Ever wondered what all of the Adobe products do? This guide will help you out with the 16 programs found in its Creative Suite.
Update: Since this article was originally written, new versions of the software have come out. Some has been dropped — Flash, for example. Still, this will give you a good idea of what each of the Adobe apps does.
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 only programs Adobe develops. In the past, it was a fairly large investment to buy the suite however in recent years, Adobe has lumped all its products together into its Creative Cloud platform with subscription plans ranging from $9.99/mo to $49.99/mo. A great option for those of us on a budget.
What Do Adobe Programs Do?
Here’s a quick guide to understanding each of Adobe’s software programs.
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 time’s sake, I’ll just focus on the primary 16.
- Photoshop® CS6 Extended
- Illustrator® CS6
- InDesign® CS6
- Acrobat® X Pro
- Flash® Professional CS6
- Flash Builder® 4.6 Premium Edition
- Dreamweaver® CS6
- Fireworks® CS6
- Adobe Premiere® Pro CS6
- After Effects® CS6
- Adobe Audition® CS6
- SpeedGrade™ CS6
- Prelude™ CS6
- Encore® CS6
- Bridge CS6
- Media Encoder CS6
What is 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 materials. The way InDesign works allow content producers to quickly 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.
What is 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 called bitmap graphics.
Raster vs. Vector
The fundamental difference between the two is that the vector has less detail but can be resized larger infinitely without loss of quality. Vector is also comprised of lines, curves, and geometric data. 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 the vector can easily be converted to raster, but it is a one-way transfer as the raster cannot be converted back without difficulty.
What is 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 metadata on the raw camera IPTC and XMP levels.
Bridge isn’t necessarily a program used for creating or making visual edits to the actual content. Rather, think of it as a handy assistant for all other Adobe software.
What is 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:
What is Adobe Fireworks?
Fireworks is a fascinating creature. Like Illustrator, it works primarily with vector graphics with some marginal bitmap editing available. But, Fireworks is oriented for web and mobile application development. Fireworks can make just about any graphics interactive, and it allows you to create both wireframes and object behaviors. With that said, it is geared more towards developers and less towards artists. But, there are examples of artists who use Fireworks almost exclusively, such as The Oatmeal webcomics. 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 can create brilliant user interfaces, websites, and interactive websites in a vector or bitmap format.
What is 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 will 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.
What is Adobe After Effects?
After Effects has been the leading program in the video compositing industry since the ’90s. It is used for adding visual effects to videos or animations. After Effects 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 of YouTube will show kids using After Effects how to add lightning strikes, glowing eyes, and lightsabers to their videos.
After Effects 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 this program specifically hardware intensive, so be sure to have at least 8GB of ram and a ton of CPU power before trying to use it.
After Effects can do a lot, and even though it is easily overshadowed by programs like Flame and Smoke Advanced, it won’t burn a $60,000 hole in your pocket like the latter.
What is Adobe Premiere Pro?
Premiere 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 that the Mercury Playback Engine was refined, which allowed 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 up to the next level. Now it is used by professionals throughout the video editing industry.
What is Adobe Photoshop?
Photoshop is the go-to image editing and manipulation software used by almost everyone 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 for its photo manipulation and post-production ability.
What is Adobe Flash?
Flash is dead. If you still have it on your computer read one or both of the following articles:
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, 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 of media players – such as the default video player run by YouTube.
What is Adobe Audition?
Audition is the sound room. Useful for editing audio, it can be used to edit and mix sounds or fine-tune and re-master soundtracks. Historically, it was often used by radio stations for cutting and adding sound effects.
What is Adobe SpeedGrade?
SpeedGrade is for color grading images. At first glance, this doesn’t sound like much. But, correctly applied color can add depth, emotion, and character to a picture 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.
In the image above, color grading was applied using multiple layers and a separate mask for the sky. These brought out the warmth in the terrain, and coolness in the sky.
What is 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.
What is Adobe 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. The code can be modified using a graphical interface or in plain MXML and ActionScript.
What is Adobe 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.
What is Adobe 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 variety 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.
Images Courtesy of Adobe.