Adobe Creative Suite for Web Designers
14 July 2011
Unless you've lived under a very large rock for the last two decades, you have heard of graphic software super-giant, Adobe, and its design apps, the Creative Suite (MAC | WIN). It comes in different flavors for different media emphases like print, video and the web. I have the Web Premium Suite which comes with Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Fireworks and Flash.
Every web designer has a different work flow, even though most of them use the Creative Suite. The big debate challenges which of three apps each prefers for web graphic creation.
Photoshop seems to have the largest following. Probably because it's an icon. It's famous. It was the first. It's what they teach in Design 101. There's nothing wrong with it, especially if that's what you're used to and most efficient with. But, its primary purpose is photo manipulation, so its tools aren't fine-tuned for that kind of work. One advantage it has over Illustrator is its raster-based format. You can see right away what the image will look like rendered for the screen.
Illustrator is a powerful vector illustration app with a pretty sizable following. This is the camp I belong to. Yeah, it's not without its compromises, and because it's vector-based, seems to make the least sense. I just have this irrational crush on Illustrator that I can't shake. I love how it works and feels. I love the art it creates. I love its name. But before you lose all respect for me and my opinions, allow me a little justification. First, while Photoshop and Fireworks handle raster graphics natively, the style of graphics that Illustrator excels at suits the web very well. Photoshop has grainy, photographic effects, while Illustrator churns out smooth, clean and, well, downright sexy shapes — which fits more with the web aesthetic. And second, the moment you turn on the pixel grid in Illustrator, it's as good as working in a raster program.
Often overshadowed by its more renowned bigger brothers, Fireworks hasn't really gotten all the credit it deserves. It was adopted, after all. Originally born, along with Flash, in the labs of Macromedia, Fireworks is actually a fitting addition to the family, contrary to many designers' original beliefs. It marries vector and raster graphics intended for screen prototyping and user interfaces. It's got tools for rollovers, menus, image maps, animated gifs, interactive prototypes and more. Getting into the nitty gritty of Fireworks is on my to do list. I really want to add it to my workflow. Adobe has refined this app with us in mind!
The other apps in the Web Premium suite are quite web-specific:
There are two different modes of operation within Dreamweaver: design view and code view. Design view looks great at first, especially when you don't know anything about code. The sad truth is, it will almost never write the code the way it ought to. It is, however, an excellent code editor. The code hinting and completion features, syntax coloring and built-in FTP client make it very useful and just as good as any other mainstream editor. If it comes with your pricey creative suite, why not use it?
This may well be the most controversial of the Creative Suite apps. For years it was king of rich web interaction. Its plugin penetration on computers is still somewhere around 98%. Flash has a few weaknesses though: it is proprietary, search engines can't read Flash text, and it swallows CPU & battery power like a toddler swallows, well, everything. That's why Steve Jobs refused to permit the Flash player on iOS devices. As a result, developers have been jumping ship on Flash content. I don't think this means we should abandon Flash altogether. It is still a great animation platform, and you can export Flash projects to many different web compatible video formats. Just be smart about it.
Which Creative Suite app do you make excuses to use?
Why is it your favorite?