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Review: Adobe Creative Suite 3 Combines Two Creative Powerhouses

When Adobe announced at the end of 2005 that it was merging with Macromedia, there was much hand-wringing in the creative community over which products would survive the merger.

For a time, Adobe simply stayed the course, offering both Macromedia Studio 8 and its own Adobe Creative Suite 2, while staffers worked to find ways to combine the best of both companies into a single cohesive group. Over the last year, it offered us glimpses of what was to come: Adobe added a Flash-based meeting tool from Macromedia to Acrobat 8, for example, and added the ability to insert Adobe PDFs directly into Contribute 4, a former Macromedia product. But it wasn't until now, with the release of Creative Suite 3, that we got to see the full picture of how Adobe merged its products.

(Click image to go to Image Gallery.)

Adobe has divided the products into three logical groups aimed at different sets of creative professionals -- print, Web, and video post-production -- offering a premium and standard version of each. It also plans to release a Master Collection later this year with all of the products across all three Creative Suite product lines in a single box.

For this review, I looked at a beta of the Creative Suite 3 Web Premium edition. According to Adobe, Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium and Standard, and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium and Standard will ship in April. Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium will ship in the third quarter of 2007.

Overall, it seems that Adobe hasn't tried to come up with any major new functionality changes. Instead, it concentrated on providing a common look and feel, and on finding ways to leverage the strengths of both sets of products, creating easy links among the individual products and a smoother workflow. Most of the changes across individual products are incremental, not show-stoppers by any means, but it's certainly a reasonable start, and Adobe has done a good job facilitating integration across the suite.

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