PROS / Adobe InDesign has eBook capabilities, and there are several Photoshop apps that you can download to your iPad for on-the-go photo retouching.
CONS / Because there are so many tools available for you to use in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, it may take you some time to fully understand the applications.
VERDICT / The Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard is the best graphic design software on the market because of its intuitive features that are more advanced than those found in other graphic design software.
"Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it is no longer available. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information."
In the über competitive design software industry, Adobe is number one, bringing innovation, technology and artistic vision into one dynamic suite. Adobe has five main creative suites: Premium, Standard, Web Premium, Production Premium and Master Collection. Within each suite, the design software company includes their very best applications, applications that you can also purchase individually. We laud this detail. Other graphic design software developers offer design suites, just like Adobe, but unlike Adobe, their suites include applications that you can use only if you purchase the entire package.
The Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard is our favorite suite option, as it includes six applications. Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are the suite's crown jewels, each so potently powerful and so ingenious. With these three applications, you can create anything. Anything.
Ease of Use
The Adobe Design Standard is one of the best graphic design suites that the software giant offers. And, like other graphic design software, this suite comes with an overwhelming arsenal of features, functions and tools. Yes, there is a steep learning curve. Yes, it may take you a few weeks or months (if you are new to design software) to understand how to use the tools to create amazing designs. But yes, it is totally worth the effort a million times over. The Adobe Creative Design Standard suite is powerful and wonderful and amazing. Ahem, now that we've got that gushing out of the way, let's talk about the features that do make the applications a bit easier to use.
Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator all have intuitive user interfaces. What we love the most is, although these three applications serve different purposes, their workspace and creative layout is basically the same. You have your toolbar menu to the left, your palettes to the right and the rest of the feature tabs on top. Simple. Streamlined.
InDesign has done a stellar job of making page layout a simple process (once you get over that learning hump). When you're creating a multiple-page document, you can use Master Pages. When you are ready to print your document, you can use the preflight and package production tools. During this process, InDesign will list all of the errors in your document, including unlinked layers and images, as well as textural and color management errors.
Whether you’re a designer or photographer, Adobe Photoshop CS5 is the undisputed champion of photo editing and retouching. This application has a clean interface and a no-hassle workspace, which allows you to fiddle, fuss and tweak your photos with ease. Photoshop also offers a deluge of features and tools that elevates CS5 well above the rest. Some of the more powerful tools include:
HDR imaging – A photo is no longer just a photo with HDR imaging. You can merge layers, remove the "ghosts," and increase the edge glow, tone, exposure and detail to create an image that will look like a professional took it, even if you're not one.
360-degree panorama – Panoramas are ideal for scenery photographs. You can take a shot-by-shot view of the landscape and then, in Photoshop, stitch them together, creating one beautiful image. The 360 panorama allows you, if you choose, to wrap your image around a sphere to create quite the conversation piece.
Filters and effects – With hundreds of filters and effects, from the basic filters like Artistic and Blur to the more advanced painting effects and Puppet Warp, you have the power to totally alter any image. Puppet Warp, for example allows you to reposition elements in your photos. Adobe gives the example of an arm or flower stem. Using this tool, you can straighten the limbs to make the picture more aesthetically pleasing.
Mobile support – Adobe has a Lava Color Mixing app, an Eazel painting app and a Nav Productivity app all available for the iPad.
Content-aware fill – The park, your little girl's dance recital, a trip to the ocean, every photograph that you take has sentiment and beauty. You can customize these images by removing unwanted items, details or objects. The Content-Aware Fill tool, according to Adobe "matches lighting, tone and noise, so it looks as if the removed content never existed."
Black-and-white conversion – Add drama to any photo by converting it from color to black and white. The Lab B&W Action tool can be combined with HDR imagery to create stunning results.
Photo & Image Editing
For the past decade or so, Adobe has set the standard for graphic design software and tools. Adobe's InDesign is our favorite application included in the suite because, not only is it brilliantly amazing, but it also has hundreds of fantastic features that yield professional results. Newspapers, magazines and other producers of print and online media use InDesign to create their layout designs. Illustrator and Photoshop are InDesign's BFFs, as they all work seamlessly together. You can also use Illustrator for page layout and design, although it is best categorized as a vector illustration application.
InDesign offers advanced page setup with industry standards in mind, including standard layout practices, bleeds and advanced Master Pages (style sheets) that allow for seamless and smooth creation of any print document. Font support, advanced paragraph formatting and image placement, along with the ability to import a variety of external text documents, make InDesign the most dynamic page layout application on the market.
Adobe knows that it offers the best graphic design software, but they don't stop at just being the best, they want to dazzle and amaze, and with their eBook and ePub enhancements, that's exactly what they continue to do. The Enhanced eBook Authoring tool, according to Adobe, allows you to "design compelling eBooks while reducing your dependence on developers. Include video and audio in your eBooks, as well as images that resize to fit virtually any screen. Retain greater control of content and typography when exporting documents to the ePub format." We are totally blown away by this inclusion, which we feel will revolutionize the way trade paper and online publications share messages with their audiences.
The vector illustration features available in the Illustrator application of Adobe CS5 include several enhanced features that augment an already amazing application. Industry-standard drawing tools and a variety of powerful effects make designing and manipulating vector-based graphics relatively easy and quite exciting.
Illustrator CS5 includes easier interaction with tools, palettes and options. The Bristle Brush tool lets you turn strokes into realistic-looking brush strokes. Graphic styles, advanced path controls and appearance editing all work together to make vector drawing even more intuitive than before. We are most impressed with the Perspective Drawing options. With grids and linear perspective, this tool may seem more apt for an engineer, but graphic designers will soon fall in love, as they can create pages that have realistic depth perception.
Help & Support
Adobe has individual product help and support centers for each application in the suite, as well as a learning center with community forums, an extensive library of video tutorials and a Design Center. Adobe TV is this design software's answer to preparing you to use their software. You can watch hundreds of videos online. The Design Center has articles and images for featured topics such as Digital Publishing, Print, and Images and Graphics.
If you need technical support, you can speak with a live chat support agent – that is, if you can actually find the Chat Now button. If you linger on the site long enough, you may get a chat invitation; if you don't, however, you may need to navigate around the site a few times. Before we could begin our live chat session, we did have to fill out a long page of questions, which was a tad annoying.
The Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard is professional software with professional tools that create professional results, but this suite is for everyone. Whether you are a graphic designer with years of experience or have but a pinch of design aesthetic, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator provide an arsenal of features and tools that will aid you in creating winning designs.