Adobe: The Graphic Designer’s Dream Package

Since Macromedia was bought be Adobe in 2006, no package has come close to the design and publishing programs that are offered by Adobe’s CS3 Suite. Including drawing, illustration, animation, web design, and assembly programs, Adobe is definitely the software package of the century, coming close only to Microsoft’s Office. Integrated in the Adobe CS3 Suite are the valuable applications of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Adobe Indesign.
Adobe Photoshop
Other than Adobe Flash, Adobe Photoshop is the only program that is known and used widely by the public. Known to most as merely Photoshop, this program is a bitmap editing software, which is very useful to edit all types of images and photos. This bitmap manipulation program is a high-quality image editor, based primarily on image selection. Photoshop is used to create bitmap and raster graphics for use in a variety of industries. Adobe Photoshop is especially widely used in the video industry, creating effects and shots for many commercial videos. Adobe Photoshop can also be used in a domestic setting, more commonly in the version of Photoshop Elements.

Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator is another one of Adobe’s great creative applications, as a part of their innovative design suite. Adobe Illustrator can be used for Illustration and Drawing, using brushes and pens to facilitate the process of freehand illustration. Illustrator is a vector-based program, unlike the bitmap program of Adobe Photoshop. This means that whether it is enlarged or not, the quality of the drawing will stay the same. Illustrator is widely used to create digital logos for websites and production packages.

Adobe Flash
Originally created by Shockwave and Macromedia, Adobe Flash is an animation program, used for many on-line animation purposes. Flash used a user-friendly technology to add interactivity to computer web pages and other on-line ventures. Flash can be used to animate the contents of both bitmap and vector graphics, using a first-class process. Adobe also is used to create many advertisements and website banners, all know as rich Internet applications. Flash creates files in the .SWF format, which are then played using JavaScript and Macromedia Flash Player.

Adobe Dreamweaver
Also one of Macromedia’s original applications, Adobe Dreamweaver is a professional web development program, which can be used to create web pages without the knowledge of profuse HTML code. Though Adobe Dreamweaver’s web pages use a larger amount of memory, it incorporates a better sense of technology, making websites look glazed and superior.

Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing program, used for the assembly and creation of quality designed publications. Adobe InDesign is compared to its competitor, QuarkXPress. While making use of Adobe’s PDF format, Adobe Indesign is also compared alongside its successor, Adobe PageMaker. This assembly application can be used to easily put documents together in a well-designed fashion, incorporating text, images, and other components. Adobe Indesign is very important in the bundle of Adobe’s Creative Suite.

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Interview With Louie Mantia, IPhone Theme Creator

There is one person out there who has set the standard for iPhone theme creation. This one person has raised the bar for what theme creators want to achieve. In my opinion nobody really even comes close. The person I am talking about is Louie Mantia. Creator of themes such as Renaissance, Buuf, and Agua, Louie Mantia is ahead of his time. His skill has even got him a few emails from Apple. I had a chance to talk with Louie and ask him a few questions myself:
CrownOfThornz: Tell me a little about yourself…
Louie Mantia: Well I’m a 19 (soon to be 20) year old student attending Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. I like Pirates, Star Wars, Tim Burton, Nintendo, and Bawls Guarana. Those are pretty much my most favorite things. I’m an Apple nerd, I follow as much as I can.

COT: So what compelled you to get into graphic design?
LM: When I was a younger teenager, and on a PC, I had a thing for customizing my computer. I remember downloading icons and themes for my computer, and I just kind of wanted to get in on that. When I first got a hold of Photoshop, I learned as much as I could. I Drenched myself in tutorials. Downloaded actions, color pallets, filters, brushes, anything I could.In high school I started developing a knack for designing things. I designed the desktop picture that’s on all the computers at the high school, over 1000 of them. It was cool, and, admittedly, an ego boost. I started taking art classes, and my math books were full of drawings. I still have most of them lying around somewhere. I did well enough in math that I could just sit and draw. Good thing I’m good in math, it helps now that I’m in design.

COT: What all is involved with graphic design?
LM: There’s so much you can do with graphic design, I’m pretty limited I think. I do little branding and mainly icons for computers. I used to do website design in the past, but it’s too tedious for me to do.

COT: Tell me your thoughts on the the iPhone
LM: The iPhone is a revolutionary device, I don’t care what anyone says. Well, in case I do, they say “it has email, and it’s a phone, and the Internet, so what?” but the interface pulls it together. The biggest problem I had with phones I had in the past were the interface. It just doesn’t work. Steve Jobs once said that “Design isn’t just how it looks, it’s how it works.” Making sure you have a beautiful and intuitive interface like the iPhone is what makes it perfect.

COT: Do you think they should integrate customizable themes into the iPhone in the next update?
LM: Well, as much as I’d like to see it happen, I know it won’t happen from them. It’ll happen from a third-party app, which is perfectly fine. SummerBoard does a great job at this right now, and who knows, maybe in the future we’ll see MobileCandyBar.

COT: Are you siked for the SDK?
LM: I’m very excited. I most likely won’t be doing any coding myself, but I’m really excited knowing that many other developers will. I hope it’s as open as can be. I’d love to see really nice chat apps and games.

COT: Will you update even if it means you can’t create themes for it anymore?
LM: I’m debating. Leaning toward updating. The new features like adding native rearranging the home screen icons and adding new ones for websites looks pretty neat. But we’ll see what happens.
COT: How are you inspired when it comes to making a new theme for summerboard?
LM: Well lately I’ve been inspired and working with David Lanham in creating themes based on his suites of icons for Mac OS X. David Lanham is an artist who works for the Iconfactory. He’s incredibly talented and has a great imagination.Renaissance started when I was browsing around some icons and loved the wax seal on Dave Brasgalla’s Word of Warcraft icons. I thought that maybe I could find an old metaphor for all the icons on the iPhone. It turned out to be harder than I thought. Making icons for things that didnt exist for hundreds of years was a difficult task.

COT: I can honestly say that your “holiday” theme was pretty lame…
LM: Yea, I rushed it. I basically re-colored icons based on Starbuck’s winter campaign.
COT: On the other hand Buuf is probably my favorite theme created by you.
LM: Buuf is a great style. Inspired by Paul Davey’s Buuf icons. Incredibly genius drawings. I really don’t know how he finds the time to make that many and so well painted. There’s just so much… but I guess when an icon set takes you years to make, that’s the result. There are just so many colors to choose from in his icons, and that’s what I find most inspiring. He has a wonderful pallet.

COT: What theme are you working on now?
LM: I’ll leave you with one hint. Some say it’s too easy. Some don’t get it at all. “All is Full of Love”

COT: Looks like I’ll have to google that one.
There you have it, a nice little hint for Louie’s next theme. To see more of Louie’s work check out his site at www.louiemantia.com and make sure to show your support my downloading his latest themes from Installer.

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A Review of iWeb – Apple’s Web Building App (and Part of iLife)

For a few years, Apple has been releasing a suite of programs called iLife. Strictly for Macs, iLife has grown over the years, from iTunes and iPhoto and iMovie to the recent additions of iDVD, Garage Band, and most recently, iWeb. Designed to allow beginners to create beautiful and function websites with ease, iWeb is a great tool as I recently found out, although not without quite a few built-in limitations.
I have no website, nor do I publish a blog, but a few years ago, more to satisfy my own curiosity than anything else, I decided to learn how to make a website. I had come across a few sites that didn’t load correctly, no matter what browser I was using, and so decided to see if I could figure out what was wrong and fix it.

Producing a web page by hand can be a long, exhausting process. It’s ultimately satisfying to see your vision appear in a web browser (even if the page is only for your own enjoyment), but as I said, it can be time consuming. There are quite a few graphic solutions available for Mac users, from professional packages such as Dreamweaver to shareware programs like Pagespinner. These programs (and iWeb is included in the bunch), make producing a page fast and easy, but often – especially with template-driven programs – do not produce the leanest pages possible. Similar to exporting a Microsoft Word document to a web page, these programs include a lot of “junk” in the page, unnecessary formatting that adds bloat to a page, without really affecting how it looks.

Because of this, I’ve never really found the need to play around with these types of programs. I maintain a personal “website” on my computer filled with stories and articles I find on the web, and it has all been coded by hand. Were I to have produced these pages via one of the aforementioned programs, it is likely the pages, while looking no different, would take up three or four times the amount of space. In my view, programs like this are great if you need to knock off a website in as little time as possible, but are not all that efficient. In dealing with websites, the amount of space a page needs is identical to the amount of bandwidth it takes to display it to a viewer, so as little space as possible should always be the goal.

Despite my predisposition against this type of program, I decided to take iWeb out for a spin. The first thing I noticed upon opening iWeb was that it wondered if I was a .Mac subscriber. I don’t subscribe to .Mac (Apple’s self-hosted web email, online backup and storage and server package available for $99 per year), so I clicked ‘no’ although I felt a first stirring of misgivings. Apple often includes features in their programs that allow it to work quite well with other Apple services (such as .Mac), while not allowing the program to perform a similar operation with non-Apple services. I will return to this theme later in the review.

As I had suspected, building the website was a breeze. Apple includes dozens of full templates (often with six or more distinct pages included), for building websites. Some of these iWeb templates are fun, some are serious, some look like handwritten journals while others are designed for displaying images, movies or music, or blog posts. Upon opening a template, the user immediately understands what the site will look like, and where objects will look best. Like other Apple products (such as iDVD with its menu system templates), there are “drop zones” where pictures can be dropped, and automatically resized and rotated.

There are also pre-designated zones for text as well, filled with ipso lorum text(nonsensical latin text designed to look good as a placeholder). These text zones are completely flexible, and can be expanded or shrunk at will, as well as moved around. If you have ever used Pages, the word processor/page layout application Apple includes with its iWork office suite, you will be familiar with your options. Objects (pictures, textures or text) can be raised or lowered, so an image can either be the main attraction or used as the page’s background. Audio and video can be embedded in a page, shapes can be added, rotated, and anything with an alpha layer (for transparency effects), can have its color hues altered quite easily.

In short, iWeb is very well designed (in my opinion), for producing fast, snazzy looking pages with little effort. Of course, if iWeb usage skyrockets, there will undoubtedly be a glut of websites all sharing nearly identical themes, but since iWeb is template-based, third party programmers are already hard at work producing new and exciting templates for you to purchase and use (of course, some will be free of charge as well).

Not that iWeb is perfect, of course. The first shortcoming that caught my eye was that Apple has not provided any way to hand code at all. In some instances, when something just doesn’t look right on a website, it’s nice to be able to view the source of a web page. Sometimes programs designed to service the lowest common denominator make assumptions about a page that I don’t quite agree with, and I would like to be able to look at the source of the site (the actual code telling the browser exactly what to display). Not only does Apple not include a means for me to hand code portions of a website, it doesn’t even allow me to take a look at the source, other than opening the site in a web browser and using the browser’s ability to view source. Still, this isn’t a death blow to my using iWeb. There are plenty of free programs available with which I could edit the code by hand.

No, in my view, iWeb’s greatest deficiency is one built into the program by Apple. Although iWeb is able to update any websites you have hosted on .Mac servers, it is completely unable to do anything else with a page, assuming you don’t subscribe to .Mac or don’t have the site hosted with .Mac, aside from saving it to your hard drive. If you have purchased server space and a domain name with another company, iWeb can’t upload new or updated pages. If you have a blog with anyone other than Apple, iWeb won’t be able to update it.

In short, I feel iWeb, although a fine program, is intentionally crippled, in order to drive more traffic to Apple’s other products. While this would be regrettable in a freeware program, I feel it’s a bit more underhanded in a program such as iWeb. Although iLife is included free of charge with every new Mac purchased, anyone wanting to upgrade to the newest versions of these programs (other than small updates and bug fixes), needs to purchase the suite. Intentionally limiting the features of a commercial program just doesn’t sit well with me.
To be fair, it’s not as if it would be difficult at all to take the website iWeb saves to the hard drive and upload that to a server. It would be quite simple. But the fact is, that ability is already built into iWeb (it’s basically what happens when iWeb updates a site hosted with .Mac), Apple has, for whatever reason, chosen not to make this feature available to anyone but .Mac subscribers.

This doesn’t ruin iWeb for me, but it makes me a bit leery. Still, the web pages produced are quite lovely. I was impressed that the code seemed quite lean, although I would still like the ability to tweak it further. As mentioned, iWeb comes as a part of the iLife suite. If you’ve purchased a new Mac in the last year or so, iWeb likely came installed on your computer. If you purchased a Mac longer ago than a year (iWeb was first introduced with iLife ’06), then you’ll need to purchase the iLife suite. It’s not incredibly expensive (roughly 80 dollars), especially considering the six applications it is comprised of, but it would be nice to be able to purchase a license for programs by themselves. I was impressed with iWeb, but were it not for the fact that it came installed, I’m not sure I would rush out to buy it. It’s good, but not as good as it could be.

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