First Look: Adobe unveils CS3

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First Look: Creative Suite preview: Contribute CS3

One of the less-ballyhooed programs in the newly announced Creative Suite, Adobe Contribute CS3 allows business users and other non-designers to edit existing Web pages created in Dreamweaver or other design tools, although you can’t use Contribute to create a new site from scratch. Contribute is perfect for allowing users to add content to a Web site, without the possibility of accidentally breaking the site.

In terms of new features, Contribute CS3 is a relatively minor revision to the previous version, Contribute 4 (   , January 2007 ), which was released just last fall. The big changes with this version are found under the hood, resulting in notably better performance across the board.

What’s new

New integration with Adobe Bridge—the Creative Suite’s file-management tool—allows you to use Bridge to drag and drop images and other media into your draft pages. Unsurprisingly for an Adobe product, there is now better integration with Acrobat files; dragging a PDF into Contribute gives you the choice of either creating a link to the PDF content or embedding it in your draft Web page.

Contribute 4 introduced the ability to use Contribute as a blog editor for most popular blogging platforms. In Contribute CS3, blog editing is now WYSIWYG, and the program caches the template for your blog so that you can author blog entries offline using your own template. If you use Firefox 2 (or Internet Explorer 7 on Windows), Contribute provides a new toolbar with buttons that allow you to edit the page you are browsing, or to quote its content to a new blog post. So far, there’s no similar feature for Safari.

Contribute CS3 improves the ability to edit blog posts on a variety of popular blogging platforms, including Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, or (as shown here) Movable Type.

What’s improved

The biggest improvement is that Contribute is now a Universal Binary, which vastly speeds up the program on Intel-based Macs. Because Contribute needs to connect to your Web sites when it launches, the program has always started up rather slowly, and operations that require transactions with your Web server, such as creating a new draft page, canceling an unneeded draft, or saving changes to the server always required a significant wait.

In my preliminary testing with the beta, Contribute CS3 on a 2GHz MacBook launched three times faster than Contribute 4 running on a Dual 2.5 GHz Power Mac G5. Creating a draft of a complex page was also quicker than in the previous version, though the improvement was not as marked. Canceling drafts and publishing edited pages to the site are also significantly faster. In general, most operations feel snappier, whether you are interacting with the Web server or not.

Contribute CS3 shares the improved page-rendering engine developed for Dreamweaver CS3, so it displays CSS on Web pages with much better fidelity. Rendering now complies with the CSS 2.1 standard, which is supported by all the major browsers, ensuring that your drafts in Contribute will look much the same across all browsers and platforms.

What to expect

Because my testing was performed on a prerelease version, I’m expecting even better performance from the finalized Contribute CS3 when it ships next month. I’ll report my benchmarking results and go into more detail on the other improvements in my forthcoming full review. But based on the beta, my initial opinion is that Contribute CS3 is the revision that Contribute 4 should have been.

[ Longtime Macworld contributor Tom Negrino has written books on Contribute and Dreamweaver, including the best-selling Dreamweaver 8 Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2006). ]

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