Adobe Creative Suite

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Adobe is making a big push for its Creative Suite, but the facts behind the hype are not as straightforward as you might think. The pricing structure is complex, and Adobe's Version Cue version-management system is of questionable value. You should make sure that purchasing the whole package makes sense.

Prices Adobe Creative Suite comes in two versions: Standard and Premium. The $999 Creative Suite Standard effectively replaces the $999 Adobe Publishing Collection 13. The Standard version includes Photoshop CS ($649), Illustrator CS ($499), and InDesign CS ($699); the Publishing Collection included Photoshop 7 ($599), Illustrator 10 ($399), PageMaker 7 ($499), and Acrobat 6 Standard ($299). So you get less for your money with Creative Suite Standard than you did with the last Publishing Collection, though you get a better page-layout program in InDesign. The $1,229 Creative Suite Premium adds the $399 GoLive CS and $449 Acrobat 6.0 Professional (   ; September 2003).

Do the math to find out whether the suite will be worth its cost. If you own no more than two previous versions of the suite components (Photoshop and one other program), the upgrade pricing will work in your favor. (Each Creative Suite component, if bought separately, costs $169 for an upgrade from the previous version, except for Acrobat Pro, which costs $149.)

Get a Version Clue You may consider getting the Creative Suite for its programs' integration and the Version Cue version-management software, its two major selling points. But the Suite is not better integrated across products than its individual components purchased separately. And Version Cue, though it's a good idea, got very mixed reviews from our evaluation team. Several found it complex, confusing, slow, poorly integrated and implemented, and perhaps more suitable for one user or a pair of users than for larger workgroups.

Adobe conflated two concepts with Version Cue -- saving multiple versions in one file for easy rollback, and setting up an independent file system for sharing files among multiple users. Unfortunately, the result, two independent ways of saving and opening files, may be counterintuitive.

One group of experienced users spent hours using Version Cue, and they continually forgot to change modes when saving. Adobe's interface makes it hard to choose the right option. Adobe should have simply added a Save Version command instead of Version Cue's separate project-file system.

Many also found the Version Cue documentation unhelpful, and troubleshooting advice was nonexistent. Still others had problems importing older GoLive sites into Version Cue.

Finally, Version Cue works a little differently in GoLive than it does in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign -- and it's not available for use with Acrobat Professional.

Even our reviewers who had no problem with Version Cue agreed that it could stand some serious improvement. Version Cue is not a panacea for designing in workgroups -- at least not yet.

Dearth of Docs Adobe Creative Suite doesn't include printed instructional documentation with the individual software packages, offering instead a thin Design Guide that explains how the programs are used in a workflow. The only complete instructional documentation for each component of the Suite comes in electronic format. You do get a full printed guidebook if you purchase or upgrade each program separately. So be prepared to spend extra for individual supplemental user guides, additional suite-related documentation, or a third-party book.


Reviews of the individual Creative Suite applications can be found at the following links: Photoshop CS, Illustrator CS, InDesign CS, and GoLive CS.

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