This summer sees Adobe releasing new versions of its tools for creative professionals. Digit got to test the betas of the Design and Web suites.

Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 is a monster upgrade to the company’s artistic applications, offering new delights for designers, illustrators, editors and artists working in print, motion graphics, video and online.

Almost all of the company’s creative tools have been upgraded – including the core tools from Creative Suite 2, the Web suites acquired from Macromedia, and even the videos tools previously known as the Production Studio. All now bear the Creative Suite 3 name, from After Effects CS3 through Flash Professional CS3 and InDesign CS3 to Soundbooth CS3 -- and even have a cohesive set of icons in shiny colours.

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Most boast <a href=an overhauled interface that’s designed to be flexible and make it easy for users to move from one application to another without having to learn a new way of working.

Bringing together a plethora of products from different markets and manufacturers has meant that a few have fallen by the wayside. As expected, the poor cousin of Dreamweaver -- GoLive -- is no longer part of the Creative Suite – though Adobe says that it will be launching a new version in the near future, which will be available separately.

Some products have expanded into new areas too, such as the brand new Device Central for previewing media on mobile phones and other portable devices. Fireworks has mutated from a Web graphics tool to a Web site-prototyping package. Adobe is also introducing Photoshop Extended -- which adds tools for pro creatives outside of the application’s traditional heartland of graphic design, in areas such as video, 3D and medical imaging.

Pick your mix

Creative Suite 3 is broken down into three main suites: Design, Web and Video -- though individual applications are available, as is a Master Suite will all of the tools. All include the Bridge CS3 asset management tool, and Version Cue CS3 and Acrobat Connect for teams to work together on projects.

Creative Suite 3 Design Standard includes the CS3 versions of InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, plus Acrobat 8 Professional (the only major tool not updated, though it’s less than six months old) for £760 plus VAT. The Design Premium bundle includes the Extended version of Photoshop, and gains Dreamweaver and Flash Professional. It costs £1,199 plus VAT. Both will ship in April.

Creative Suite 3 Web Standard is based around the ex-Macromedia core of Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Fireworks and Contribute. It costs £600 plus VAT. The Premium version adds Photoshop Extended, Illustrator and Acrobat for £1,017 plus VAT. Again, both will ship in April.

Creative Suite 3 Production Premium brings together After Effects Professional, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, Encore, OnLocation, Ultra, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator and Flash Professional for £1,199 plus VAT. There’s no Standard version of this Suite, which will ship in late summer.

The £1,675 plus VAT Creative Suite 3 Master Collection includes the new versions of (deep breath) InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash Professional, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Contribute, After Effects Professional, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, Encore, OnLocation, Ultra, Acrobat, Bridge, Device Central CS3 -- and should install in just under a week. It will also ship in late summer.

All suites require Mac OS X 10.4, Windows XP or Vista -- and are compatible with the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.5. We tested the betas on a Mac Pro workstation running Mac OS X 10.4 and a Sony Vaio FE41 notebook running Windows Vista.

Beta programme

So here's our in-depth look at the beta versions of the Design and Web suites -- plus news on the next set of video products. Betas of those are expected in time for the NAB 2007 trade show, which begins on April 14. We'll be checking them out as soon as we get our hands on them.

Our guide to CS3's new interface

InDesign CS3
Illustrator CS3
Photoshop CS3/Photoshop CS3 Extended
Bridge CS3

Flash Professional CS3
Dreamweaver CS3
Fireworks CS3
Device Central CS3

After Effects Professional CS3
Premiere Pro CS3, Encore CS3, OnLocation CS3 and Ultra CS3
Soundbooth CS3