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Software Review – Adobe Master Collection – Illustrator CS3 From Adobe Systems

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This is part three of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 (CS3) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS3 earlier this year, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

What do you need to run Adobe Photoshop CS3? On Windows you need an Intel® Pentium® 4, Intel Centrino®, Intel Xeon®, or Intel Core™ Duo (or compatible) processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, on Mac, PowerPC® G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.8 – 10.5 (Leopard), 512 MB RAM, 64 MB Video RAM, 1,024×768 monitor resolution with 16-bit video card, 2GB hard drive space and DVD-ROM Drive.

 Illustrator CS3 is the vector-based graphics editor that is developed and published by Adobe Systems. It was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1986 and is said to be a companion product of Adobe Photoshop. It wasn't until Illustrator 7, released in 1997 with ports for both Windows and Mac that Illustrator became a standard for designers. Illustrator CS3 is technically version 13.

Illustrator CS3 is a vector graphics editor. That is, it is an editor that allows users to create sharp-edged artistic illustrations such as cartoons, clip-art, and complex geometric patterns. The other popular image editing format is a bitmap format. Adobe Photoshop is a bitmap image editor.

So what is new with Illustrator CS3

• Live Color – CS3 gives you a complete color exploration environment. If you ever had to color objects individually, you will like the new interactive scheme to create and apply colors. The new tools include the Color Guide Panel for exploration of color groups without affecting your artwork. There is the Live Color dialog box allows you to dynamically apply colors to selected objects. And Live Color also allows you to save color variations to present color options to clients.

• Adobe Flash CS3 Professional Integration – now allows you to import, copy, or paste your vector images into your flash projects. You can save any Illustrator shape as a symbol that can then be pasted into Flash. The Illustrator type tools can create text that can be better controlled from within Flash and you can create text that can be defined as Regular, Dynamic, or Input Text and can be assigned properties that are appropriate for Flash.

• Drawing Tools and Controls – have been improved to make their use a little bit easier. By using the Direct Selection tool, you can run your cursor over any anchor point and cause it to enlarge so you can see it and select it much easier. When you select points using Direct Selection, all of the tools to delete, add, cut or join paths, or convert anchors are shown. You can now align and distribute points just like you align and distribute objects.

• Operating Performance – has been improved through improvements to the underlying architecture. If your PC is running multiple CPUs, there will be an even greater performance gain.

• Control Panel – now has more tools right at your fingertips. It is context-sensitive, so it automatically displays the options that are most appropriate for your current selection. More tools and effects are surfaced which makes it easier for you to find the tool that you need for the task at hand. It reduces workspace clutter by eliminating the need to open full panels, and makes you more efficient by not making you dig deep into menus for what you need.

• Eraser Tool – now provides a more fluid and intuitive way to modify objects or create new organic shapes. It now quickly removes areas of artwork as easily as Photoshop erases pixels. You can define the diameter, angle, and roundness of your eraser and even set Wacom tablet interaction parameters.

• New Document Profiles – will speed up your startup with the ability to select pre-built New Document Profiles for your choice of media when you open a new document. Choose Video and Film for your video project, or Print, Web, Mobile, or other types available. You can even save your own custom profiles that specify setup parameters.

• Crop Area Tool – now provides a working environment that includes dimensions and units tailored to your output. For print, the web, video, and film, predefined Crop Area characteristics set up your workspace so that it automatically efficient for the type of media that will display your designs.

• Isolation Mode – will become an essential method for working with complex artwork. It is for designers who spend a lot of time grouping, hiding, locking, and endlessly re-stacking layers to access objects for editing while protecting areas that need to remain untouched. All objects in any group respond to Isolation mode, as do Live Paint groups.

• Symbols – have been enhanced for ease of use and better integration with Flash. They now have options to define a symbol type as a movie clip or graphic symbol.

Illustrator CS3 is a much faster and very solid release. The Live Color enhancement is extremely powerful, although, unlike other new features it is not just a tool, but something that is built into the entire system, and works throughout the system. I don't think  there is anything that you cannot do with color in Illustrator CS3. This one feature is worth the upgrade.

One also has to realize that this new version of Illustrator CS3 is more of a transitional version as well. First it upgrades to the new Intel Macs, and then to the rest of the Creative Suite series as well; especially to Flash CS3. It would have been nice if there had been some 3D features added to this version as there had been with Photoshop CS3, but all in all I think that this version of Illustrator is worth the price.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.