The Lightbulb Goes On

Happy Birthday, CS4!

Adobe gave birth today to a bouncing baby suite. Weighing in at a solid 17 ounces, and sporting a healthy silver coloring, CS4 was greeted with a tinge of jealousy by its older siblings, CSs 1-3. CEO Shantanu Narayen was seen passing out thousands of cigars around greater San Jose.

Seriously, though this is a big one, and not just in terms or price, hype, and options. Last week, as I was crying in my AdobeMAX beer, I worked myself into a geek frenzy dreaming of the Creative Suite Yet to Come. Lest you think I have been huffing too much vaporware, check out Tim Cole’s InDesign Backchannel post on IDML. Reading it was validation for me, since I had just written a paragraph in my handout for the InDesign Conference Master Class calling IDML, “one of the most significant developments in ­InDesign’s history.” That’s my conferencespeak for, “This is going to blow your doors off! In the long run, it’s more important than everything else combined!” So yeah, I totally agree with Tim that IDML is the most important new feature of InDesign CS4. But IDML is just one piece in a much larger Suite puzzle.

It’s pure poetry that CS4 is released on the anniversary of the Edison Electric Light Company opening for business. Think of each Creative Suite app as a lightbulb. The lightbulb is certainly a cool and useful invention. But the truly revolutionary, society-rocking invention isn’t the lightbulb, it’s the power grid. The dynamos, power plants, transformers, utility lines, and so on that all fit together to make electricity and make it flow reliably, cheaply, and safely. The Big Switch turned me on to this metaphor as a perfect fit for what’s happening to our applications, and I think CS4 is a case in point.

Think about what is flickering to life with IDML and XFL in CS4. The apps are now talking a common language, XML, so their content can flow reliably, cheaply, and safely (well, I guess no one ever got killed by a rogue .fla, did they?) With the power grid in place, came the multitudes of inventions that ran on electricity. This will be repeated with the multitudes of apps, be they desktop, pure Web, or RIAs, all running on XML, soon to be in every room in your house. They’re already selling fridges with Flash-enabled touchscreen doors. Hopefully when I get mine, I won’t have to wait to download the plug-in just to get a drink of juice.

If this is all gibberish to you, check out The Big Switch, and maybe the lightbulb will go on in your head like it did in mine. Also worth checking out is a nice Aussie-flavored Flash CS4 tutorial/propaganda on AdobeTV showing the integration. Still I wonder, do Flashers always work in places with surfboards? Must they be so brazenly cool? Y’know, it’s cool to typset one-color political science books, with lots of footnotes and tables, too, Mr. Fancypants. You try base-aligning all that crap without cheating the spec. Surfboards! I got a stuffed platypus and a box of CheesyPoofs on my desk. What do you think of that?!

I could be wrong about all of that poetic stuff. Maybe Adobe chose today in honor Byzantines taking back Carthage from the Vandals in 533. I myself took the kids out for an ice cream to celebrate.

BTW, it’s also Global Handwashing Day. Their icon kinda works for the Creative Suite too.

Pass the soap.

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