Is CS4 worth the upgrade?

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.