full number update "6" would have more features than a half-update "5.5." Again, we do not know.
Because of the unique nature of the items updated in CS5.5, either you are running out to purchase this today or wondering what the excitement is all about. Because of that I have to give the Suites a middle of the road rating.
I do hope that eventually Adobe will settle back into the 18th (or so) month schedule because while that may not have been the best for shareholders of Adobe Stock, it was much better for those who use the software. Besides, in the long run, if those who purchase the software are not happy, the shareholders will not be either.
___________ Gary Coyne has been a scientific glassblower for over 30 years. He's been using Macs since 1985 (his first was a fat Mac) and has been writing reviews of Mac software and hardware since 1995.
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