Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Standard / Premium review

£811
Price when reviewed

Adobe’s background is in print design and its web efforts such as GoLive and ImageReady have been, to put it kindly, less than impressive. It seemed something of a miracle then, when Macromedia agreed to be taken over, allowing Adobe to add the market-leading web apps to its market-leading print portfolio.

Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Standard / Premium review

It was the three flagship products – Dreamweaver for web page creation, Flash Professional for rich internet content and applications and Fireworks for web graphics – along with content-focused support from Contribute that constituted Macromedia’s Web Studio, and which now form Adobe’s Web Standard suite.

For the first time, all four now share the full CS interface and each of the main three has been the focus of serious development effort – much greater than the smaller Macromedia was able to deliver. The Web Standard suite is moving forward strongly on all fronts to become more dominant than ever.

However, as the reviews reveal, that’s not the whole story. The bottom line is that Macromedia threw in its hand for good reason. The nature of the web is always changing and, with it, the old ways of doing things. This is most obvious in the effective demise of Contribute, but Dreamweaver CS4’s hand-crafted approach to web page creation also looks increasingly old-fashioned in the data-driven Web 2.0 world.

Similarly, Flash CS4 Professional started life as an application for creating vector cartoons and wouldn’t be anyone’s choice as a modern authoring environment for rich internet applications and content. The elephant in the room is Microsoft which with its Expression Studio offers a more modern, streamlined and cheaper alternative for creating both web pages and rich internet applications.

However the fact that for the first time Dreamweaver and Flash face real competition doesn’t mean that the alternatives are better. To begin with, Dreamweaver and Flash CS4 might be showing their age but their ten releases in ten years means that they both pack plenty of power. More to the point, both brands are dominant in their fields as shown most clearly by Flash’s 99% browser penetration. Microsoft has two mountains to climb.

Macromedia also chose Adobe to throw its lot in with for good reason. The trump card that Adobe offers is integration with its other design applications. You might assume that the benefits of such integration would be most obvious in the Web Premium CS4 suite, where the core four web apps are joined by Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro and, for the first time, Soundbooth. As Fireworks largely renders Photoshop and Illustrator redundant for web image handling, however, this adds little of real value to the web specialist’s toolkit – and Soundbooth’s catering for web audio just exposes the absence of web video handling.

The truly valuable integration that the CS4 apps introduce is to be found elsewhere: specifically in the new XML-based Flash format, XFL. Using this you can take publications created in InDesign CS4 and compositions created in After Effects CS4 and open them directly into Flash CS4 Professional. This effectively enables Adobe to graft on advanced interactivity and universal web delivery to its existing graphic design and motion graphic platforms.

Details

Software subcategory Web development

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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