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Adobe CS3 Web Premium Suite
Overview of Adobes CS3 Web Premium Suite
by Jim Fisher

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How many late nights have you spent, fueled by a quadruple espresso Starbucks latte and adrenaline, cursing the difficulties associated with making Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator and Flash play nicely with each other? How often have you pulled out your hair over each application’s unique foibles?

Adobe’s CS3 Web Premium Suite ($1598.95) may not make a dent in your caffeine habit, but it will go a long way into making your design and development workflow a less nerve-jarring experience. Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia has paved the way for a more streamlined workflow between applications. This suite brings many of the popular Macromedia and Adobe web creative applications together, making it an ideal solution for the serious web developer.

The suite includes CS3 versions of Dreamweaver ($398.95), Flash Professional ($698.95), Photoshop Extended ($998.95), Fireworks ($298.95), Illustrator ($598.95), Contribute ($148.95) and Acrobat 8 Professional. You’ll also find the applications that are common to each version of CS3: Device Central, Bridge, Stock Photos and Version Cue. Mac users take note: the applications in the suite are Universal Binary, so they’ll run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs without any need for Rosetta emulation. Who says life's not good?

You’ll also be happy to know Adobe has made great strides in bringing the Macromedia web development applications into the CS suite. Flash and Fireworks can now import Illustrator and Photoshop files with layers intact. You can also paste images from Photoshop directly into the design view of Dreamweaver.

The user interface and keyboard shortcuts are now consistent between all applications as well. This means long-time Macromedia devotees may undergo a bit of an adjustment period getting used to the Adobe interface. The suite offers a powerful workflow that ranges from the beginning of a site design cycle and takes it all the way through routine maintenance.

Fireworks is designed for rapid prototyping of site designs and interfaces by allowing you to import a graphical mock-up of a web page from Photoshop or Illustrator. You can also use assets from any single page in Fireworks and apply them to other mock-up pages. This feature is especially helpful when working with navigation and other elements that are consistent throughout a site. Additionally, Fireworks allows you to view and test your prototype in any web browser, which helps ferret out issues with UI and design before heavy development work has progressed.

Once development starts you’ll want to move over to Dreamweaver. The HTML development platform still delivers all the features it is known for, with a few key new features that deserve to be highlighted.

You’ll notice a big change to Dreamweaver as soon as you create a new document. The software has a substantial library of CSS templates from which to choose. These templates are broken down by page layout style. You’ll be able to easily choose one that suits your needs based on numerous variables: fixed or variable width, number of columns, sidebar styles, headers and footers. Each layout has written tips on customizing the page to suit your needs.

Dreamweaver offers numerous tools to get the job done smoothly and easily. CSS panel and layout-visualization tools are available, along with a very cool tool that can help take the headaches out of the inevitable testing of a finished page in several different browsers. The CSS Advisor can identify issues that can cause pages to misbehave in certain browsers, identifies many common CSS errors, and links directly to a community-driven web forum that Adobe has put together to identify fixes and workarounds.

If this hasn’t piqued your interest, perhaps Adobe’s Spry framework for Ajax will. Ajax is an extremely powerful programming tool that brings Asynchronous JavaScript and XML together to drive truly interactive web applications. Implementing Ajax into a web project would, up to this point, entail a lot of programming expertise; an area in which web designers often stumble a bit. Dreamweaver features a suite of Spry widgets that allow you to add Ajax interactivity to web projects with drag and drop simplicity. It features to add tabbed panels, menu bars, accordions, collapsible panels and form-validations to your pages with ease.

Flash has received a few tweaks that will help improve your workflow. You can now import Photoshop and Illustrator files natively along with dialog boxes that allow you to select which layers to bring into Flash. You can even bring in editable text, allowing you to edit copy from within Flash.

Flash also allows you to copy and paste motion paths between different documents. This is a great tool for animators who would like to repeat motion exactly between different projects: just copy the motion path to the clipboard and paste. Commonly used motion paths can be saved as ActionScript 3.0 code, allowing you to share them with other developers or save them for use at a future date.

ActionScript now shares a compiler and debugger with the Adobe Flex Builder. This presents a unified interface for developers working in both applications. You will also be able to implement Flex components into Flash animations.

Contribute is the last piece to the CS3 workflow. While it may not apply to every project, it should be considered when multiple users are responsible for maintaining and updating web content. Contribute is designed to allow multiple users to update web content: without breaking the site. Contribute now uses the same rendering engine as Dreamweaver, so you can be sure that what you see is what you get in both programs.

All in all, the Web Production suite is a solid tool for web developers. Mac users who have moved to Intel Macs will appreciate the performance that the Universal Binary applications deliver when compared to the often sluggish Rosetta emulation of PowerPC builds. Designers who have been using a mishmash of Adobe and Macromedia programs in the past might even find themselves sleeping more soundly, content with the knowledge that the headaches and hassles of sharing files between development tools is going the way of the dodo.
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