Adobe Web Premium CS5.5

Software reviews - Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

E&T looks at Adobe Web Premium CS5.5. Released in May this year, is it the ultimate Swiss army tool for app developers?

Adobe Web Premium CS5.5

For application design engineers, there has been some significant updates to Adobe's Web Premium CS5.5 which include popular Adobe applications such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat Pro and many others. There are also crucial updates to HTML5 and Adobe Flash authoring tools, enabling designers and developers to create mobile applications for a variety of mobile platforms such as Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS, iOS and other platforms – important if you want to create rich browser-based content across screens.

Dreamweaver now enables a great deal of HTML5 content to be created including Jquery mobile framework integration for browser-based content, Phonegap, as well as Webkit engine updates. Most importantly Adobe has launched Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 Premium and the Flex 4.5 framework, which now includes mobile support. This should allow developers to target hundreds of millions of mobile devices with content and apps. Adobe tools still support the development of both Flash content, but the HTML capabilities are a welcome plus.

Tablet and mobile development has been considered even in Photoshop. The new Adobe Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit (SDK) will allow developers to build tablet applications that interact with Photoshop from Android, BlackBerry PlayBook and iOS devices. There are three new iPad applications that demonstrate the creative possibilities of using tablets to drive common Photoshop workflows – Adobe Color Lava for Photoshop, Adobe Eazel for Photoshop and Adobe Nav for Photoshop. Tablets are here to stay and Web Premium gives application developers the tools to reach virtually all the devices and platforms out there.

Adobe Acrobat X

Adobe Acrobat X is the latest version of the software for creating, reading and managing PDFs. It now has an up-to-date interface which is far easier to navigate. You can finally extract data from filled-in PDF forms and export the data directly to Excel. Acrobat X isn't perfect, however – its built-in Optical Character Reading functions lag behind third-party OCR.

When you first click on the Tools button, a stack of labels appear named Pages, Content, Forms, Recognize Text, among others. When you click on one of these labels, it expands into an organised menu of features such as Edit, Crop, Rotate Text, and more. Now you can home in on the features that are commonly used to search for in multiple menus.

Anyone who has worked with previous versions of Acrobat is familiar with the problem of converting a PDF file into an editable Word or Excel document. Acrobat X is far better, if not perfect at exporting PDF files into Office-editable documents, but there is room for improvement.

Also multiple users can now add comments and annotations to a PDF file and send them back to the author, who can aggregate different users' comments into a single file with comments displayed in a threaded list in a new Comments pane at the right-hand side of the window.

But a word of caution to Mac Snow Leopard and Lion users. The Adobe PDF Printer is not available or is unusable in Mac OS X Snow Leopard (v10.6). This is because of a security feature in Snow Leopard that disable the Adobe PDF Printer. To rectify this, Adobe has added a new Save As Adobe PDF command.

Adobe Flash Builder

This is brand new for CS 5.5. and aims to enable developers to build apps for the iPhone, the iPad and BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet. It is designed to be a single platform for developers to build intricate mobile applications that can be distributed via the Android Market, Apple App Store, BlackBerry App World, and possibly others as future updates and plugins come on stream.

This welcome because, due to the number of mobile platforms, app developers have to deal with the reality of a fragmented market that no one dominates, and in which developers have to deliver applications on multiple platforms. Adobe Flash Builder is Adobe's answer.

The travails that Adobe have had with building app tools to develop IOS apps for Apple mobile devices have been well documented.

Adobe sidesteps the fact that Apple doesn't allow runtimes on iOS devices by creating a self-contained executable that links to the runtime library, This creates a totally legitimate application that doesn't rely on the Flash Player at runtime, because the tool links the Flash Player libraries as part of the application.

For many developers and software engineers, the prospect of building apps on a single platform on these devices – including iOS devices – is appealing. We only created a very simple content fetching app for iOS, for the basis of this review, and it performed well. But sceptics remain to be convinced that the performance will be there for more complicated and feature rich apps. Cross-platform tools don't have a great reputation as they exploit common denominators and sometimes fail to make the most of the native platform.

Our simple app took two days to build and it ran without problems on Android 2.2, Blackberry OS6 and iOS4 on both the iPod Touch and the iPads 1 and 2.

Adobe Photoshop CS5.5

Photoshop CS5.5 is a small step forward. Far more significant was the move from CS4 to CS5. This was when Photoshop finally moved to a 64bit environment, providing support for as much RAM as you have crammed into your machine. That significantly sped up the performance when working with densely layered images from applying filters to saving files and everything in between. Needless to say, you'll need a 64bit machine to exploit this – but this is pretty standard for workstations these days.

Some significant improvements make arduous tasks more automated – such as the jaw-dropping Content-Aware Fill, which allows you to draw a crude lasso selection around an element you want to remove from a complex background and the software automatically fills in the resulting hole by applying image-processing algorithms on the surrounding area.

For image masking, new edge-processing technology such as the Refine Edges dialogue creates extraordinarily clean edges on challenging selections that are normally a pain, especially for Photoshop novices.

Puppet Warp is a powerful new tool that will allow you to bend and distort images using virtual pushpins, allowing you to manipulate images like plasticine. It's clearly based on After Effects, where it's used to make Pythonesque animation.'  But being able to manipulate 3D elements in this way looks likely to be exploited by engineers who are used to doing this in a CAD/CAM environment.

Photoshop CS5.5 is the most compelling version we have ever seen, delivering a wide array of new toys that make this a powerful 3D imaging application. It clearly goes beyond being an art tool and now has some serious engineering pedigree.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5

Dreamweaver has prided itself on being the Rolls Royce application for designing and managing websites for those that want a bit more creative flair. The latest version of Dreamweaver, at first, on the face of it does not seem like a big leap in functionality and if you're not planning any mobile web development, it might seem seem pretty similar to CS5. But the new features make it worthwhile if mobile web is where you plan to take your business. HTML5 has much better support and you no longer need a third party plugin.

With Dreamweaver CS5.5 you can check out your web page at various widths – enabling you to compare how it looks on different device widths. There are a set of pre-defined device sizes, or you can set up your own. It also supports CSS3 media queries. It is easy to define as many different style sheets for as many device widths as you would like. You can even change the screen orientation between landscape and portrait. Through connections to Adobe Device Central and BrowserLab you can do even more testing and previews of your pages in both mobile emulators and browsers.

Dreamweaver now has jQuery Mobile starter pages you can use to create your own mobile web application. You can store the jQuery and jQuery Mobile files locally on your server or point to remote servers. You can even use custom mobile files and folders. It has also integrated with PhoneGap to make it easier to create native iOS and Android applications that use all the device features you expect on the iPhone and Android like the camera, GPS, and basics like swiping, tapping, and pinch-to-zoom.

Additionally since CS5, Dreamweaver has had built-in BrowserLab, editing WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla templates

The latest version offers powerful tools for PHP programmers, a new tool for inspecting CSS, support for popular PHP-based content management systems, and a few simplifications that make setting up sites and building CSS-based layouts simpler.

You will be able to begin the arduous process of future proofing your websites.*

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