Adobe Flash CS4 Professional review: Adobe Flash CS4 Professional

The Deco tool helps you create repetitive patterns, such as blinking stars in the sky, geometric wallpaper patterns, or intricate designs of vines, without using ActionScript. We didn't find this as cool in practice as it was in early demonstrations, but it's still fun. A library of motion presets also can get you started on more sophisticated animation that could be tricky to build from scratch.

Content is supposed to render more quickly than in CS3, and our tests seemed to prove this. Finally, Flash CS4 renders animation on the stage, as it would appear during preview, another huge time-saver. You can see an object in its previous positions as you drag it around the stage. Flash Player 10 also seemed faster.

The new XFL file format is supposed to help print designers or motion artists using InDesign or AfterEffects to dip their toes in Flash, as exported XFL content can be used in any of these programs. With this XML-based format, you can extract assets from work done in Flash. We're glad that Adobe aims to phase in XFL gradually, rather than forcing saved content by default in this convention.

The Adobe Media Encoder enables Flash developers to create H.264 content for Web videos that stream quickly even on a narrow pipeline. Dropping video within Flash content is possible with several steps. Also, you can save an MPEG-4 rather than an FLV file, encoded as H.264, without re-encoding the video. The capability to author Adobe AIR content lets you create Web-based applications, including those with transparent backgrounds, on your desktop.

Service and support
Support for installation issues and other speed bumps lasts for 90 days. Adobe's comprehensive, self-serve technical support options include embedded and online lookups, tutorials, and videos. The new Adobe Support Portal requires an Adobe log-in and password. Beginners would be wise to get up to speed with the interactive tutorials and maybe even third-party books and Web sites. Web-based forums with other users, as well as the Community Support, is in in beta testing and may be the best bargain for getting hands-on advice.

Don't bother trying to seek extra help without a registered serial number; the days of "borrowing" copies of heavy-duty Adobe software from friends are long gone. Help with a live Adobe representative continues to be expensive. Each year we find the pricing options harder to find on Adobe's Web site. The Bronze level of support, for five prepurchased incidents is $175. Unlimited Silver support costs $1,200, nearly three times the cost of Flash itself.

Conclusion
Flash CS4 is far more attractive than CS3, namely for its less taxing approach to animation. New users to Flash should skip CS3 altogether and get started with CS4. That said, newcomers still might need to pay for a how-to book or a class to learn the application in depth.

The price hasn't changed since Flash CS3: $699 for the full version or $199 to upgrade. We still wish it weren't so costly, but we recommend that longtime users upgrade. Even if you have few complaints about older versions of Flash, eventually you'll have to learn the CS4 animation model.

Adobe Creative Suite 4 packages with Flash CS4

  Price: full Price: upgrade

Creative Suite 4 Master Collection
$2,499 $899 (from CS3); $1,599 from other CS3 suites; $1,199 from two older suites

Creative Suite 4 Design Premium
$1,799 $599 (from CS3); $599-$799 (from Studios or CS 1-2)

Creative Suite 4 Web Premium
$1,699 $599 (from CS3); $599-$799 (from Studios or CS 1-2)

Creative Suite 4 Web Standard
$999 Special upgrade pricing available

Creative Suite 4 Production Premium
$1,699 $599 (from CS3); $599-$799 (from Studios or CS 1-2)

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    Adobe Flash CS4 Professional

    Part Number: 65018738
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    • Category creativity application
    • Compatibility PC