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Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 review

Sections: Audio / Video, Business / Office Suites, Graphics / Design, Mac Software, Reviews, Web Applications / Development, Writing / Publishing

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Provides: Full suite of video/photo/image/web content creation and management
Format: DVD
Developer: Adobe Systems, Inc.
Minimum System Requirements: Varies by product/edition (see Adobe’s website for individual details)
Processor Compatibility: Universal
Price: Varies by product/package (see Adobe’s website for all suite and individual software normal and upgrade prices)
Availability: Now

Since Adobe first launched the Creative Suite family of programs, they’ve released updates about every 18 months or so. This was good in that it allowed them to stay on top of the latest technologies and to introduce some of their own. It was bad in that updates and fixes were slow to be released, and it always felt like we were missing things that should have should have been part of the previous version. Adobe would focus so hard on the next big feature that simple fixes and improvements would constantly slip past. Anyone forced to use Dreamweaver’s FTP tools knows what I’m talking about.

Adobe has now changed all this up. Major releases will now appear every 18 to 24 months, with mid-cycle releases to show up between them. Adobe CS 5.5 is the first such release. There are two methods for paying for it, which I’ll cover later on. For now, let’s look at features.

Across many of the programs, Adobe is focusing on web and tablet publishing. The Web Premium tools (Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, etc.) offer new HTML5 and Adobe Flash authoring tools that do a decent job of making the latest technologies somewhat accessible. I’m still surprised by what a confusing mess Dreamweaver is when it comes to doing something as common as building CSS pop-up (or flyout) menus; Adobe has a habit of ignoring basic needs when they’d rather draw our attention flashier capabilities.

In this case, it’s the ability to build a website once and have it targeted to numerous mobile devices. The number of people using the iPad and smartphones to view the web is growing quickly, and Adobe has no intention of being left behind. Whether building websites or mobile applications, CS 5.5 allows you to view in real time how your development will look in your targeted devices via a multiple pane window.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

If ever there was a time to justify that multiple monitor setup you’ve been wanting, this is it.

jQuery Mobile support, CSS inspection, enhanced ActionScript editors and more all help to keep your work efficient and clean…once you’ve learned to use them.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

Adobe offers a lot of training videos to get you started, but those tend to take me back to Algebra II class. Everything made sense when the instructor would explain the procedures on the chalk board. But when I’d get home and try to apply what I’d learned, forget about it. Thankfully, Adobe Community Help is a great resource for getting your questions answered and gaining useful tips until the third-party manuals start rolling out.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

In addition, some of the new features and coding methods seem to require you to build them that way from scratch. If you’re looking to update a site to take advantage of the new mobile templates and objects, it’s possible that Dreamweaver CS 5.5 is going to become just as confused as you are.

I’ve focused mostly on the web tools because that’s my area of expertise. Adobe has paid close attention to other areas, though. Production Premium has received a rather impressive overhaul, with an improved workflow in Premiere Pro CS5.5, advanced audio editing in Audition CS5.5 (now available for both Mac and Windows), some nice new tricks in After Effects, streamlined collaboration via CS Live, and more. I’m not versed in these programs, and have therefore not factored them into this review, but I do suggest you check out the Production Premium website to learn more about what this upgrade has to offer until we post our dedicated coverage.

I can, however, weigh in on Design Premium’s nods towards digital publishing. Whether it’s creating magazines for the iPad, authoring eBooks in inDesign, or simply creating more feature-rich PDFs, Adobe has done a nice job of making it easier to create and integrate dynamic content into your publication and deliver it however you want to.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

However, a lot of this is dependent upon Adobe’s web-hosted Digital Publishing platform, and that’s not cheap. It starts at $495 a month, and then you’re adding platform and vendor fees. Large publishers may have the means to handle these costs, but smaller publishers will find the price as prohibitive as print.

Speaking of costs, Adobe understands that it’s hard for new users to hop onto a Creative Suite package, or to even pay for an upgrade. Design Standard is the cheapest package at $1,299 (upgrades start at $399), with the $2,599 Master Collection being the most expensive ($1,399 upgrade). As such, they now offer a Pay As You Go plan. For Design Standard, you’ll pay $65 a month with a one-year subscription, or $99 a month on a month-to-month basis. Those prices are $129/month and $195/month for the Master Collection, respectively. The other Creative Suite packages fall somewhere between.

Whether that’s worth it depends upon mostly on how much you’re going to make back with it. With competing products cutting deeper into Adobe’s feature sets, and with Adobe ramping up the capabilities of their own consumer and prosumer products, the Creative Suite packages have shifted into higher gear. This is great news if you’ve got a need for these complex but powerful sets of tools (and a company paying for your upgrades and training). If you’re on your own, the subscription model is a viable option, but hopefully you’ve also got the time required to stay on top of these new capabilities, which will now be coming about once a year.

As we do the same, Appletell will post in-depth looks at some of the new features rolled into the CS 5.5 updates. In the meantime, we can recommend the suite as a whole (check the buying guide to determine which edition best suits your needs). There’s no denying that Adobe is pushing web/mobile development and digital publication forward, I just wish they wouldn’t shove the little things to the side along the way.

Appletell Rating:
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 review

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  • SMJ

    Interesting to see Adobe tailor Creative Suite to be be compatible with mobile devices and tablets. Guess it's a sign of the times and where the web is headed.
    As mentioned above, 5.5 is definitely something that should be used with a multiple screen set-up. We actually did a post on CS 5.5 ourselves- http://www.softwarecrew.com/2011/05/adobe-creative-suite-5-5-launched/
    Awesome review!

  • Oly

    Hi Kirk, there's another Dreamweaver-like product that just recently came out in the market called Jahia 6.5 (www.jahia.com). It's the same no-code web development environment, but it's completely cloud-based and it's also open source. If this is something that might interest your readers, please get in touch with me! Thanks!