Are creative tools ready for Vista?

Microsoft's Vista may have hit U.K. shelves last week, but few creative applications from Adobe, Autodesk and others are ready to play.

Digit spoke to many developers of software for creative professionals across graphic and Web design, motion graphics, animation, 3D and video editing -- and found that many users of such applications are going to have to wait some time before upgrading to Vista.

Vista doesn't offer any major additions for such users, but is designed to offer a more efficient and aesthetically pleasing experience through tools such as a much improved search system, tighter security from viruses and other malware, and the Aero user interface.

Most of the major software applications in this market will install and run on Vista, according to the companies we contacted, but stable use isn't assured and official support is rare so far.

Adobe has the largest portfolio of creative products, but none of its shipping pro-level applications or suites officially support Vista. The beta version of Photoshop CS3, which is available from the Adobe Labs Web site, is designed for Windows Vista (as well as Windows XP).

All of the products in the current Creative Suite 2.3 -- Photoshop CS2, InDesign CS2, Illustrator CS2, GoLive CS2, Acrobat 8 Professional and Dreamweaver 8 -- don't officially support Vista, Adobe says that it isn't "currently aware of any major issues that would adversely affect customer use" of the suite on Vista. Some minor issues have been encountered, which are covered at the company's technical knowledgebase.

Acrobat 7 Professional, which was included with the original Creative Suite 2, will not run properly under Windows Vista. Adobe says that it will release an update for Acrobat 8 - and Adobe Reader 8 - to firm up support for Vista in the first half of 2007.

All of the other applications will be upgraded when the next versions of its pro creative applications are released in the Spring and Summer of 2007, according to Adobe.

Video for Vista?

The company uses a lot less positive language when talking about the use of its current Production Studio bundle -- which includes After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD and Audition, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator -- than with the Creative Suite. It notes one major issue that can stop Encore from running, details of which can be found in TechNote 333696 on the company's technical knowledgebase.

Adobe says that the next version of Adobe Production Studio will be certified to run on 32-bit versions of four editions of Windows Vista -- Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate -- though a release date has not yet been announced.

It's expected that, in general, creative applications that are currently compatible with Windows XP Home will require the Home Premium version of Windows Vista -- while owners of those programs that currently require Windows XP Professional will have to use at least the Business version.

No XPress delivery for Quark on Vista

A Quark spokesperson says that the company expects to release an update for QuarkXPress 7 within the next six months that will add support for Windows Vista -- though the company says that "we will only support QuarkXPress 7 on Windows Vista when we're confident that customers will be able to use it productively and reliably in their workflows."

Few XPress 7 users are currently using Vista, notes Quark, saying that, "by the time that our customers have had the opportunity to thoroughly test Windows Vista, QuarkXPress 7 will be officially supported on this platform."

The update will be made available free to existing users of QuarkXPress 7.

Corel ahead of the game

Corel is currently the furthest ahead with adding support for Windows Vista to its creative applications. The company has released Service Packs for both its CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3 and Paint Shop Pro Photo X1 that offer official compatibility with Vista, and the new version of Painter, announced today, also has full Vista support.

Full details of the company's Vista plans can be found at Corel Web site.

Autodesk looks to future for Vista

Autodesk hasn't included official support for Windows Vista to Maya 8.5, which was announced and released on January 15 -- nor does the current version of 3DS Max 9. The company won't comment on future releases but Rob Hoffman, senior manager of product marketing told Digit, "as with 64-bit support, it's not a matter of if but when."

Hoffman says that Autodesk's customers aren't clamoring to use Microsoft's latest operating system -- instead preferring to wait until the stability of the platform with both software and hardware is assured.

Hardware support for Vista -- though further along than that with many software tools -- is nowhere near complete. 3D suites such as Maya and 3DS Max require workstation-class graphics boards such as ATI's Fire GL and nVidia's Quadro FX ranges. ATI hasn't released Vista drivers for its Fire GL cards, and nVidia describes the driver for its Quadro FX boards as "basic."

Early days for 3D suites

A NewTek spokesperson says that several LightWave users have moved to Vista and "the level of compatibility so far seems very good. However, it is too early to say that LightWave 9 is fully compatible with Vista."

At the time of writing, Avid -- including its Softimage subsidiary -- and Maxon have yet to provide an official response to our enquiries. We will update this story when details become available.

Toon Boom Animation is one of the first companies off the blocks with Vista support, having released Toon Boom Studio 3.5 Service Pack 1, which amongst other improvements adds full support for Windows Vista. The Service Pack can be downloaded from the members area of the Toon Boom Web site.

XP hardware still available

Luckily for users in need of a new computer, workstations and laptops are still available with Windows XP from both big brands such as Dell and HP, and more specialized vendors -- and the more expensive a model is, the more likely it is to offers Windows XP as standard.

HP, for example, will not be offering pre-configured workstation models with Windows Vista until April. However, Vista can be chosen as an option through the company's online system building system -- though such systems can take up to two weeks to be delivered.

From the information we've gathered, it's clear that most creative professionals are going to want to wait until at least this summer -- when the first generation of Vista-ready suites should ship -- before upgrading or buying a new computer that runs Windows Vista.

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