Thursday, January 31, 2008

The machine behind the man, or woman, rather.

by Lizelle R. Din

It's not a secret that I spend countless hours in front of my computer, usually with deadlines hovering over me. I will have every program imaginable open, tabbing back and forth through 7 or 8 programs to make the "magic" happen. Sadly, the sun disappears during the time I hack through the jungle that is better known as magazine publishing. But gone are the days where such primitive tools as an Exacto knife and a hot wax roller put together a page. The newest tool to conquer said jungle is Adobe Creative Suite 3. Put a tool like CS3 into my hands, and you could make me the new host of Human Weapon. Except I wouldn't have my butt drop kicked to the floor after the intense training. And yes, I am allowed to see the light of day again.

Adobe CS3 has taken all of its essential programs for print (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) and streamlined them into a monster not to be dealt with. Other programs included, such as Bridge and Acrobat, help keep files in order and ready them to be off to the printer with such ease. It makes me wonder about those designers that say they have holes in their hearts. It must be because they aren't using these programs.

What I love most about the new Photoshop is that is has been cleverly integrated with the other Adobe programs. You can still apply Photoshop filters in Illustrator, but now they are capable of being used in InDesign. New tools such as the Quick Selection tool make it easier for me to cut out parts of images that I desire, which comes in handy when a layout requires several products to all be on the same white background.

Wondering where ImageReady went? Now you can find all the Animation features for web content as a window in Photoshop. No more switching back and forth between programs to make an animated .gif.

Another new love of Photoshop, and the rest of the Suite, is the use of docks. Now all windows for any program in CS3 are neatly stored into the docks for a less cluttered workspace. And when you need a window, it will slide out from the dock once the icon is clicked. This smart feature saves space for those of us that still own a 12-inch Powerbook and squint to see what we are working on.

Illustrator has made drawing detailed vector graphics less of a hassle with the mouse and more like holding an actual paintbrush. I always wondered how I would ever make it in the Illustrator world as a left-hander, having to draw with a standard right-handed mouse. Now with newly added tools such as the eraser tool, vector graphics can be cut through and separated with automatically added points.

Another excellent find in Illustrator is the enhanced color features. All the things I learned in Color Theory 101 seem so trivial once you find this feature. Not only will the Color Guide help you organize groups of colors, you can globally change them in your document. I also found that the Color Guide will show you several options for the colors you save in a group, whether it be vivid/muted, warm/cool or tints/shades. You can also fish around for complimentary colors and shades. It is perfect for when you are working on a cover and you can't quite pick the colors you want to work harmoniously to pull the entire image together.

Bridge trumps a Finder window any day of the week. With the new Bridge, there are now enhanced preview options that let you browse through images with a more detailed look. A user friendly and editable workspace lets a user switch from seeing thumbnails of all files in a folder to a filmstrip view, where a new loupe tool magnifies the finer details of an image. There is also a filter menu, which can help one find certain types of files in seconds without having to sift through what is sometimes hundreds of files. Being organized never felt so good. My personal favorite of the program is being able to add certain folders or locations to the "Favorites" toolbar, so as bundles of images come in for print, I can quickly rename and drag them to the folders I need to keep as organized as possible.

Indesign is an essential program that I use the most in the Design Suite. The feature that caught my eye and made me fall hard was the new Multi-Place command. This comes in handy when you have a layout with 20 music reviews that all have CD covers. Your mouse comes loaded with all the files you have selected, and even lets you toggle through them to find the ones you need first. Piggybacked on this faster image placing is the Quick Apply. Much like having set paragraph and character styles, you can now apply settings for images to be styled however you need them to be without ever leaving InDesign. Pure genius.

Again, you can now use Photoshop features in InDesign. No more awkward styles and drop shadows!

Get ready for the best part of finishing layout. Now Acrobat is equipped to do all your Preflight tests and fixes before you go to the printer. There are many times where an image is left RGB which takes me about 4 or 5 steps back from being finished. Converting these images to CMYK can now be handled all in Acrobat. Not only that, you can set up Acrobat to send the files straight to the printer's FTP site. You can then wipe your hands of it and finally go to bed.

As an added bonus to this Design Suite are the basic Web design programs: Dreamweaver, Flash and Adobe Device Central. Again, Adobe does not hold back in integrating these programs more closely with Photoshop, making web design not as treaturous as a print designer would know it to be.