dobe’s background is in print design, and its web efforts such as GoLive and ImageReady have been, to put it kindly, less than impressive. So it seemed something of a miracle when Macromedia agreed to be taken over, allowing Adobe to add the market-leading web apps to its print portfolio.
It was the three flagship products – Dreamweaver Flash Professional and Fireworks for web graphics – along with content-focused support from editing software Contribute – that constituted Macromedia’s Web Studio, and which now form Adobe’s Web Standard suite.
For the first time all four now share the full CS interface, and each of the main three has been the focus of serious development effort. Web Standard in particular has progressed strongly on all fronts and is more dominant than ever.
That’s not the whole story, however. The bottom line is that Macromedia threw in its hand for good reason. The nature of the web is changing and, with it, the old ways of doing things. This is most obvious in the effective demise of Contribute, but Dreamweaver CS4’s hand-crafted approach to web page creation also looks increasingly old-fashioned in the Web 2.0 world.
Similarly, Flash CS4 Professional wouldn’t be anyone’s choice as a modern authoring environment for rich internet applications and content. The elephant in the room is Microsoft, which with its Expression Studio offers a more streamlined and cheaper alternative.
The fact that for the first time Dreamweaver and Flash face real competition doesn’t mean that the alternatives are better, though. The main apps might be showing their age but they both pack plenty of power. More tellingly, both brands are dominant in their fields.
Macromedia also chose Adobe for good reason. The trump card that Adobe offers is integration with its other design applications. You might assume that the benefits of such integration would be most obvious in the Web Premium CS4 suite, where the core four web apps are joined by Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro and, for the first time, Soundbooth. As Fireworks largely renders Photoshop and Illustrator redundant for web image handling, however, this adds little of real value to the web specialist’s toolkit – and Soundbooth’s catering for web audio just exposes the absence of web video handling.
The truly valuable integration that the CS4 apps introduce is to be found elsewhere: specifically in the new XML-based Flash format, XFL. Using this you can take publications created in InDesign CS4 and compositions created in After Effects CS4 and open them directly into Flash CS4 Professional. This, in effect, enables Adobe to graft on advanced interactivity and universal web delivery to its existing graphic design and motion graphic platforms.
However, neither InDesign nor After Effects makes it into the Web Premium suite, meaning that those wanting to move beyond the core Web Standard handling need to turn to CS4 Design Premium , CS4 Production Premium or the full CS4 Master Collection.