Graphics tool makers in showdown

As Macromedia's StudioMX 2004, a comprehensive new release of its bundled design apps, goes on sale, Adobe has announced a new "suite" of upgrades to its design products

As Macromedia's StudioMX 2004, a comprehensive new release of its bundled design apps, goes on sale, Adobe has announced a new “suite” of upgrades to its design products.

It’s Adobe's first synchronised upgrade of all its design tools – Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, GoLive and Acrobat – in a release almost synchronised with the competition. While StudioMX 2004 is already here, Adobe’s Creative Studio, in Premium and Standard versions (the Standard Edition lacking GoLive and Acrobat), isn’t due until the end of November.

Macromedia’s release consolidates its standing as producer of web design tools, while Adobe promises to add features to its standard-setting graphics tools, push ahead with publishing platform InDesign, and further integrate PDF as the key to graphics workflow.

Adobe is signalling greater interface consistency in the applications. There will be a new asset management tool called Version Cue, which will provide thumbnails, keywords and advanced searching, and will support file sharing.

Photoshop is set to get more functionality for 16-bit images, a new shadow/highlight enhancing tool and a tool for matching the colour range of an image. Also promised is improved digital camera input, (though surprisingly no mention of a red eye removal tool).

InDesign will get separation and flattener previews to prevent unexpected output. Photoshop PSD images will import with spot colour channels intact, allowing full multi-plate support. Illustrator gets a new tool for creating editable 3D objects, better type control and OpenType support. PDF export will also be improved, but Illustrator will still not produce a multi-page document.

Rather than just get unique applications to look similar to each other, Macromedia, meantime, has built a consistent interface for its tools, while also reducing palette-clutter. The result is a truly integrated suite, rather than just a bundle of separate applications. For example, with Fireworks installed, web graphics can be edited within Dreamweaver without having to open Fireworks; it’s approaching the designer’s dream of a single app that does everything.

This release continues Macromedia’s commitment to enabling code-friendly WYSIWYG web development while improving the ability to preview changes within the environment. This is most notable in the area of CSS support in Dreamweaver, in the maintenance of code between Dreamweaver and Fireworks and the incorporation of CSS into Flash.

MX 2004 represents remarkable value, with one shortcoming -- the slim printed documentation. The suite will be launched in Auckland on Tuesday. Details are at www.vivid.net.au/macromedia/mx2004_inv1/mx2004launch.html.

It’s worth noting that Macromedia’s product still runs on Windows 98SE, but Adobe’s will need at least Mac OS X 10.2.4, Windows 2000 SP2, or Windows XP.

Adobe’s Creative Suite Premium will cost $3199; $2579 for Standard; upgrades are $1749 and $1289 respectively.

The estimated price for StudioMX is $1730 or $1925 with Flash Professional; upgrades are $770 and $960 respectively.

Canning is an Auckland designer.

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