Adobe’s New CS3 Blurs the Lines Between Digital Tools

Once again I am leaving San Francisco with my head spinning. Today I spent the day at the Adobe offices in SOMA being briefed on the new Adobe CS3 product line. And as anyone familiar with Adobe’s product lineup can attest, that was a lot of ground to cover in a too-short 8 hour period.

The focus of the day was to give us, a motley cross-sectional crew of media technologists, web & print designers, and business strategists, a top-line view of each of the product categories which are now grouped into three separate suites. The suites are directed against the media triumvirate of Video Production, Web, and Design (which is heavily print-centric). One thing that was conspicuous throughout the product categories was the pervasive presence of Flash. It is clear that Adobe has deeply embraced the former Macromedia product to the point of making it core to their future business model.

Also common to all three tool suites is Illustrator CS3 and Photoshop CS3 Extended which is a very extensible version of the familiar Photoshop tool. While there were many improvements to each of the tools individually, what struck me was the tight integration between tools, most notably the ability to preserve and edit native document layering across applications. Coupled with the consistency of the UIs across the application set provides a level of fluidity for the manipulation of aggregated elements that is both intuitive and highly productive.

Another enhancement that will be of interest to shops that have high-volume Flash development is the introduction of native version control though Version Cue CS3. And while the version control tool operates across many of the applications within the CS3 Suites, it’s inclusion with Flash CS3 Pro was a much needed improvement.

Another great addition to the toolset is Device Central CS3. Among other things, this IDE provides a framework to test Flash applications across a variety of mobile devices. The tool comes stocked with discrete profiles for each mobile device that provide an accurate simulation to test your application’s features. Simulations of CPU, screen size/palette, navigation buttons, and even backlight and screen glare are all included in the experience. Nice. 

Lastly, we were given a taste of the Video Production suite. This includes a deployment of Adobe Premier Pro that is Final Cut’s long lost twin. The interface and keyboard shortcuts are so FCP-like, that the learning curve for die-hard FCP-philes should be pancake flat. And again, the deep integration with After Effects and other tools make cutting a very fluid process.

Also included in the Production Suite is After Effects Pro (of course) and a sound editor called Soundbooth. The Photoshop-like sound editing interface is geared toward the graphic designer, and is uncannily easy to work with. In the demo we were given, an errant cell-phone ring was edited out of some random background noise. The specific pattern of the noise was clearly apparent and easily removed using a ‘Select’ tool similar to the one used in Photoshop. Select, delete, and voila. Noise gone. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

The upshot is: Adobe is really showing it’s commitment to the creative community with this superbly integrated toolset. Very nicely done guys. Big applause from me.