Adobe Illustrator CS5 HTML5 Pack

Adobe recently announced the release of their HTML5 Pack for Adobe Illustrator CS5. It’s totally free for Illustrator CS5 users. Here’s a quick rundown from their site:

  • Efficiently design for web and devices by exporting Illustrator Artboards for unique screen sizes using SVG and CSS3 media queries.
  • Create web widgets with Illustrator by generating dynamic vector art for data driven web work-flows.
  • Take advantage of the latest enhancements to SVG and Canvas to generate interactive web content.
  • Map artwork appearance attributes from designer to developer tools—export from the Illustrator Appearance Panel to CSS3 for streamlined styling of web pages.

It’s interesting that this was released around the same time that Apple relaxed their rules about how iPhone and iPad apps can be developed, specifically in allowing tools like Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler found in Flash CS5.

In effect, Apple now allows Adobe use their Flash-based tools to develop apps, and Adobe releases tools to allow Illustrator CS5 users to develop non-Flash interactive content for the web — which in particular means developing interactive content for the iPhone and iPad. And of course for Android, since most Android phones still do not have the capability to run Flash content.

Note that this has nothing to do with Flash content displaying on Apple’s iOS devices, but interestingly offers an alternative to Flash for developing interactive web content. The two are only loosely related, but I find the shift in attitude from both companies very surprising and welcome.

I’m glad to see Adobe offering these tools and stepping up to the plate. Sure, they have a lot riding on Flash and would prefer creators to use their proprietary formats. But designers need to have tools to develop in whatever environment is applicable to their project. If a client wants HTML5, Adobe needs to offer the tools to do so before someone else beats them to it.

Adobe Evangelist Greg Rewis has an extended video demonstrating the use of the HTML5 Pack for use on the web. Looks pretty slick:

Photoshop CS5: Performance Tips

So I recently jumped the gun and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 on the Mac. And I wasn’t too happy about it.

Let’s just say that the performance levels were not to my liking. In fact, Photoshop CS5 performed worse than CS4. I was even more confused because Adobe touted the 64-bit nature of Phototshop CS5, which was supposed to bring all sorts of performance gains. I saw none of these, and in fact the opposite.

The Rotate View tool was sluggish and jumpy, brush resizing via the keyboard was jerky at times, zooming in and out was full of hiccups and lag.

Lest you think I’ve been holding on to some old outdated machine, I’m running a Mac Pro dual-quad 2.8 Ghz with 14 GB of RAM. And like I said, CS4 was blazingly fast for me. I was really disappointed in the upgrade. In fact, I was reverting back to using CS4 for my Photoshop needs.

Reaching the end of my rope, I finally did a Google search. Lo and behold I found the Mac Performance Guide article all about Optimizing Photoshop CS5 Performance.

The series of articles explains that most of the tips for CS4 were valid, but there were a few things specific to CS5 that could use a little work. In particular, the one tip that helped me was the Cache Tile Size tip. Seems this obscure little setting in the preferences has a huge impact on Photoshop CS5’s performance, and oddly it’s set by default to a number that kills Photoshop’s performance by up to 80% in some cases!

There’s also a Memory Allocation issue which — as the author suggests — is a bug and needs to be fixed by Adobe. The author Lloyd Chambers(@digilloyd) kindly offers some “warmup” scripts as workarounds to these issues in the meantime. The basic gist is that Photoshop CS5 doesn’t properly allocate the max RAM setting you’ve told it to until it’s opened a file of that size or larger (at least that’s the idea I gathered).

I dropped an @ reply to Photoshop product manager John Nack via Twitter, and waiting to see what his take is on the default setting for the cache tile preference and the performance hit.

If you’re a Photoshop CS5 user and have any other performance tips, please sound off in the comments below.

Header image background photo via Nathan Eal

Adobe: Create Digital Magazines for the iPad

There’s been quite a brouhaha between Adobe and Apple as far as the lack of Flash on Apple’s iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch).

I’ve mentioned on GoMediaZine in the past that I believe Adobe’s best plan of action would be to offer development tools for HTML5 and for Apple’s iOS devices instead of trying to force their hand into Flash.

It’s obvious that Apple isn’t going to relent in the near future (if at all) and that Apple’s iOS products are a big success. Like it or not, they are here to stay.

Adobe has taken what I think is a great step towards offering designers and developers a way to use Adobe products to get content on these touch devices. We mentioned the Adobe Digital Publishing platform recently, but Adobe has just released further details, including iPad-specific information.

The tools will be released as an add-on for Adobe InDesign CS5, and will be available via Adobe Labs later this summer. The tools used will be the same tools used to create the successful Wired Magazine app.

Check out the brief video below to see what Adobe has up their sleeve. It looks pretty slick and I can’t wait to get my hands on it to try it out.

Adobe Digital Publishing Platform

Today Adobe announced their Digital Publishing Platform, which in their own words is “a platform which consists of applications, technologies, and services that allow publishers to cost effectively author, produce, and distribute groundbreaking content to the broadest possible audience on a wide variety of digital devices”.

While it’s hard to tell from the web page exactly what the Digital Publishing Platform is, it’s also hard not to look at it as a response to Apple’s recent stance against Flash for their mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad.

From the FAQ Adobe states that it will use “Objective-C for the iPad and the Adobe AIR for the desktop and other mobile platforms”. The FAQ also states that at this time the iPhone is not supported, at least not for the Wired Magazine app which is the flagship example of Adobe’s new platform.

From what I can gather, the DPP will use existing Adobe software such as InDesign CS5 so designers don’t need to learn or use new tools to design and at the same time will compile the final output in a format that fits the Apple app store requirements.

Additionally, the DPP will also include support for HTML5 output, which is Apple’s suggested route for web-based rich media on their devices.

Adobe plans to make the Digital Publishing Platform available to CS5 users later this year via Adobe Labs.

Adobe Creative Suite 5

It’s that time of the, um 18-month release cycle again. Time for a new version of Adobe’s Creative Suite. This time up: version 5.

For this initial overview, I’m just going to talk about the new stuff in Photoshop and Illustrator since those are the apps that I am most familiar with.

Mostly I am going to talk about what I think are the most compelling features from an illustrator/designer’s point of view.

We’ll start off with the granddaddy of Adobe software, Photoshop. Oh, and I have not used any of these new versions — but rest assured I’ll have a copy once they ship in late May 2010. Full review to come then.

Photoshop CS5

Photoshop CS5 levels the playing field with the Mac and PC versions with the Mac version finally being 64-bit. All the CS5 apps are also now native Cocoa apps on OS X, which means they finally run using the new PS X code, and not the legacy Carbon code previous versions of the Creative Suite used. this is a Good Thing. Well, at least if you aren’t running a PowerPC Mac. Cocoa is Intel-only.

From my experience, even running CS3 on a PowerPC Mac was pointless as the processor just couldn’t handle it.

Magic Delete

I’d have to say Photoshop CS5’s flagship feature is the Content-Aware Fill. If you’ve seen the videos, it looks amazing. Probably the closest thing to the “magic button” people think of when they think of Photoshop.

You can literally draw a loose selection around an object in a photograph, hit the proper delete button, and Photoshop will seamlessly figure out how to replace the background where the former object was.

It’s what you think of when you think of a computer. It also looks like magic.

Selection Heaven

Not to be outdone, the selection tools have also become more powerful, again working almost as if by magic. Adobe really out did themselves on these two features, at least as demonstrated by the videos.

What I like about these two features is that they extend and enhance the way users already work, making those tasks easier, In fact, they are no longer tasks at all.

Personally, I get sick of feature bloat when new “wow” features are added to make for good PR, but in reality the end user would prefer the tools they already use work more the way they want them to work.

In Photshop CS5, I think this may be the case with the above features. I’m looking forward to working with them to see how they hold up.

Brush Bonanaza

The last new feature that I think will also be a Big Deal is the new brush features, particularly the Mixer Brush and the Bristle Tips.

What these bring to Photoshop are new natural media painting tools that look to rival Corel Painter. Corel Painter seems to be the painting app, and it seems Adobe has been paying attention.

In conjunction with a Wacom and a tilt-sensitive stylus, this could be huge. I think it will also enhance every aspect of using brushes within Photoshop, so even if you don’t “paint” in Photoshop, these should still enhance your workflow quite significantly.

Illustrator CS5

Adobe may be featuring the new Perspective tools on their feature page for Illustrator, but from my perspective (also shared by Illustrator guru Mordy Golding, who’s actually been using CS5), the big new feature is Variable Width Strokes.

When Is A Stroke No Longer A Stroke?

Mordy Golding did a special edition of his weekly “Fridays With Mordy”, where he does live interactive screencasts showcasing features of Adobe Illustrator.

With the launch of CS5 on Monday, he did a “what’s new” episode to give all us vector junkies a guided tour of the highlights.

Mordy said that he thinks Variable-Width Strokes are not only worth the upgrade price for Illustrator, but perhaps for the entire Creative Suite. He thinks they might even be the best new feature in CS5 overall.

So what are they? As the name implies, there’s a new tool that will allow you to change the thickness of a stroke at arbitrary points along the stroke, each of which will flow into each other.

Imagine a stroke that started out at 10 points thick, then grew to 17 points thick, then tapered back down to 3 points thick. It’s like having manual control over a brush on a stroke.

Not only that, but each side of the stroke can have individual widths away from the center. And on top of that, it works with brushes, extending the level of control you have over these objects to an amazing degree.

As someone who works in Illustrator the majority of my day, and works with a lot of line art based illustrations, I am pretty stoked to start using this. It could change the way I work from now on.

Again with the brushes…

Illustrator users now also have a new natural media painting tool in their arsenal that mimics an oil or acrylic brush, all while remaining in resolution-free vector art.

“Little Big Things”

All of us Illustrator geeks were bugging Mordy on Twitter about “yeah, big new fancy features — but what about fixing the tools we already use?”.

As Mordy put it, there are a lot of “Little Big Things” in Illustrator CS5, some of which are more compelling to me than the flashy things.

A big one for me is Command-click Selections (Control-click on the PC). If you used InDesign, you know this feature, and wanted it in Illustrator. And now it’s (finally) here.

What is it? Simple, but powerful — have a stack of items, but need to select the fourth one down in the stack? Now you just need to hit the Command (Control) key and click on the stack — each click with select the object below, in order.

Next up is “Paste Into”, which is part of the new drawing modes (Draw in Front, Draw Behind and Draw Into). No need to create clipping paths anymore. Just like in InDesign, select an object, copy, select another object and Paste Into. And better than a clipping mask, the object you pasted into retains all it’s original properties as well.

Illustrator’s Artboards feature has also been greatly refined & enhanced as well. Rename them, order them up on their own new panel, and other tweaks.

Upgrade?

Honestly, as an Illustrator power-user the features I described above are enough to make me want to upgrade. But I tend to be a bit bleeding edge when it comes to my tools.

I currently work on CS4 and feel that I got every penny’s worth out of my $600 upgrade, when compared to the time it saved me, the frustrations it minimized and the ease at which I could create my artwork.

Photshop CS4 was the killer app for me in CS4, but I think Illustrator will trump this time around.

One thing that will change for me is the decision not to go with the Design Premium this time, but rather Design Standard. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I launched Flash or Dreamweaver since getting CS4. I’m sure those versions will suffice if I do need to do anything in either, however I’ve moved away from Dreamweaver for my website recently, opting for a hand-coded solution that I will update manually.

As far as Flash, well I rarely used it before, and I pretty much never use it now. I think I’ll pocket that extra $100.

Speaking of upgrade pricing, those of you going for the Design Standard like me will be coughing up $499 USD, and if you want the Premium version that’s an extra $100. And that’s for CS4 upgraders. If you’re on CS1 or CS2, tack on another $200 to each of those tiers.

If you do the math, $500 over the 18-month release cycle comes out to $27.78 per month if you keep up to date regularly. Personally that seems more than reasonable if the software enhances your workflow.

Based on the upgrade price for older versions, in the long run you save $300 over 36 months (if you upgrade every-other version). A hundred bucks a year. to me, passing up on using the new tools just isn’t worth it at those rates.

Adobe isn’t paying me to coerce you into upgrading, I just like to break things down into digestible numbers. I really don’t see the benefit of denying yourself enhanced tools to save $100 a year. Raise your hourly rate $1 an hour and be done with it. I hear so many people complain about X feature — something that’s been improved in a newer version — yet they refuse to upgrade for the “outrageous” fees.

Personally, I’ve found something compelling enough in each Creative Suite release to warrant the upgrade, and have yet to be disappointed.

So, we want to hear from you dear readers: what’s your favorite new feature? Something I’ve mentioned, or another of the new features? Or does nothing interest you? And I am sure some of you will take issue with my stance on upgrade pricing. I want to hear from you as well. Sound off in the comments section below.

Blank Canvas: Adobe Creative Suite CS5 — Are You Upgrading?

It’s that time of year again fellow creative types. Well, actually that time of the 18-month release cycle for Adobe’s Creative Suite upgrade.

I know many users out there have a feeling of “didn’t I just upgrade?”, but in fact the release cycle is indeed every 18-months and this one is right on schedule.

Come April 12th, Adobe will be hosting a live CS5 launch announcement event where we will all find out about the new features to be added.

Some of you may already be aware of some of the sneak peek videos Adobe has released for the amazing new Content-Aware Fill feature:

This looks amazing for photo editing, almost like magic!

But our question to you, dear readers: even before knowing about what’s to come in CS5, are you considering upgrading? What’s your typical policy on upgrades?

If past pricing is any indicator, upgrade pricing for the Design Premium bundle will probably be around $500 USD.

Personally, I try to always stay current with the Creative Suite upgrades, and I have heard snippets of features to the Photoshop brush tools that make it very compelling to me.

I’ve also been told by the product Manager for Adobe Illustrator that there will be a “mind blowing” feature coming to Illustrator CS5. And no, I have no inside info as to what that feature is.

I love adding new tools to my arsenal that increase my productivity and enhance my workflow. I found the CS4 upgrade to be more than worth it, and if CS5 offers anything in the way of those features, I won’t hesitate to get me upgrade license.

So leave us your opinion in the comments section below, we want to hear what the community has on their mind about CS5.

Adobe Illustrator Feature Requests: Round 1

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A while back I ran a post encouraging Adobe software users to use the feature request/bug report feedback form on Adobe’s website. This time around I want to start an semi-regular feature asking our loyal readers and visitors to take action on some specific feature requests.

As Illustrator is the program I work primarily in, it always seems to have the biggest list of feature requests for me. Go figure. Seems a lot of other vector-based illustrators feel the same way, and a lot of them were former FreeHand users jarred by the switch to Illustrator.

After some extended conversations via Twitter, IM and email with fellow cartoonist and illustrator Garth Bruner, he’s put together a list of the feature requests he’s submitted to Adobe (I wish I had saved all of mine!) and graciously  shared them with me to post here. In his own words:

Here’s my list of Feature Requests I sent to Adobe via their Feature Request Form. Most of these are to increase my efficiency with Illustrator. I really want to love Illustrator and learn as many shortcuts and tricks so that Illustrator can get out of the way, and just let me create.

Anyway, if there are ways to accomplish the things I’ve listed here, I would love to be told I’m wrong ;)

The following are Garth’s wishlist, and I am publishing them here with the added request that if you find any of these to be something you’d also like to see implemented in Illustrator, that you use the Adobe Feedback Form and requests these as well. The more voices, the better.

Also, I have annotated some of these with potential workarounds for any FreeHand users who aren’t aware how to perform a certain task within Illustrator.

Objects and Selections

Enhanced Selection tool behavior and access: I want to be able to rotate, scale, and skew an item by dragging various points/areas on the bounding box. When using the Pen tool, using Command to toggle to the Selection tool works great; please add the ability to use Command+Control to toggle to the Direct Selection tool, eliminating the need to select that tool in the Tool panel improving drawing efficiency.

* In Illustrator CS4 at least, while the Pen tool is selected, one can access the most recently used Selection tool (Selection, Direct Selection and Group Selection tools) by holding down the Command key. If one chooses the Direction Selection tool before switching to the Pen tool, one can temporarily access the Direction Selection tool via the Command key and the Group Selection tool by holding down the Command+Option modifier keys. The Group Selection tool is not the same as the Selection tool, but in many instances it can suffice.

I propose that permanent modifier keys are added to all the Selection tools: Command key for the Direct Selection tool, Command+Option for the Group Selection Tool and Command+Option+Shift for the Selection tool.

Sub-select by Command-clicking through a stack of items. Adobe has already implemented this in InDesign; if one has the Selection tool active, holding the Command key and clicking repeatedly will select each object successively below one another. This is super handy and I would love to see this implemented in Illustrator.

Visual group/path differentiation: As Illustrator currently functions, one cannot visually differentiate between a group or a path on the artboard. It would be wonderful if when an item is grouped, that just the bounding box shows with no highlighted outlines.

* I would like to see this implemented as an option in the Preferences.

Text feature requests

– A visual preview of what fonts look like from the Control Bar, just like it does in the Menu Bar > Type > Font.

– The ability to increase/decrease the kearning/leading of a paragraph by dragging the side points on a text box using a combination of key commands/click and drags.

* This can be done with keyboard shortcuts: select a text box, then use the Option key plus the right & left arrow keys to change kerning; Option plus the up/down arrows will increase/decrease leading.

– The ability to select a block of text by selecting the text itself rather than the invisible surrounding text box. This is especially irritating when there are overlapping text boxes.

Miscellaneous

Select paths by the Appearance: Illustrator needs the ability to select a path by clicking on the appearance of a path (thick line edge) rather than just on the path itself. When you have 2 paths, one with a thin line and a duplicate directly underneath with a thicker path, you should be able to select the thicker path by clicking on the outer edges of the path.

Easier blend tweaking: Need the ability to modify a blend in the contextual control bar when a blend is selected. For example, the ability to change the steps in a blend there rather than have to go to Object > Blend > Blend options… every time you want to make a change.

* Agreed, editing a Blend is a big pain in the neck as it works currently.

Copy/Paste Attributes: The ability with a key command to copy attributes from one item to another: Text, color, gradients, transparencies, effects. It is currently cumbersome to have to click on the eyedropper tool every time I want to do this, and I do it often. I know I can hit the “i” key, but not when text is selected. I’d also love the ability to copy effects at all, as you can in Photoshop (Copy/Paste Layer Style).

* A potential workaround for this is to use Graphic Styles, which can be dragged to any object.

Eyedropper Gradient Bug: When using the eye dropper tool to copy a gradient from one object to another, the gradient is copied, but not the gradient angle and placement. This could save so much time if it had the option to do so.

Align to Point: The ability to align a whole object to another object’s selected point. If this is currently possible, I don’t know how.

* The methods I am aware of to align objects are as follows (and these are under CS4): using the Align panel to align objects, select all the objects you want to align, then click on the object you want to use as the “master” object to align the others to. Aligning to point: choose the Selection tool, then click and drag on an object’s anchor point and drag to the object you want to snap to; when your cursor is over a point on the second object, releasing will snap both objects on those anchor points.

In closing

So what’s next? A few things. I want to hear back from our readers on any other Illustrator feature requests they have. Leave yours in the comments below and we’ll round up the most-wanted and run a followup post for those features in the near future.

Next, any of the above features you’d like to see in the next version of Illustrator, please copy/paste the text for the relevant feature(s) above, and submit to Adobe via their official feedback form. Yes, you’ll have to submit each individually. It will probably take about 15 minutes of your time, but if any of these features are important to you in the least, it will be worth the time spent.

The one thing Adobe has repeatedly let us know about the feedback form is that the more users requesting a feature, the more likely it is to get added to Illustrator. Sure, it’s great to complain on a blog and gripe via Twitter, but let’s take action here and put the excellent community of Go Media readers — and every other artist/designer you know — to work. We can make a change with our feature requests, but you gotta submit.

As I said, this is just the first in a series of a call-to-arms to our readers to have the software we use every day built the way we want it. I’ll be running another feature request post for Illustrator in the future, but I also want o do this for Photoshop and InDesign as well. If you have any feature requests for those applications, sound off in the comments below.

Adobe Photoshop CS5: Sneak Peek [video]

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Here’s a quick sneak video of some experimental new features being worked on by Adobe for Photoshop CS5, including “wet” paints (similar to Corel Painter) as well as a very cool-looking warp tool. Warning: corny voiceovers.