I was at a conference earlier this week and so managed to be “afk” for the Apple Macbook Pro refresh (about which I have already opined and — as of writing — for whose fruits I am now anxiously waiting) and the Adobe CS5 launch (which I had planned to “attend”).

If it weren’t for OS updates and CPU changes, I would still be pretty happy with Adobe Photoshop 6. (I was going to say 7, but then remembered that 7 was basically 6 ported to OS X.) Certainly, Photoshop has had new features added since version 6, but most have been the kinds of thing best done with a single-purpose utility (e.g. stitching panoramas), or things that are nice to have but which I don’t use in practice (e.g. 16-bits per channel color), or things that it would probably be better if Photoshop didn’t do them (almost anything to do with 3d, although CS4’s perspective matching tools are very cool).

By and large, the few useful improvements to Photoshop since version 6 (perhaps most notably hierarchical layers) are outweighed by a steadily deteriorating UI (precipitously deteriorating in the case of Windows). In fact, I don’t think I’d use CS4 over 6 on Windows.

CS5 looks to be different. The killer feature for Photoshop CS5 is content-aware fill and delete, which is essentially a more usable wrapper around CS4’s content-aware functions. For Mac users, the new version is also 64-bit, which means CS5 may be the new 6 in that it establishes a solid new foundational feature set. I don’t think I will be able to go back to not having content-aware delete after having it. (Bad news for the Photoshop wannabes too, since content-aware algorithms are rocket science.)

As for the “suite” the news is decidedly less rosy.

In this video we’re informed of the five killer features in Web Premium, which are:

  • Flash now actually integrates with an external editor for writing source code. (Note: not an as in any external editor but an as in one external editor. Good news if you love Flash Builder, bad news otherwise.)
  • Flash now lets you build iPhone apps… oops! I guess they didn’t have time to edit that. Pretty hard to fix a couple of videos with only a few days’ warning if you don’t have good video editing software handy. Might I suggest Final Cut Studio?
  • Photoshop has some new half-assed 3d features to go with its existing half-assed 3d features, so you can do 3d without knowing anything about 3d. (A lot like how Word lets you do typography without knowing anything about typography, and Dreamweaver lets you build websites without knowing anything at all, I guess.)
  • Dreamweaver now lets you preview via the host server… kind of like Coda (and every other Mac web tool these days).
  • Dreamweaver now integrates with BrowserLab (which still does onion skinning the wrong way — didn’t I send them feedback a year or two ago? Bah…). Will they stop me from using BrowserLab without Dreamweaver? I am not going to start using Dreamweaver. Apparently use of CS Live (as it has been branded) is “complimentary” for a “limited time”.

I shit you not. That’s it.

Also note that there’s no mention of Fireworks there at all — a program many UI people consider the only really useful thing Adobe sells aside from Photoshop (and no, I am not one of those people). No love there, I guess. (“Our UI no longer has any 5pt text” would be a killer feature right there.)

Design vs. Production vs. Web “Premium”

The biggest annoyance with the way Adobe (and Macromedia before it) bundles their products is that you end up paying for crap you don’t want, and the only way to get the stuff you actually want is to buy the Master Collection or give up and do without.

E.g. Web and Design Premium both contain Dreamweaver, which I will not suffer to live on a hard disk under my control. (In essence, Web Premium has Flash Builder in it — which might conceivably be useful, Production Premium has After Effects, Premiere, and Soundbooth but no Dreamweaver or Fireworks, and Design Premium has InDesign in it. All have Flash “Professional” (there’s no non-pro version any more), Flash Catalyst (which I’m guessing is in the Dreamweaver category), Photoshop “Extended” (there’s no non-extended version any more), Illustrator, and Web and Design have Acrobat Pro.

Here’s what I want: Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and — if you twist my arm — Fireworks and Flash Builder. Sadly, my best option is Web Premium which forces me to take Dreamweaver. I’d almost prefer to ditch Dreamweaver and Fireworks in favor of at least getting a program I won’t use that doesn’t offend me (like After Effects or InDesign).

(BTW, it’s the “premium” bundles I’m talking about, although the only non-premium bundle still around seems to be Design, which comprises InDesign, Acrobat, Photoshop, and Illustrator.)

And here’s the final kicker.

I’ve been using a free trial of CS4 on my notebook for the last month because I knew CS5 was coming out any minute and didn’t want to buy CS4 and immediately need to upgrade/replace it. CS5 ships in May, but if you need it now: buy CS4! (And no free upgrade — well who knows, but I kind find any reference to it on what passes for Adobe’s website.) Luckily there’s a new Mac on the way for me to install free trials on…