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design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Adobe CS5

Thursday, 25 March 2010



Adobe has launched a nice countdown campaign for the release of its much-anticipated CS5 Creative Suite.

CS5 includes some new applications, such as BrowserLab and Flash Catalyst, and a few improvements to stalwarts like Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop.

Typically though, Adobe may be calling this a 'launch', but the actual release date is likely to be much later in the year. Adobe are reeling a bit from the recent success of iPad and the possible demise of Flash, and probably need sufficient time to work on CS5 and make sure it is stable and complete. A full release during October 2010 would be a good estimate - exactly two years after CS4.

Interestingly, late last year I attended an Adobe conference where Photoshop CS5 made an appearance, and I have to say it looked great and it was faster than ever. But beyond the buzz that new releases generate, I wonder if CS5 is necessary let alone desireable.

For example, our current Year 2 students have just spent four weeks on work placement, out in the agency world. One interesting piece of feedback from them was just how many of the top agencies don't use CS4, which the students here are using on a daily basis - its installed on all our Macs on campus.

Given the recent economic climate, many agencies simply decided not to upgrade. The cost was too great and the return to little. In fact, for most web and print production purposes, CS3 and even CS2 will do the job. Workflow is better in CS4, but assuming a given agency has competent creatives, the final results remain the same.

The CS4 improvements to Illustrator in particular were awesome - transparencies, rich black control and of course multiple artboards - but in general, upgrading from CS3 has only served to introduce backwards compatibility issues, especially with InDesign. Once you get over the fancy new tweaks, its back to using the same old commands. An upgrade also introduces a hint of technophobia, as designers have to find time to master a bunch of new techniques.

For many agencies, an upgrade to CS5 will actually bypass CS4 altogether. And by the time the creatives have relearned actionscript in Flash and customised their Photoshop setup to the hilt, CS6 will be looming on the never-ending version horizon.