Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium

from Technology & Learning

Unleash your inner desktop artist with this sophisticated software package.

Whoever said "The world is but a canvas to the imagination" could have had Adobe's Creative Suite 3 in mind. Optimized to run natively on both Intel for Macs and PowerPC processors and offering full support for Microsoft Windows Vista (except Starter and Home Basic versions), Creative Suite 3 is Adobe's first broad-spectrum revision and expansion of creative options since the company acquired Macromedia in 2005.

Company:Adobe Systems

System Requirements: Windows: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise (certified for 32-bit editions), Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 5GB of available hard-disk space.

Macintosh: PowerPC G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor, OS X v.10.4.8, 1GB of RAM, 6.3GB of available hard-disk space.

Price/Grade: Premium: single-copy academic license, $587; K–12 site license, $6,948; volume license (tier 1), $457; volume license (tier 2), $428; available DVD media set, $22. Standard: single-copy academic license, $390; K–12 site license, $4,632; volume license (tier 1), $303; volume license (tier 2), $285; available DVD media set, $19.50. Middle school and up.

Pros: The suite exhibits tight integration through shared technologies; high-end image, Web, and print publishing tools; and a common interface from one application to the other.

Cons: There are a lot of new tools to master. Outfitting an entire school computer lab will cost big bucks even though Adobe offers significantly reduced educational pricing.

Available in six configurations—Design Standard, Design Premium, Web Standard, Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection (combining all 12 design and development applications)—this powerhouse collection of digital tools will surely help inspire any teacher or student involved in higher-end image editing, Web design, and content publishing.

The suite explored here consists of six tightly integrated high-powered applications for print, Web, and mobile device output. They are InDesign (desktop publishing and page layout), Photoshop Extended (all of Photoshop, plus special tools for editing composite and 3D images and motion-based graphics), Illustrator (vector images), Flash Professional (interactive design), Dreamweaver (Web content), and the previously released Acrobat 8 Professional (PDF documents and interactive PDF forms).

Collaboration and Teamwork

Design Premium bundles several tools that both support and facilitate group work. For example, Adobe Bridge functions as a media manager, providing centralized access to project files, templates, reusable page objects (snippets), layouts, video clips, text files, applications, and user-defined settings. You can use Bridge to view, search, sort, manage, rename, move, and delete files, as well as edit image metadata, rotate images, and run batch commands to automate workflow tasks. You can also view images imported from a digital still or video camera or save precious moments of limited class time by previewing content without having to open the item in the application that created it.

Additional tools facilitating collaborative work include Version Cue, which offers server side tools for managing and tracking workgroup projects; Device Central, with tools for producing and testing content destined for display on iPods (think video podcasting or vidcasts), mobile phones, and other handhelds; and Connect, which provides opportunities for teleconferencing over the Web so that students can continue to work on their group projects in virtual space as well as during class time. (While Design Standard offers many of the same features and tools as Design Premium, it lacks Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop Extended, and Device Central.)

Creative Suite 3 applications all handle fonts, graphics, and color settings in similar ways. Plus, several of the main applications allow for exporting to or saving content in formats supported by its other applications.

Design Premium Highlights

If you've worked with earlier versions of programs in Adobe's Creative Suite, transitioning to version 3 won't send you into a panic—its graphical look and feel resembles the interface of earlier versions. But new features abound as well.

Photoshop Extended can edit individual frames of a movie file, video clip, or image sequence. The program provides support for image stacks, enabling users to create a single picture from several images with identical exposures and a similar frame of reference, but with quality or content differences. Smart Objects and Smart Filters permit non-destructive editing, preserving an image's original source content even as you scale, rotate, or warp its multiple layers.

Dreamweaver includes support for Spry widgets (pre-built components such as tabbed interfaces and XML-based lists and tables) and visually appealing Spry effects (fades, elements that highlight). It's also smart enough to make HTML documents XHTML-compliant, generate new XHTML code, and clean up existing XHTML code.

InDesign's table and cell formatting tool can add alternating strokes and fills to table columns or rows.

InDesign's time-saving Place feature enables users to select and place several images, files, text files, InDesign documents, or other objects on a page at one time. It now does non-destructive transparencies and gradient fills that users can preview before they apply, plus table and cell formatting that alters the stroke of a table border or adds alternating strokes and fills to table columns and rows.

Expect to devote lots of learning time to exploring and applying new features and options of Creative Suite 3. But rest assured, growing pains will be quickly eclipsed by the creative gains these productivity tools will help you realize.

Carol S. Holzbergis an educational technology specialist and district technology coordinator for Greenfield Public Schools in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Email her at