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Adobe Creative Suite 5: A Developer's Perspective

Document Tools

While it seems that black hat hackers know more about how to take advantage of PDF documents than most developers, the fact remains that Adobe Acrobat PDF documents are a mainstay of the modern Internet and will continue to be a potent document format for years to come. The JavaScript interpreter bundled into Acrobat Pro elevate documents to an interactive status with form validation intelligence and routing capabilities. Acrobat Pro 9 is also a viable EBook creation and rendering tool, albeit obviously for PDF-centric presentations.

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Figure 4: Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro offers EBook capabilities with embedded audio, video and commenting abilities.

Even for developers using third-party commercial or open source PDF generation libraries, Adobe Acrobat Pro is the de-facto industry standard to benchmark the efficacy of the output of such libraries. And for those wishing to push the limits of PDFs beyond print, Acrobat 9 Pro lets designers and developers embed audio, video (including FLV and SWF files), interactive XML form fields, web page capture (including embedded SWF content) and numerous other features.

Adobe Bridge CS5 is Adobe's asset manager for small workgroups. The version provided in the CS5 release enhances this hub application with hooks into most of the other CS5 programs including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign (Bridge now displays linked files in InDesign documents) and Device Central. A customizable "Mini Bridge" panel has also been added to InDesign and Photoshop, allowing quick access to Bridge's asset organizing aspects without the disruption of switching between application UI contexts.

And while InDesign CS5 may have its roots still firmly planted in traditional design intended for ink on paper output, the CS5 release introduces the ability to use InDesign as a compilation tool for export as an interactive Flash-based document, complete with embedded audio, video and script elements. InDesign documents can also be exported for further manipulation into Flash Professional.

Also enhanced in this new edition is the ability to create EPUB Ebook files. EPUB-formatted files can be read by popular Ebook devices and readers including Apple's iBooks, Sony's Reader, Barnes and Nobel's Nook, several Ebook applications (such as Aldiko for the Android platform, Adobe Acrobat Reader and others.

Graphic Tools

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop Extended are predominantly in the domains of talented graphic artists and photographers. I marvel at those who effortlessly assemble multiple layers of objects and colors into a cohesive work of balance and beauty. Until Adobe can automate these tools to the degree of imprinting imagination with a futuristic sci-fi brain scan imagery camera, the left-brain developer lacking artistic skills will struggle to create the kind of beautiful imagery that a gifted graphic artist can create with these tools. Even so, those graced with graphic design skills require years of experience to assemble such works of digital art with the external ease which they can wield their mice and digitizing tablets.

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Figure 5: Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended allows users to easily create 3D objects.

Nevertheless, features such as extruded 3D objects for web page logos and buttons in Photoshop CS5 Extended and HTML5 design support in Illustrator CS5 can make even those like me who can't draw a straight line look passable. And probably the most far out feature that I have seen in all the Master Collection applications is Photoshop's Content-Aware Fill option. This essentially allows anyone to move or remove an object (person or otherwise) from an image, as if the object were a color-form overlay that could be peeled off and moved around at will. Somehow the wizards at Adobe figured out an artificial fill algorithm that generates what the background might have been had the object/person been standing in front of it. It's spooky cool.

Web Tools

Adobe Contribute is a visual content editor for pre-defined HTML templates designed in Dreamweaver. Its intended to be used by end users of content management and helps to mask the code and complexity of design templates by allowing anyone with word processing skills to connect to a preconfigured website, edit and manage HTML files without needing to know or learn about the underlying markup language.

Adobe Device Central is key for mobile developers of Flash-based applications to view the applications within the contextual constraints of various targeted mobile devices. Conspicuously absent are officially supported Adobe templates for the Apple iPhone and iPad, though the community providers have made up for this deficiency with their own definition interpretations. This points out the future-proof flexibility that Device Central offers, especially useful for the oncoming onslaught of Android tablets expected to populate the mobile computing horizon in the coming year. One especially helpful feature is Device Central's interrogation of the Flash Player's emulated memory consumption to see how resource intensive an FLV or SWF might be on a targeted mobile device. And new to the CS5 release is device emulation for accelerometers, geolocation and multitouch interfaces to further simulate the hardware's interactivity support.

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Figure 6: Adobe Device Central provides both officially supported and community created device profiles.

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