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What Do All of the Adobe Programs Do?

Adobe creates a lot of programs, many of which I found myself unfamiliar with until recently. Most people know about Flash, Photoshop and Adobe Reader. But those aren’t the the only programs Adobe develops. Here’s a quick guide to understand each of Adobe’s software programs.

What do the Adobe Programs do?

In the 6th iteration of the Adobe Creative Suite (that’s where the “CS” comes from) there are 16 programs. In addition to the Creative Suite there are several other suites and enterprise products. For times sake, I’ll just focus on the main 16.


What is Adobe InDesign?

adobe indesign

InDesign does page layouts. It allows you to produce and preview documents for magazines, both in print and online across mobile and desktop platforms. It offers more precision with typography than Photoshop, but less in the graphics department. InDesign is made for publishing. Ideally projects rendered are newspapers, posters, and other marketing material. The way InDesign works allows content producers to easily piece together the layouts for multipage magazines and documents. InDesign operates seamlessly with the rest of the Adobe suite, to enhance creative ability. The latest version incorporates interactive HTML within documents to allow web publishing.

Overall, if you need to create a layout for something with a lot of text and graphics, InDesign is just about the best software out there for it.

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What is Adobe Illustrator?

adobe illustrator

Illustrator is the Photoshop of vector art, also known as resolution-independent graphics. By comparison, Photoshop is used to create raster art, also known as bitmap graphics.

Raster vs. Vector

The key difference between the two is that vector has less detail but can be resized larger infinitely without loss of quality. Vector is also comprised of lines, curves, and geometric data. Whereas in contrast raster graphics are composed of individual pixels. Illustrator is typically used to create logos and graphics for business cards, infographics, clipart, and icons. Because vectors are not size dependent, a design could be used on a small card but then scaled to the size of a billboard without a loss in quality. Another thing to note is that vector can be easily converted to raster, but it is a one way transfer as raster cannot be converted back without difficulty.

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What is Adobe Bridge?

adobe bridge

Bridge handles asset management. Or in other words, it is an organizer for photos and designs within the Adobe Creative Suite. It also comes with the standalone version of Photoshop. Bridge is used for batch file utility functions, such as renaming files or editing other meta data on the camera raw IPTC and XMP level.

Bridge isn’t necessarily a program used for creating or making visual edits to actual content. Rather, think of it as a handy assistant for all other Adobe software.

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What is Adobe Dreamweaver?

adobe dreamweaver

The way I explain Dreamweaver to most of my friends, is that it is a graphical version of Notepad++. It highlights syntax and shows you a rough preview of what your code will look like at the same time. Many of its tools automatically generate the necessary code when using the visual side of the program. There isn’t much else to it, except that it integrates with the rest of the Adobe suite and supports the following languages:

  • ActionScript, ASP, C#, CSS, ColdFusion, EDML, XHTML, XML, XSLT, HTML, Java, JavaScript, PHP, VB, VBScript, and WML

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    What is Adobe Fireworks?

    adobe fireworks

    Fireworks is an interesting creature. Like Illustrator, it works primarily with vector graphics with some marginal bitmap editing available. But, Fireworks is completely web and mobile application development oriented. Fireworks has the ability to make just about any graphic interactive, and it allow you to create both wireframes and object behaviors. With that said, it is really geared towards developers and less towards artists. But, there are examples of artists who use Fireworks almost exclusively, such as The Oatmeal web comics. And artist Jose Rivera uses Fireworks almost exclusively for all of his work found here.

    Overall it is a useful program to have in any graphic artist’s arsenal. Even though it lacks some of the vector editing capabilities of Illustrator, Fireworks is able to create brilliant user interfaces, websites, and interactive websites  in a vector or bitmap format.

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    What is Adobe Prelude?

    adobe prelude

    Prelude is a video tool for the cut-and-edit guy before sending off the footage to the production team. If you have hours of footage to go through, it would take forever to do it in Premier. That is where Prelude comes in to save the day. Prelude can log videos, tag, transcode, and search through footage quickly. If there’s a particular scene or shot that you need to find, Prelude can find it almost instantly. Prelude isn’t for editing, it is for screening clips and organizing them.

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    What is Adobe After Affects?


    After Affects has been leading the video compositing program industry since the 90’s. It is used for adding visual effects to videos or animations. After Affects can also be used to create animations of both text and complex characters. Other things like adding clips into a clip, or overlaying green-screens come with ease. A quick run through YouTube will show kids using After Affects to add lightning strikes, glowing eyes, and lightsabers to their videos.

    After Affects packs some of the most powerful editing tools available for video, such as the Rotobrush which lets you automatically paint a character out of any background you choose in minutes vs. hours of manual frame-by-frame editing. All of these features make the program hardware intensive, so be sure to have at least 8GB of ram and a ton of CPU power before trying to use it.

    After Affects can do a lot, and even though it is easy easily overshadowed by programs like Flame and Smoke Advanced, it won’t burn a $60,000 hole in your pocket like the latter.

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    What is Adobe Premiere Pro?

    adobe premiere

    Premier Pro is used to edit and cut video tracks, and then export them in the desired format. The project panel allows you to grab individual clips and add them to a timeline to create a movie. Titles can be added, elements from the rest of the Adobe suite can be added, and color corrections can be applied. It wasn’t until recently that Premiere started to receive a lot of attention. It was with version CS5.5 the Mercury Playback Engine was refined and allowed for faster performance that takes advantage of GPU-acceleration and multi-core processors.

    Until recently Adobe Premiere Pro has failed to make much of an impression on a broadcast market dominated by Avid and Apple. In all honestly, older versions weren’t that great. But, that all changed with the introduction of the Mercury Playback Engine, and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 takes the app to the next level. Now it is used by professionals across the video editing industry.

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    What is Adobe Photoshop?


    Photoshop is the go-to image editing and manipulation software used by almost everyoe in the industry. Photoshop excels in working with raster (bitmap) graphics and is capable of producing highly detailed compositions. While originally intended to be a photo manipulation program, Photoshop has been taken up by digital painters and design professionals in both the classroom and workplace.

    Recent versions have brought in functionality for working with 3D designs, though the program still primarily garnishes the most respect in its photo manipulation and post-production ability.

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    What is Adobe Flash?

    adobe flash

    You know those funny animations and web games you play on Facebook and other sites? Many of them were designed using Flash. Flash can be used to create a cartoon, comic, an interactive interface, or even a game. Although since the introduction of HTML5 it has been losing support, Flash is still currently used everywhere on the web. In particular, Flash has recently been used to create a multitude media players – such as the default video player run by  YouTube.

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    What is Adobe Audition?

    adobe audition

    Audition is the soundroom. Useful for editing audio, it can be used to edit and mix sounds, or fine tune and re-master soundtracks. Historically it was often it is used by radio stations for cutting and adding sound effects.

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    What is Adobe SpeedGrade?

    adobe speedgrade

    Speedgrade is for color grading images. At first glance this doesn’t sound like much. But, properly applied color can add depth, emotion, and character to an image and videos. When it comes to color grading, there isn’t much to talk about, but rather an example serves best, so check out the images below.

    Before color grading:

    no color grade

    After color grading:

    with color grade

    In the image above, color grading was applied using multiple layers and an separate mask for the sky. These brought out warmth in the terrain, and coolness in the sky.

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    What is Adobe Encore?

    adobe encore

    Encore is a DVD and Blu-ray disc authoring package for professional producers that comes as part of Adobe Premiere. Encore can create DVD menus that can be edited in Photoshop using layers. Encore can also produce video in multiple formats, regardless of the original.

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    What is Adobe Flash Builder?

    flash builder

    Flash Builder is based on Eclipse to create a development environment that increases efficiency in deployment for mobile and desktop web applications. Primarily it is functional for creating rich internet applications across multiple platforms, but mainly Flash. Code can be modified using a graphical interface, or in plain MXML and ActionScript.

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    What is Adobe Acrobat X Pro?

    acrobat x pro

    Acrobat X is used for creating robust PDF files. It lets you set backgrounds, foregrounds, and isolate or resize individual pages. It even goes as far as to allow you to add video, audio, and interactivity to PDF documents.

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    What is Adobe Media Encoder?

    media encoder

    Media Encoder lets you save media for almost any screen or device. It supports multiple formats, including FLV, F4vV, and H.264. Media can simultaneously be saved in multiple outputs for optimal playback on a variation of resolutions and devices. Cue points can be added to playback to trigger presentation specific actions. Video can also be resized or cropped within Media Encoder. Metadata editing is supported in the most recent version and will pass information to the rest of the Adobe suite.

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    Images Courtesy of Adobe.


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20 Responses to What Do All of the Adobe Programs Do?

  1. james dean October 3, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Great article Austin, I never knew what some of these programs were used for. Which ones do you use the most?

    • Austin Krause October 6, 2012 at 6:09 am #

      I’ve been into Photoshop since the 90’s. I use it at least a few times every week for complex graphic design.

      I also like Fireworks for throwing together quick web interfaces, but most of my web work is done in Notepad++ unless I’m building something big from scratch.

      • Steve Krause October 6, 2012 at 9:32 am #

        WordPress for the win when it comes to building some www

        Sent from my Mobile

      • lol December 28, 2014 at 4:35 am #


    • Steve Krause October 6, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Personally, I use photoshop the most. And reader. 🙂

    • Moajjem Hossain February 12, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

      I’m fond of Adobe Illustrator. 🙂 And you?

  2. mbk28 October 21, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    I use most of them, it will be more easy to say witch one I don’t use 😉

  3. anonymous October 21, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Why is there a picture of photoshop at flash?

    • Blurry Face February 17, 2016 at 11:24 am #

      GOOD EYE!! Thankyou! What the BLEEP??! Lol, just kidding! I’m sure it’s just a mistake. In the paragraph that first explains about Adobe FLASH, there’s a photo/graphic of a computer screen with a program open (look closely). You’d think it’d be Adode Flash to show us what it looks like, correct? NOPE! It’s Adobe PHOTOSHOP CS6…hmmmm strange?? YES, that should be changed.

  4. ydkwia March 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    good article. cleared up a few things for me. thanks!

  5. sharpshot April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Great article. Will you being doing an update to include the apps that have been dropped and added and how creative suite has changed them?

  6. Victoria Quade September 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    Short, sweet and informative. Just what I needed to give me an overview without any hype.

    • John February 7, 2015 at 7:37 am #

      As Victoria said, “Short, sweet and informative”. I’ve been racking my brain trying to learn many Adobe programs, and while their tutorials are great I really just needed a “cheat sheet” like this to put programs and their main functions into layman’s terms. THANK YOU!

  7. Lauren August 18, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks! This was super helpful!

  8. Tom September 5, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    Great article Austin, I am teaching a multimedia class for the first time this year and I am just trying to figure out what programs to cover in the course. This helped a lot. Thank you.

  9. Angela October 30, 2015 at 9:13 pm #


    I’m trying to build a How to sort of document. I’m wondering if Indesign might be best or possibly Adobe Acrobat X Pro, which I haven’t used yet, but it’s peaked my interest. My other option is building a member only site with links to each document.

    So the bases is a check list for authors that cover step for how the publishing process works, how to market their book, how to do PR, etc. Each check out item would link them to a step by step document of what they needed to do to be able to check that item off their list. I have some webinars, slide video, pdf documents, word documents, etc. basically this has been pieced together over the years by different people in the organization, and instead of sending each author the documents separately, I want to combine and clean up things into an easy to follow academy of sorts.

    My concern is some of these authors aren’t going to have Adobe software other than your typical reader etc. So I need to make sure they will be able to open it and use it easily without having to have any special software.

    Indesign I know I can pdf the final project but the webinars and slide videos would have to be converted to print layouts.

    What program do you think would work best for what I’m wanting and allow them to use it easily?

  10. Jeremy November 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm #


    Thanks for the summary. I just got the suite and needed an explanation of what all the programs did.

  11. Amb Bitrus Lawrence January 20, 2016 at 1:41 am #

    Wow! This post makes a lot of sense to me. I always ask myself which program chew before the other cause there’s just too many of them. At last I now know which to chew before the other after seeing this post. Thanks alot.

  12. Laura February 11, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    Great summary of the Adobe products.

  13. Phil February 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    Very helpful thank you, you saved me and my hard drive a load of time thank you A


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