Getting started with Creative Suite 3

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By the time I received my copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 Design Premium, I had already read quite a few articles and reviews online, many of which dealt with the tons of new features in the rollout. I didn’t, however, see what I was largely interested in, which was discussion of “real-world” performance and use. The first thing I wanted to do before I even sat down to really use CS3 was to gather some (rather unscientific, but straightforward to me) initial performance results.

To begin with, I wanted to see was how quickly the applications would start up on my Mac. My test machine is a dual-core, 2.66GHz Mac Pro with the stock 250GB hard drive and 3GB of RAM. I timed the Adobe CS2 applications startup process after restarting the Mac Pro. No other applications were running at the time of testing. I then quit the application after noting the startup times and then relaunched them again, which, thanks to caches, generally cuts the startup time of the application drastically. The results were as follows, all times are in seconds:

Adobe Creative Suite 2 launch times

Application Initial Launch Second Launch
InDesign CS2 30 14
Illustrator CS2 30 15.5
Photoshop CS2 26 19.5
Bridge CS2 19 9
Acrobat Professional 8 4.5 2
Acrobat Distiller 8 4 2

Times in seconds.

Tests performed by James Dempsey on a 2.66GHz dual-core Mac Pro with 3GB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.4.9.

As expected, the second launch of each application was much faster, sometimes by half the time. However, the CS2 Suite apps—other than Acrobat 8—are not Universal Binary, so these times are of little value except for comparison with the CS3 applications.

Creative Suite 3

So after admiring the cool-looking upgrade box, reading through the rather impressive Workflow Guide included in the package and grabbing a cold drink, I proceeded to completely remove all traces of Adobe CS2 from my computer. I ran Adobe’s CS3Clean script to remove the Photoshop CS3 Beta (and which didn’t really remove much of anything) and then followed up by using AppZapper, and then removed the remaining things AppZapper didn’t find manually. This took approximately five minutes. I then proceeded to install the full Design Premium Suite apps, which took 17 minutes. After registering the applications with the online activation scheme I restarted my Mac.

Launching the new CS3 applications and timing them brought some surprise on first launch, and pure bliss on the second. The times were as follows:

Adobe Creative Suite 3 launch times

Application Initial Launch Second Launch
InDesign CS3 28 4
Illustrator CS3 26 4
Photoshop CS3 8 2.5
Bridge CS3 11.5 3
Acrobat Professional 8 3 1
Acrobat Distiller 8 2 1
Dreamweaver CS3 15 5

Times in seconds.

Tests performed by James Dempsey on a 2.66GHz dual-core Mac Pro with 3GB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.4.9.

Obviously, having all of the CS3 applications as Universal Binaries made a huge difference. Even on first launch, the applications started up quicker. On second launch, it was simply stunning how fast they launched. What surprised me was that Acrobat Professional launched so much faster than when I had it installed with the CS2 suite. Given that Acrobat is the same version number in both suites, I can only assume that some of the associated system files are improved in some way as to allow it to launch faster.

Of most interest to me were the two applications I use most often, and which were the worst performers on Intel-based Macs: InDesign and Illustrator. Both apps are much improved in speed. Illustrator, in particular, not only launches faster, but is much more responsive as well.

It wasn’t all roses on my first day. As I discovered upon reading one of the many PDFs that accompany the upgrade once you install the CS3 suite, you cannot reinstall CS2 on that Mac. If you think you want to use one of the older applications for some reason, make sure you do not delete it. I would have liked to run Adobe GoLive CS2 again for the one site I built with it, largely because I haven’t previously used Dreamweaver. I’m sure somewhere in the install process this is mentioned, but it wasn’t obvious enough for me. I can completely remove CS3, reinstall CS2 and then upgrade again to CS3, but that’s more trouble for me than it is worth.

All-in-all, the CS3 upgrade experience has been quick and easy and I’m very pleased and excited to work with the new software. After a week and a half of doing so, I would highly recommend upgrading to anyone and haven’t come across a single reason not to make the move.

[James Dempsey runs the Creative Guy blog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design topics. For Macworld’s reviews of the CS3 applications, check out our Creative Space topic page.]

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