SOFTWARE VENDOR Adobe has released the beta version of its upcoming design and desktop publishing package Creative Suite 5 (CS5).
Adobe's Creative Suite is pretty much the default standard software package for publishing so when a new version comes out it is pretty important. It is extremely expensive, $699 for the standalone Standard version, but it has the advantage that you usually do not have to install anything else to get decent results.
The most popular component will be the Photoshop application.
Looking through the various reviews of the beta, it looks like CS5 will be familiar to anyone who uses CS4. This is important when you use something like CS because it does a hell of a lot if you just know where to find the function you need.
The most significant workflow improvement to the interface is the introduction of Mini-Bridge. Essentially, it's a palette or panel within Photoshop that's really a window onto the Adobe CS Bridge feature, allowing full access to all your image files without having to leave Photoshop.
It also makes better use of 64-bit which should make life a bit faster. There are some minor tweaks to the icons too.
Photoshop CS5 has changed the noise reduction algorithms in Camera RAW 6. There are sliders for both Luminance and Colour Noise. This will be interesting if it makes it to the final verison. There is also an FX tab in Camera RAW that will add grain or vignetting.
Photoshop has some better masking technology, and better technology for refining edges.
There is an interesting color decontaminant option that removes too much background that you might have inadvertently included in your mask.
If Photoshop is better it probably is not worth the upgrade on its own, however Illustrator is supposed to have gotten way better.
In CS4 we had the idea of multiple artboards. Now you get a new artboards panel that gives you instant access to all the artboards you've created. These can be used like layers.
If you want you can reuse a graphical element from one artboard in the same location on several other artboards, which is a time-saver.
There is also the Shape Builder tool. Turn it on and you can instantly merge multiple objects into a single shape, or divide overlapping shapes into multiple objects.
You can choose the colours you want to fill areas of your artwork and partly or fully close them.
There are new features including the Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes that allow you to create masks out of objects you've selected.
It appears to be the best Illustrator yet, but the question is how often will you use all of this new stuff. Having used CS4, we would say that the suggested changes would be worth converting from CS3 but probably are not enough on their own.
InDesign, which is one of the programs we use a lot, seems to be unchanged in the areas that we use. Most of the changes appear to be to make documents more animated. Stuff like Flash video, and MP3 audio files. This is great for some people, we guess, but not so hot for those who are using CS5 for pure desktop publishing.
There is better support for the ePub file format and it is easier to export documents in SWF format, hand off layouts to Flash Professional CS5, and produce ePub documents for use with popular eBook readers and devices.
The reviews all seem to think that it is worth buying although I'm sure we'd all be happier if Adobe would do something to bring down its pricing. µ