Whatever happened to the page? New Adobe Applications boost collaboration and workflow

This article appears in the issue June 2007, [Vol 16, Issue 6]
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Two issues you don’t hear enough about in KM circles are: 1.) the role of real design in knowledge and content management, and 2.) the KM needs of design and creative professionals as knowledge workers.

In the first case, the digital age has deeply undercut appreciation for how graphic design not only makes information more appealing, but more learnable. When documents are digital and/or disposable, we tend to forget that they have tangible power in their form as well as their function.

Meanwhile, design is a field in which much of the skill is tacit—both the art and the technique. Crafts like art direction, graphic arts, photography and page layout blend training, experience, invention and automation to create new value on demand and on deadline, inevitably under constraints of inadequate time or money.

New creative suite

Calling it a “comprehensive design environment for exploring and expressing ideas,” Adobe Systems officially introduced the third version of Creative Suite (CS3) in mid-April, after a four-month public beta period. The company promised an
upgraded toolkit to maximize both productivity and creativity for knowledge workers who rely on the right side of their brains.

CS3 is primarily an integrated collection of Adobe’s flagship standalone applications for design and development professionals. Those include Photoshop for image editing, Illustrator for vector graphics and InDesign for page layout. However, CS3 also includes, depending on which of six configurations is purchased, as many as 13 different applications. And significantly, as the first major release since Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005, CS3 includes Macromedia’s Dreamweaver for Web page creation and Flash for multimedia authoring.

Photoshop and Illustrator have long been graphics professionals’ tools of choice. InDesign was launched in 2002 to compete with market leader QuarkXpress (quark.com) by replacing Adobe’s own less sophisticated (but more user-friendly) desktop publishing standard PageMaker. InDesign gradually won converts, especially after revising the interface to include more of PageMaker’s friendliness. Adobe also replaced its own homegrown Web site development tool, GoLive, with Dreamweaver—again the Web developer’s favorite.

In terms of knowledge management, Creative Suite should be evaluated on at least two levels: How well does it improve the process of knowledge work, and how well does it improve the products as artifacts of knowledge work? That is, can Adobe deliver the same kind of office tool suite for art directors that Microsoft (microsoft.com) does for sales managers, wherein they can spend 40 or 50 hours per week with a minimum of duplicated effort?

Workflow and collaboration

These applications show improvements in capability and increased consistency of interface design. Making the interface as
intuitive as possible is especially important. Intended for design experts who live in the apps full time, they tend to have steep learning curves and make the “feature bloat” of mainstream office applications look trivial.

Release 3 continues to improve Adobe’s support for workflow and collaboration, thereby connecting disparate areas of expertise. Between the primary applications, it has been enhanced with the kind of transparency of files and functions that makes Microsoft Office so productive.

For example, a multilayered image can be adjusted, cropped and transformed with filters and special effects in Photoshop, and then transferred in its native, editable format to illustrate a newsletter article being laid out in InDesign. The finished package can be repurposed in HTML to be redesigned as a Web page in Dreamweaver. The Web pages can be previewed for desktop browsers, but their functionality and appearance can also be checked on multiple mobile devices using Device Central, which has a library of device parameters. Work product can be packed into Acrobat files and e-mailed to clients and colleagues for comments and approval.

The overall vision of workflow and collaboration is best seen in some of the ancillary applications included in Creative Suite. Bridge is a built-in media manager to browse, inspect and organize creative assets. It can be customized to user preferences to emphasize various functions such as previewing, metadata and opening assets in various applications. “File stacking,” for example, visually sorts materials into desktop piles.

It also serves as a desktop gateway to additional personal and online resources, such as:

  • Version Cue for server-based asset tracking, version control and a measure of project management;
  • Acrobat Connect, a new subscription service for real-time Web conferencing with colleagues and customers;
  • Device Central to preview appearance and functionality of materials and applications for compatibility on various mobile devices;
  • Bridge Home for access to tips, training, podcasts and other design resources via Adobe.com; and
  • Adobe services such as Adobe Stock Photos and Photographers Directory to find existing, royalty-free images or assign a photo shoot on the other side of the world with a local photographer.

Finally, the standard and premium versions of CS Web include the application Contribute, an editing tool that greatly simplifies the process of writing, editing and posting blog entries and Web site pages. It adds a toolbar to office applications so that text

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