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Adobe CS5.5 review

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Adobe CS5.5 Master Collection and Lightroom 4 Review

by Geoff Marshall

Adobe Creative Suite version 5.5 was released on 11th April 2011. We look at it almost one year later upon the occasion of the release of Lightroom 4 on 6th March 2012. We will show how Photoshop and Lightroom are different and yet complement each other perfectly.

CS5.5 Master Collection includes not just Photoshop 5, but also a whole range of image manipulation and management tools. The Master Collection version of CS5.5 also includes Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver (which Adobe acquired from Macromedia) and many other Adobe products. The only thing it lacks is the sophisticated image management and workflow toolset required by digital photographers, who shoot thousands of pictures per day – but Adobe has chosen to single that function out as a separate product: Lightroom, which is a workflow management tool (with some image manipulation tools) for anyone who takes hundreds or thousands of pictures in a single day. But, rather than giving a blow-by-blow description of the wealth of new features in CS5.5 and Lightroom 4, we are going to describe the bigger picture of how and by whom these products are used, based on our own hands-on experience of them.

Dreamweaver is another important component of the Master Collection and, like Photoshop, is surprisingly easy to use, but requires a lot more effort and knowledge of the application before you can achieve anything more sophisticated. Dreamweaver is a website creation tool. It understands and uses the modern website languages, such as HTML & PHP, but automates code generation in those languages. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to know HTML, for example, because you do – although, you don’t have to be syntax perfect as Dreamweaver automates the creation of syntactically perfect HTML from a graphical drag-and-drop user interface. However, if you can’t read and understand the HTML code that it generates, amendments, adjustments and other changes to the website will be very hard for you because, although its drag-and-drop user interface is easy to operate, you need to position the editing cursor at an exact point in the HTML code before executing your GUI action.

Photoshop has many tools for graphic design, but it is really aimed at processing photographic images, while Adobe InDesign is the tool of choice for graphic designers. Every Adobe product fits in a different niche, and Illustrator, for example, appeals to graphic artists. Photoshop itself has received, over the years, so many improvements in intelligent tools (such as context-sensitive cloning and the spot-healing brush) but its real strength is its ability to work with layers, which can save so much time in building up changes to an images because of the ease with which you can switch layers on and off – or even delete them and start again, without affecting the work you have done in other layers.

Lightroom, however, lacks this ability to work with layers, but this is not a criticism of the product - rather, it serves to emphasise how Lightroom is different from Photoshop and yet the two products complement each other. Another difference between these two products lies in the fact that Lightroom is a non-destructive image editor, which means there is no concept of “save file” in Lightroom. It merely saves the original file with all the changes (deltas) that you make. This means you can “save” different versions of a file without taking up excessive storage space and without risking corruption of the original. Finally, rather than “saving” a version of the file, you “export” it. You can export it in order to do further work in Photoshop but you cannot bring it back into Lightroom without losing the layer structure you may have created in a Photoshop PSD file.


Lightroom vs. Photoshop is not a battle of alternatives, but a synergistic co-existence. To make this clear, here’s an example of how a professional photographer might use both products in a complementary way: following a photoshoot that may involve anything between a hundred and a thousand shots, the photographer imports all these images into Lightroom. Firstly, he can do a lot of adjustments (white balance, histogram, even cropping and correcting lens distortions, etc) to all the images en mass. Then he can select maybe 30 images to present to his client and still make some individual adjustments to each. Once his client has approved maybe 5 images, he exports them into Photoshop because of the finer control and the use of layers that this software allows for final expert retouching.


Reseller channels can opens up new markets to sell everything from computer workstations through graphics tablets, and calibrated high-resolution screens to digital cameras and storage media. With Adobe’s software, you have the “glue” to bring all these products together into a complete solution to satisfy a wide range of potential customers: from photographers through retouching and other post-production professionals to illustrators, graphic designers and publishers (both printed and web-based).