Adobe CS3 Web Premium is great!

18 September 2007

Earlier this year, Adobe released their first large web developer software suite since acquiring Macromedia.  Basically a combination of the best Adobe Creative Suite and Macromedia Studio products, it’s been heralded as the largest and most important Adobe release ever. In early May, I plopped down $1,599 of my hard-earned dollars on the “CS3 Web Premium” package.  I’d rank it as one of the highest value personal software purchases in my lifetime to date, up there with buying the 3.5” disk version of Microsoft Visual Basic 3.0 and an MSDN subscription in high school.  Not just in dollar value, but just “awesome, amazing, sweet, really useful” value. Since then, I’ve been using various CS3 products almost every day.  Time for my quick review (IMO)!

The good

  • Photoshop CS3 continues to be the best tool out there. I use it with my digital photos, when working on Word documents, and even while working on assets for use in web applications built for Silverlight
  • Hundreds of really new and useful features in all the products
  • Proof that Adobe still knows how to produce and package amazing software for creative types
  • Flexible activation:  I love that I’m able to legally use my CS3 on both my ThinkPad T60 as well as my more powerful quad core workstation at home
  • Flash CS3’s interface is more refined and useful than previous releases

The bad

  • Inconsistent interface: Even though some applications contain fundamental shifts in the user interfaces from their previous versions, there’s little consistency between the applications-even when there are new integration features that have been placed in the CS3 suite!
  • Inconsistent interface part 2: The splash screens make the first-time launch and out-of-box experience feel really disjoint; many of the Web Premium applications start up with a Flash-powered “Welcome/Dashboard” type screen… but each one has a slightly different look, feel, and set of visual controls.
  • Performance: I’ve only noticed slow performance in Photoshop CS3 Extended, at least compared with the last time I used Photoshop CS back in college, many tasks leave me waiting—although I’m sitting here on a very powerful quad core machine.  I don’t know if the software is not optimized for multiple cores, if I’ve misconfigured the app, or what!
  • Price for the package: I found myself really only needing the latest and greatest Photoshop and Flash SKUs, with slight interest in the rest of the CS3 Web Premium package.  It wasn’t cheap, since this was mostly a hobbyist purchase.

My impressions as a Microsoftie

  • Adobe tools are definitely still useful while developing Silverlight web applications.  I expect those professionals who own Adobe tools and are productive, efficient, and experienced with them will probably continue to use them while developing Silverlight applications at times.  Not as slick as Expression Blend 2, but the Adobe interfaces are tried and true
  • As a developer too, CS3 Web Premium doesn’t do much to help me experiment with Flex and AIR development (different audience, I know!)
  • It kind of hurts knowing that I spent more on Adobe software last year than my cell phone bill! (just kidding)
  • On Windows, I’ve grown to love the new Visual Studio 2008 for web development—even when working on CSS and HTM files for use on PHP sites!  The new JavaScript editing experience in VS08 is just that good, and VS is always a beautiful text editor.  No need for Dreamweaver really!

“Future Heat”

  • Expression Studio is targeted toward creative web professionals, and the more I learn the intricacies of it, the less I’m relying on Adobe CS3 products for prototyping, visualizing, and building rich digital content… there’s probably a set of creative designer-developers who will be comfortable working without CS3 once they believe in Silverlight
  • GIMP and Paint.NET continue to gain in power, the casual web developer or hobbyist can now create excellent content without purchasing Adobe Photoshop CS3
Hope this is interesting!

Jeff Wilcox is a Software Engineer at Microsoft in the Open Source Programs Office (OSPO), helping Microsoft engineers use, contribute to and release open source at scale.

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