Adobe CS4 Master Collection Review - Worth the Price

Besides having the whole package, speed and efficiency of production is what makes the Adobe CS4 Master Collection worth its price.  The applications in the Adobe CS4 Master Collection have streamlined interfaces and integration for designing and editing images, Web pages, mobile sites, desktop apps, animation, film, and print layouts, and support the latest digital formats.  The package is easier to install than CS3.  It's also relatively reasonable considering how much the individual programs would cost.  This is definitely for the professional, but enthusiasts will benefit greatly as well.  It's quite the digital toolbox.. There are applications for concocting and print layouts, video, web pages, editing digital pixel and vector graphics, and animation, and repurposing that content for mobile devices. CS4 integrates former Macromedia products into its interface better than CS3 and the Flash based panels are more user friendly with preset styles.

Adobe CS4 Master Collection

Its retail cost is $2,499.  Buying all Master Collection applications individually would cost around $6000. Upgrade costs $899. It costs $1,599 for users of other CS3 suites to upgrade, or $1,199 for users with two eligible older versions of the suite or more than $2,000 if upgrading from CS3 versions.

For hardware, users of Windows XP SP2 or Vista should have a processor of at least 2GHz. Photoshop now supports 64-bit Vista, while Premiere, After Effects, Soundbooth, Encore, and OnLocation are certified for 64-bit Vista.  Also, check Adobe's site for more specifics. Mac users need an Intel multicore processor running Mac OS X version 10.4.11 or newer, at least 2GB of RAM, and free hard-disk space of 26.3GB or higher. Installation comes via DVD.

How it works
The Web abounds with complaints about Adobe's installer and updater, and most are justified. Every Windows application installer suggests you close any running applications, but you can usually ignore it and 99 percent of the time everything works out fine. Adobe forces you to close your browser and all Microsoft Office applications, because many of the programs in the suite--primarily Acrobat--spread octopus-like tentacles throughout your working environment. That's pretty appalling in and of itself, but in addition to wasting a large chunk of time installing, you can't do anything else but play Solitaire while it's happening. And as before with the updater, you'll get to relive this delightful close-your-apps-or-else experience on a regular basis. Plus, the installation "progress" bar bears no relation to reality whatsoever, with its two steps forward and one step back movement.

Unfortunately, it took us nearly 2 hours to install the Adobe Master Collection CS4 on Windows Vista and XP machines (we didn't test CS4 thoroughly on a Mac). But that's still less time than with CS3. Adobe's custom installation lets you pick and choose which components to embrace or reject, but there's no mechanism for migrating your settings and all your custom tools.

Bells and Whistles
Live tech support is excellent, but prohibitviely expensive.  The comprehensive, "self help" include embedded and online lookups and tutorials. The Adobe Support Portal requires an Adobe log-in and password. There are peer options, web forums, and support sites all over the internet for information and help as well.  It just requires a bit of due diligence. Up to three people are allowed to collaborate on a project in real time. Adobe Community Help provides technical support, while the Resource Central library offers media and tutorials.

If you rely on Adobe software for work, then CS4 could be worth the plunge, depending upon your staple tools. We find CS4 a more worthwhile upgrade than CS3 was. There's not much to wow users of Photoshop who don't work with 3D content, but Illustrator finally manages multipage documents. Flash, on the other hand, takes a big leap forward by slashing the steps required to build animation. Premiere can handle batch encoding and manage footage from tapeless cameras, while it and Soundbooth both convert recorded speech into text.

Workflow improvements to CS4 include autofill searches for timelines and projects in AfterEffects. Adobe aimed to improve the options for making round trips among the applications without rebuilding content. For instance, you can export Fireworks designs as CSS and bring them into Dreamweaver. There's greater integration from one application to the next, with support for the latest formats for Web sites and mobile phones, including desktop Adobe AIR applications. Please find links to reviews of individual applications in the chart below.

Adobe went a head and added more powder to the fire.  According to an ROI study on CS4, if found that -

For Design Professionals:
  • Users can identify and eliminate production-level errors more than twice as fast in CS4 than in previous versions by activating the Live Preflight feature in InDesign.
  • Switching between multiple documents with tabbed user interface windows takes less than one-third the time with CS4 than it took with previous versions.
  • New Smart Guides provide positioning hints including alignment with borders, spacing and angle rotation when one is creating or modifying objects on a page. Creation of a new object and aligning it with two other objects now takes less than half the time it took with CS3.
For Digital Imaging Professionals:
  • Taking simple, non-destructive adjustments to an image is more than twice as fast using Adjustment Panels with Photoshop CS4 than with previous versions.
  • Bridge CS4 increases efficiency in managing a wide variety of files and Metadata. The new Review mode helps users review and select images for use twice as fast than with previous releases of the application.
  •         o   Open GL support in Photoshop CS4 helps speed up image-navigation features including zooming and panning. Benchmark tests showed that in one month it can save users one hour and 40 minutes.
For Web Professionals:
  • New commands such as Live Preview and Live Code are designed to eliminate time-consuming tasks that can shave hours off of web development projects each month. Using Live Code versus checking code in the browser to preview a web page now takes 68 percent less time.
  • With Flash CS4 and a more streamlined process for creating Motion tweens, web professionals can create simple animations in one-third of the time than with previous releases.
  • Photoshop Smart Objects in Dreamweaver CS4 allows users to place native, multi-layered Photoshop files in a web page without needing to update images already placed. With three Photoshop round-trips, CS4 users take 33.98 seconds to complete the project, less than half the time it took in previous versions.
For Video Professionals:
  • CS4 users who leverage the new Speech to Text feature in Premiere Pro to search for a specific spoken phrase in a 10-minute video can achieve results in 16.46 seconds. Users of previous versions would have taken almost a minute and a half to get the same results.
  • Navigating to a specific layer or effect in a complex After Effects project containing thousands of layers previously may have taken nearly two minutes. With Quicksearch in After Effects CS4, searches now take 80 percent less time.
  • Working with OnLocation in CS4 revolutionizes tapeless video capture by uploading footage directly to the hard drive of a computer for immediate editing, which eliminates time spent ingesting video from tape. It now takes less than a minute with CS4 versus more than 11 minutes with previous versions of Creative Suite.

If your shop is somewhat Adobe centric and you need to use applications across media then this would be a better deal than buying applications piecemeal.  

        Adobe CS4 Master Collection Applications include:
            InDesign CS4
            Photoshop CS4 Extended
            Illustrator CS4
            Acrobat 9 Pro
            Flash CS4 Professional
            Dreamweaver CS4
            Fireworks CS4
            Contribute CS4
            After Effects CS4
            Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
            Soundbooth CS4
            Adobe OnLocation CS4
            Encore CS4
            Adobe Bridge CS4
            Adobe Device Central CS4
            Dynamic Link
            Version Cue CS4

To learn more about Adobe CS4 Master Collection visit the Adobe website here

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