I was surprised when I heard that Adobe were releasing a CS5 suite this year. To me, it didn’t feel like much time had passed since CS4 had been released, and I wondered if it was too soon. Being a web developer, designer and small business owner, I had gotten used to a smooth, efficient workflow with the products in the CS4 suite. I knew key commands, I was used to the quirks, and had learned when to expect, and how to avoid crashes. My clients, colleagues and friends were all using those versions too, so I didn’t need to worry about file compatibility, when I say, sent a Flash file across to a friend for review, or sent a Photoshop file to a designer for finishing work. More importantly, I felt like I could achieve high quality work, with what felt to me like very high-quality tools (they still do, by the way).

CS4 is still good enough, powerful enough and modern enough to let you produce just about anything your mind can conjure.  So, the simple question is this; do I need to upgrade to CS5? My short answer is no, you don’t need to. Do you want this new version? Yes, you probably do, and once you’ve got it, you won’t go back. CS5 is as stable as CS4, looks and feels mostly the same, but with some handy extras and a few new tools.

In my mind, I feel like I’m judging this release a little harshly. This is probably because from a cosmetic level, you probably won’t notice many great changes. I don’t want to sound like I don’t like CS5 though, because I actually do. I use the applications in this suite a lot, and every day, there are some features I’ve grown very fond of. Especially, I love the fact that I now have a development workflow between the newly named Flash Builder and Flash Professional that lets me do my Action Script development in a real programming environment, and my timeline-based Flash in the normal Flash environment (where else?). Photoshop feels snappy and powerful too, in all it’s 64-bit glory. Everything looks good. The installers and updaters are better. But, how far beyond those things does this release go?

I’ll give a brief run through of some of the new features that piqued my interest as I was leafing through the documentation for this new release, and some of the ones I’ve discovered in my daily usage. I’ve chosen to review the software I use most regularly, and the software that forms part of a typical Web Developer / Designer’s workflow. These programs are:
  • Flash Professional
  • Flash Builder
  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • Dreamweaver
Please note that these opinions are from the perspective of a web developer, who does equal parts Flash and web development, as well as quite a bit of design. These opinions might not relate well to say, a photographer or retoucher. In any case, you’d be wise to make your own investigations and evaluations of this product, as Adobe does kindly provide fully functional demo versions of the entire product suite at www.adobe.com.