Adobe Creative Suite 2 review

£889
Price when reviewed

The advantages of buying one of the two Creative Suite editions rather than the separate applications are obvious. All the applications are designed to work together, producing high-quality, high-impact design as efficiently as possible. And the cost of both suites is significantly lower than the combined cost of their component apps.

As an overall package, Adobe Creative Suite 2 sees major advances on all fronts: a more powerful and consistent shared interface highlighted by Illustrator CS2’s new Control palette; a more integrated workflow highlighted by the new ability to select layer comps in placed PSD files; a tighter underlying architecture highlighted by the centralised PDF export and colour management; and, bringing everything together, an entirely new graphics file manager in Adobe Bridge (see p81), designed to partner each of the applications, but also to act as a front end for the suite as a whole. To top it all, Adobe has even reduced the price, making the Standard Edition, in particular, stunning value.

It’s impressive stuff, but think hard before you get out your credit card. To begin with, there are two suites to choose between: the Standard Edition, offering Photoshop/ImageReady, Illustrator and InDesign, and the Premium Edition, which adds GoLive and Acrobat Professional. The applications in the Standard Edition are natural partners, with Photoshop handling bitmaps, Illustrator vectors and InDesign bringing them together to produce the end publication. More to the point, each of these applications is best-of-breed, and each CS2 upgrade is a major boost to both productivity and creativity.

With the Premium Edition, it’s a very different story. As each CS design application exports directly to PDF, having the latest Acrobat software is no longer essential and Acrobat 7 Professional isn’t a clear must-have upgrade. The case for GoLive is even harder to make. Its focus on web authoring is semi-detached from the suite’s core print-oriented structure, and this is a seriously underpowered upgrade to the one CS application that clearly isn’t top of its class anyway.

Overall, there’s no doubt that both editions of the Creative Suite offer extraordinary power and value, but additional power is only valuable if you use it. As such, you need to weigh both suites against your individual requirements: some users will benefit from the full power of the Premium Edition; others will be better off sticking to a single core application. For the majority, the Adobe Creative Suite 2 Standard Edition offers the best mix of wide-ranging but integrated design power at an unbeatable price.

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