Adobe has launched the fourth major release of its Creative Suite collection of tools for design, animation and editing across a wide range of output media, including print, Web, broadcast, optical disc or mobile phone – and we got our hands on the full set of beta versions of the tools to test them in-depth for you.

Thirteen of the fourteen core applications have been upgraded – Acrobat was released in version 9 only a few months ago – and there is finally, a single cohesive interface across all applications.

Creative Suite 4’s emphasis seems to be on speed and efficiency rather than flashy new creative tools – though there are a substantial number of these too. The focus on productivity isn’t just about moving projects from one application to another – as was often the case with the previous release – but also making tasks with each tool easier to achieve. For example, while After Effects gains better output tools for Flash, it also debuts a search system that makes finding and changing parameters within complex compositions easier.

As with Creative Suite 3, there are fewer new features in each application than there used to be in the days when they were released separately. This reflects not only the fact that Adobe has a lot of tools to develop – and make work together – but that most of these tools are mature applications, where refining what they do is just as important as expanding on them.

There are six versions of Creative Suite 4, with the tools also available separately. Design Standard includes the CS4 versions of InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Bridge, Device Central, and Version Cue – plus Acrobat 9 Pro – for £895. The Design Premium edition adds Extended versions of Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash to this for £1,249.