The San Jose-based software developer has confirmed the package to include new versions of Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Flash Player, InDesign, Photoshop, and Soundbooth, but will also bundle minor updates to the suite's remaining components.
People privy to private demonstrations of Creative Suite 4 say the update will generally be minor, with only a few new features tacked on to each application. "The lack of compelling new features has been the discussion among many employees and customers that are testing the software," one of those people said, "with many relating CS4 to a maintenance release rather than a complete new version."
Photoshop's new 3D feature, which allows 3D objects to be imported as wireframes, stands to benefit only a small group of users such as architects, engineers, and package designers, according to those familiar with the software. Some also describe the application's new interface (shown below) as a step backwards. Information from entire screens and dialog boxes is now fitted to a small palette with the goal of making the interface look consistent with the other applications, they say.
The new version of Photoshop will also feature a Flash services panel, natural canvas rotation, content aware image resizing and deliver 64-bit support for Windows users.
One of the big features of InDesign CS4 will be a new Flash export option, but those familiar with the product say the feature is somewhat impractical, given that text can only be edited one line at a time after it's exported. InDesign files exported to Flash may also not contain any multimedia content such as movies because they'll get stripped out in the conversion process and need to be re-added using Flash.
Unlike the new Photoshop interface (detailed below), InDesign CS4 uses a more conventional layout, with a standard document window and Office-style floating palette menus.
Among the new features of Flash CS4 are a completely new "and proper" timeline dubbed Motion Editor, as well as a new object-based motion tween model. While some have praised the Flash's new animation model as "the best thing" to happen to the software, others believe it may present a new learning curve that further fragments the Flash community.
"The reengineered file format means that the Flash community, still split between ActionScript 2 and 3, will now be split with new source file formats," one person said.
Another big push behind CS4 will be collaboration. Leveraging its web conferencing business and Connect software, Adobe has built a new feature into all CS4 applications that will allow users to initiate a screen-sharing sessions from the File Menu.
Kuler, Adobe's color creation and sharing product, will also be available across all the CS4 programs, and each product in the suite will ship with a feature called Adobe Drive to help share files between programs.
New Tabbed Window Interface
The user interface for each application will also see minor changes. The most notable differences include a tabbed interface to switch between open documents, and a workspace switching menu to choose which menus and palettes are displayed.
Also somewhat controversial is Adobe's effort to rework the title bar on both Windows and the Mac to a new design that doesn't follow the human interface guidelines of either, although this is only carried forward in specific applications in the suite.
In a confidential note to beta testers, Adobe wrote "the advantages of this new unifying App bar are: On Windows, it saves vertical real estate by combining title bar, main menu bar, and windowing controls in a single row; emphasizes task-based workspaces; up-levels and exposes commonly used View controls (currently hidden in bottom status bars or in menus); allows for cross-suite common controls such as UI Search and Multiple Monitor controls; unifies user experience across the CS applications."
"On the Mac," Adobe said, "the main menus are not moving to the Application bar but instead remain at the top of the main monitor."
Photoshop CS4 (below) shows the new title bar with tools adjacent to the close, minimize, and zoom buttons, as well as the tabbed document interface, 3D menu, and other pulldowns.
People familiar with Adobe's plans say the company will continue to offer multiple versions of the Creative Suite, continuing with the same suite configurations. Upgrades for the most popular suite, Design Premium, are expected to be priced at $699. (Update: CS4 is now available here)