Is CS4 worth the upgrade?

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Is Adobe Creative Suite 4 worth the upgrade? Having been involved in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium beta test for the better part of this year, I’ve had a good bit of experience using the new versions of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Here are just a few of the things that have stood out so far:

  • Better UI. I hated it when I first saw it, and I know that others are going to have that same reaction. But the new unified interface is consistent from app to app and is more customizable than ever before. You can quickly toggle between several default workspaces without having to restart the applications. (This was one of my peeves with Dreamweaver CS3. It supported “workspaces” to an extent, but changing it required restarting the program.)
  • Tabbed windows. I tend to work with multiple documents open at a time. The new tabbed windows allow you to see all the documents you’ve got open, easily switch from window to window, and easily sort them. Want to see all of documents you’ve got open and match their zoom level in Photoshop? It’s super easy now.
  • Speed. I tested CS4 out on two machines: a Dell Inspiron 1720 laptop running Windows Vista Ultimate with a 1.6Ghz Core 2 Duo and 3Gb RAM, and a Dell Dimension E510 running Windows XP Professional SP2 with a 3Ghz Pentium 4 HT and 3Gb RAM. I was able to keep several apps open at once on both machines and they were all quick and responsive.
  • Stability. Even in the prerelease versions I tested, CS4 was very stable.
  • Installation.  One of my biggest problems with CS3 was the installation process. CS4 installer has been GREATLY improved. What was once a 2-3 hour ordeal*, only took 35-40 minutes on the two machines I tested on.

This just scratches the surface. CS4 is a major upgrade, and it’s well worth the money in my opinion. In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the new tools and features available in CS4.

Theme Updates

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The WordPress community gives much of itself to users who don’t always give back. I created Effercio Blue and Nanideska last year, but as of today both they are being released under GPL. If you downloaded them prior to today, the old Creative Commons license still applies.

  • Effercio Blue – A two-column theme for WordPress. Support WordPress tags, dynamic sidebar and widgets, and includes custom link and archive page styles. Future plans for this theme include adding additional color variations. This theme and its accompanying elements are released under GPL. Download Theme | View Demo)
  • Nanideska – A simple two-column theme based on an earlier iteration of cdharrison.com. This theme and its accompanying elements are released under GPL. Download Nanideska | View Demo

Thoughts on CS4

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I’ll be speaking on September 23 at 6:30pm about Adobe Creative Suite 4 at the Columbia County Library in Evans, GA as part of the next Refresh Augusta meetup [info]. The presentation will cover what’s new, what I’ve thought about the Suite so far, and more. (As part of the meetup, Refresh Augusta will be giving away two copies of CS3 Web Design Premium, courtesy of Adobe.) Then, on September 24, I’ll be in Columbia SC at The State Newspaper give the same presentation to Refresh Columbia [info].

These presentations will come hot on the heels of Adobe’s planned unveiling of CS4 on 9/23 [info].

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Wasted on an idiot… My faith in humanity was ruined and restored in a single blog post. Children with special needs are people too. “David” should be ashamed of himself.

Death to IE6?

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Is the decision to end support Internet Explorer 6 premature or long overdue?

There is no doubt that Internet Explorer 6 is the bane of our – web designers and developers – existence. Nathan Smith came up with ten great reasons in “Time to Drop IE6”. Dan Rubin offered “The Final Word on IE6”. 37signals, effective 10.1.2008, is phasing out IE6 support in its products. They all offer good reasons to end support for IE6. But we cannot ignore the reality of IE6: usage hovers around 25-30% as of 9.08 (1,2).

Can we truly ignore IE6? Could you afford to turn away 1/4-1/3 of the customers that walk through your door? I’m guessing most clients would say no.

So where does that leave us? Are we destined to support IE6 for years and years to come? I seriously hope not, but it all depends on your audience. If your site is catering to people most likely to be using modern browsers like Firefox 3, Safari, Opera, Camino, Chrome, IE7/8, etc., then it probably doesn’t matter if your site supports IE6. If your site trends towards a lot of IE6 users, well… you’re obviously going to have to support that browser until usage drops below a tolerable level. At which point, it would then be wise to make a decision on whether to support it any longer. (We have these same conversations regarding minimum browser resolutions to target.) The client and the client’s audience and what they are using on your site is what dictates what you should be designed for.

The idea of using ‘web standards’ isn’t so that designers can make kick ass designs that only the most bleeding edge browsers can render. Rather they’re more about making content viewable in any browser, regardless of its age.

The logical decision, then, is to use progressive enhancement in designs. If a site visitor is still using IE6, they should be able to see, at the very least, a “low-fi” version of your site. If there are only minor issues preventing a layout from rendering properly in IE6, take the time to write some conditional CSS targeting the browser, and fix it.

The challenge with progressive enhancement lies in educating a client that there will be variations in the design presented to site visitors. For some clients, variations are unacceptable. For others, they’re likely not going to care.

Maybe by March 2009 the browser share will change radically, and IE6 usage will drop to record lows. But I’m staying realistic. I might not like IE6 or the extra work it requires to support it, but it’s too early to start ignoring it completely.


Footnotes:

  1. w3schools – Browser Statistics
  2. w3Counter – Global Web Stats

Brilliant

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Are you ready for something brilliant? Yesterday Adobe announced that it will unveil the new Adobe® Creative Suite® 4 lineup in a special web event on 9.23.08. Register today to be among the first to learn about CS4. This is not something you’re going to want to miss. Trust me.