Adobe CS3's mix & match menu

And they came down hard on Microsoft for having too many package options when Vista and Office came out? Puh-leeze. Adobe announced Creative Suite 3 yesterday, and as expected it’s a mess of options. 12+ different applications, 6 different packages and multiple upgrade and a la carte choices.

InDesign CS3 looks fantastic. I saw the demo where you can apply a gradient mask to a placed image right within InDesign and Adobe, you had me at hello. The new find/change options and styles on table cells sweeten the deal. Illustrator’s changes aren’t quite as exciting for me, since I tend to use Illustrator only to get logos and vector graphics in and out of InDesign. But still, it’s painful to open and close Illustrator CS2 on this Intel Mac so that alone will be worth the upgrade.

I know I want InDesign, Photoshop (can’t even think of going back to CS2 after using the beta these few months), Illustrator and Dreamweaver. Fireworks would be nice to have. So it looks like I have to spend $599 on the Design Premium package which gives me those applications (not Fireworks), plus Acrobat 8 which I already have. Plus it’s the Photoshop “extended” version which I’m not quite sure I have any use for, but I’ll take it. I looked at going for the Design Standard package of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and adding Dreamweaver separately, but that’s $399 + $199. So looking at it that way, I’m getting Photoshop Extended for $1 by going for the Premium package.

I may end up having C3 buy it instead to take advantage of nonprofit pricing. That is, after all, how I use the software 98% of the time.

As far as Fireworks goes, that’s a mixed bag. They’re only offering the software separately. There are some really new and interesting features, like multi-page support. But for the most part, this software is a distant cousin. It looks and feels like the old Macromedia product, warts and all. Dreamweaver gets away with this in areas that Fireworks has a little more difficulty pulling off. I was a Fireworks beta tester and while “disappointed” is an easy word to grab, it’s not entirely accurate. This article sums it up nicely:

In short, Fireworks CS3 is pretty much the same Web image creation and optimization product it’s been since at least the beginning of the century. What that ultimately means, however, largely depends on who you are. If you go way back with Fireworks, you’ll likely be relieved at the continuity (not to mention the fact that it beat out ImageReady). However, if you’ve been using the newly deceased ImageReady, you may be thrown for a bit of a loop when attempting to grapple with the old-school Macromedia interface.

Beyond that, I find some basic interface quirks truly annoying. For example, I am very used to clicking on the field name and hitting the up and down arrows to adjust a setting in a palette or dialog box. In Fireworks, the keyboard shortcuts are rudimentary at best. You’re adjusting settings with sliders. I like the ability to do basic math in the “X” and “Y” and “width” and “height” fields to move objects around. Want to position something a quarter of the way down the page? Just click in the “Y” field and type “11 in/4″ and voila! Want to make a box 1/2” wider? Just add “+ .25 in” to the “width” field, even if it’s displaying the width in pixels. Fireworks does none of these things. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s often a deal-breaker in my workflow.

And don’t get me started on how Fireworks handles text.

Fireworks still does a far better job of optimizing images for the web and visualizing web layouts than Photoshop does. That’s why I use it. And it has many fans. But those fans are a small minority of Adobe’s customer base.