Quick tips for integrating Adobe Creative Suite 3 products

by Rafiq R. Elmansy

Adobe Creative Suite 3 includes significant enhancements in the integration between products, providing unprecedented ease of use. You may have used CS3 for a few months now without finding all the timesaving features that can help you work more creatively and efficiently. In this article, I describe these features to help you take advantage of them.

The CS3 toolset comes with something I like to call the Triangle of Integration, which aptly describes the three types of integration built into the new Adobe CS3 products: user integration, product integration, and mobile device integration (see Figure 1).

The three types of integration built into Adobe Creative Suite 3 products.

Figure 1. The three types of integration built into Adobe Creative Suite 3 products.

Faster access to source files

Adobe Creative Suite 3 includes a new and improved version of Adobe Bridge, which enables you to manage and locate project files on your local machine. The visual interface and File Properties panel make the process of searching for files intuitive and efficient. Additionally, Bridge CS3 makes it easier to organize folders, which helps increase productivity on team projects.

You can think of Adobe Bridge as the connecting link for all your CS3 products because it provides detailed information — including keywords and metadata — for each file, while displaying scalable thumbnail images (see Figure 2). Each photograph file includes information about the shutter speed and f-stop settings — and if your photos are sideways, a single click rotates them to the correct orientation. Adobe Bridge also includes direct access to Adobe Stock Photos, which is perfect for creating quick design mock-ups. Both audio and video files can be previewed inside the interface, ensuring that you've selected the right media file before opening it. Adobe Bridge offers three viewing options — the default thumbnail navigation, scrolling filmstrip, and metadata focus — to better suit your workflow needs.

Quickly navigate to your project files using Adobe Bridge CS3.

Figure 2. Quickly navigate to your project files using Adobe Bridge CS3.

Adobe Bridge CS3 can be launched from within any other CS3 product. Once you navigate to the file you want, simply double-click the thumbnail to launch the file in its default program. It's never been faster or easier to find and open your project files.

User integration

The new CS3 products were developed to help designers and developers work together in their specialized areas of expertise, while sharing a common toolset and workflow. Team members working together on projects can all use the same applications. For example, both designers and developers can use Adobe Flash software to create content for web, desktop, and mobile device applications. And developers can create rich Internet applications using Adobe AIR software while leveraging the creative content designed in Flash and Adobe Fireworks software. By using the same tools, communication increases across production teams. All team members, regardless of their role, can discuss their part of the project using the same terms, while sharing the same applications.

Product integration

All the Adobe Creative Suite 3 editions were designed with deep integration among all included products. This makes it easy to transfer files between tools, which helps you get the most out of each one. The workflow between products has been optimized, helping you complete tasks faster.

For example, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe After Effects software are now more integrated more than ever before. The new AI and PSD import features in Flash make it easy to import Illustrator and Photoshop layers into Flash (see Figure 3). Even better, both features include the option to convert the layers to movie clips, and you can add instance names as the layers are being imported. Additionally, Flash provides the option to convert the imported layers to either Flash layers or keyframes.

The PSD import feature in Flash CS3 quickly converts Photoshop layers to Flash layers.

Figure 3. The PSD import feature in Flash CS3 quickly converts Photoshop layers to Flash layers.

Using After Effects, you can import Flash files as SWF or FLV content directly into your After Effects composition. And you can export After Effects projects as SWF with vector support or as FLV content. After Effects is designed to work with Adobe Premiere, Adobe Encore, and Adobe Soundbooth software.

Fireworks integrates with Photoshop by importing PSD files and retaining their layer structure, blend modes, and effects. Similarly, Fireworks integrates with Illustrator by importing AI files while retaining Illustrator layer and color information.

Adobe Dreamweaver software offers single-button access to edit image files in Photoshop or Fireworks. Simply select the desired image, and click the Edit option in the Property inspector.

Platform and mobile device integration

Adobe CS3 helps you distribute your projects on the web and the desktop as well as on mobile and Pocket PC devices. CS3 products are designed to increase productivity as you port your project to other platforms. The cornerstone behind this type of integration is Adobe Device Central. The emulators in Device Central enable you to test your content to determine how it will display on actual handsets (see Figure 4). You can also check for performance issues because Device Central simulates mobile memory and display capabilities.

The emulators in Device Central enable you to test mobile content without transferring SWF files to the device.

Figure 4. The emulators in Device Central enable you to test mobile content without transferring SWF files to the device.

Flash CS3 includes presets for developing mobile and Pocket PC content. You can change the publish settings to match the version of the Flash Lite player you are targeting. You can also create a Flash Lite file by choosing Mobile Flash File from the New Document dialog box. Flash Lite is a smaller version of the Flash Player designed specifically to play Flash content on mobile devices. As you develop projects, you can port your desktop or web application to a mobile platform.

Flash really shines in its ability to create content with small file sizes. This advantage makes Flash content perfect for distribution on the Internet. ActionScript 3.0 is a powerful object-oriented language that enables Flash developers to communicate with other web development languages, such as JavaScript, PHP, ASP.NET, and more.

Using Illustrator CS3, you have the option to save your work in the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. This setting results in smaller file sizes and creates graphic files compatible with the limited display capabilities of mobile devices. When you export files from Illustrator, the SVG Options dialog box enables you to choose from a variety of SVG profiles, font types, and more (see Figure 5).

The SVG Options dialog box offers a wide variety of settings during the export process

Figure 5. The SVG Options dialog box offers a wide variety of settings during the export process.

After building a project in After Effects, you can prepare your animation for mobile delivery using the new 3G export feature. This option enables you to save your animation as a 3G mobile video. To streamline productivity, the 3G export options include custom settings that are designed to match targeted mobile devices. Once the animation is exported, you can test your 3G mobile video files using Device Central CS3.

Where to go from here

Now that I have highlighted some of the new features that integrate the CS3 products, I hope I have sparked your curiosity about how you can adjust your workflow to improve productivity. Whether you are working alone or on a team, the benefits of working in an integrated environment are significant. The best way to learn more about this integration is to try using the products and see how the workflow in CS3 has improved. Download the free 30-day CS3 trial versions and experiment for yourself.

Rafiq Elmansy has been a creative designer for ten years. He runs his own design company, Pixel Consultations. He is an Adobe Community Professional and an Adobe Certified Expert. He is also a Friend of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations). In addition to authoring books, Elmansy also writes articles for the Adobe Design Center and Adobe Developer Connection. His design blog is