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Adobe Bridge was installed by default when I installed Adobe CS5. What is Adobe Bridge used for, and how can it be integrated within a designer's workflow?

What I know about it is that it is basically a file manager, which is somewhat redundant to me because Finder or Windows Explorer can be used to manage my files.

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

I use it for browsing a huge amount of images in one spot very quickly.

Example: I have a new brochure I'm designing for a steady client, the Smith Company. The client says "I want to use the headshot with the two founders in it. Not the old guy, the younger one — his son. And the guy he works with. The son is on the left. And no background. I want it siloed." (silhouetted)

The client doesn't know that when we got that color photo over two years ago, we cleaned it up, made a copy in grayscale, a copy in duotone, did clipping paths for each, made a version that's a cameo with a nice gradient fade, and flipped a copy. That's not including all the other headshots we've gotten from them in the last five years, with different people in different combinations. There are like 200 images in that folder.

So I open my SMITHCO-HEADSHOT folder in Bridge, and it takes me about 15 seconds of scrolling to find the shot the client needs. I make note of the file name, drop it in, and go on with my day.

The nice thing about Bridge is that is also does EPS files, which Mac Finder's Cover Flow does NOT do. So if I need a chart with two lines and one set of bars, with the axis for the bar chart on the right, and I have 200 charts in that folder, I can use Bridge to zip through all the charts quickly rather than opening up 200 files.

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+1 for actual use cases. –  Philip Regan Jan 12 '11 at 14:06
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I never use Bridge. I find it a waste of hard drive space and pointless. And, if anything, detrimental due to the additional hard drive space it's cache files can chew up.

In theory Adobe wants you to use Bridge to manage your files -- essentially replacing the Mac OS Finder or Windows Explorer to move, rename, and other organizational operations. Over the past few years Adobe has migrated some operations to Bridge in order to try and force it upon users. Things like Photoshop's web galleries or contact sheets were moved to Bridge. Adobe added warnings to applications if you failed to use Bridge to set color settings across all Adobe apps. The only thing I see of any value in Bridge is editing metadata of image files. If you edit or create a great deal of metadata for your images you may want to explore Bridge.

My best advice is if you have Bridge, play with it for a couple hours. If you find it helpful, then start exploring it further. If you find it annoying and overall pointless (as I do) then just ignore it. However, don't uninstall or trash it if you have any of the "suite" packages. Updates may fail and applications will whine if Bridge is not on your hard drive (stupid Adobe).

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Bridge is the coordinating hub of the Creative Suite. Synchronizing color management settings for all suite programs is done from Bridge, and can only be done from Bridge, to take one important use.

As Lauren mentioned, Bridge displays actual thumbnails of many more file types than Finder or Explorer. It also allows instant play of sound or video files more readily than the native OS file managers.

Bridge allows direct access to file metadata, to embed copyright information and keywords where appropriate (e.g., for corporate logo vector and raster files). It also displays the fonts used in an InDesign file, the swatches in an INDD or AI and the output plates (including spot color plates) they use.

When managing the assets for a design project, Bridge allows quick and simple sorting, rating and custom labeling (with color flash indications) of assets. I can rate images according to whether they are rejects, possibles, for review by client, or approved. The filters built into Bridge allow instant isolation of only the approved images or designs in a folder, only the rejects (for deletion) or only files with certain ratings, no matter how many files it contains. It recognizes aspect ratios, so if I only need a landscape or a 16:9 image in a folder of hundreds of images, I turn off the aspect ratios I don't need.

Once filtered, the remaining visible files can be selected and copied, moved, or deleted without affecting the rest of the contents of a folder.

Collections are a massively useful feature. One of my clients is a performing arts center, and in a season we turn out dozens of ads, flyers, brochures, web banners, playbills, billboards and other collateral using the same assets over and over. These assets are organized by artist and/or show on disk, but I set up each season's repeating assets as a Collection in Bridge, so that I just have to open the collection and drag and drop these assets into new INDD, AI, PSD, HTML (in Dreamweaver), FLA or AE projects without having to navigate from folder to folder picking up individual files.

Bridge's Favorites is another place I stack frequently-accessed folders, such as stock photography, backgrounds, and top-level folders for active projects.

Assets can be divided into subfolders, but a quick toggle of "Show items from subfolders" exposes all of the assets in a single view while maintaining their organization. I will typically keep AIs, PSDs, EPSs, stock photography and client images in separate subfolders within a project. When I'm ready to start pulling assets into an InDesign layout, I toggle this on and simply drag what I need into the layout.

Bridge comes with Adobe Camera Raw built in, which is many times faster than using Photoshop to adjust jpegs or tiffs for things like tonal range, white balance, cropping, spotting and sharpening, and is non-destructive.

One tremendously useful Bridge function for InDesign CS5+ users is the "Show linked files" feature, which opens all the linked files in a layout into a single view, regardless of where they are physically located. I often use this when doing alternative layouts from a client-approved mockup for a campaign, to be certain the same assets are used in each piece, or when creating a motion graphic or interactive piece for the campaign in After Effects or Flash.

The batch and image processing scripts built into Bridge automate things like creating web-ready small jpegs from multiple images, renaming large numbers of files in place or by copying to an alternative location, creating sets of PSD, png, jpeg or other file types from an assortment of image files, and so on.

Bridge is so much a part of my daily workflow that on my main workstation I have one monitor dedicated to it almost 100%. Bridge just sits open 24/7, ready for use. I would run at half speed without it, no question.

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I am answering only to put a different point of view: I never used because I do not find useful for my daily work (graphic/web design).

It should be of help for the people that work everyday with hundreds and hundreds of images to handle files quickly, adding meta information to files (to make it easier to search) and catalogue the various version of a same graphic solutions.

To me is much more useful in photography where you make tons of photo shoots and you have to track them down, but far as I know, many photographers use other tools than Adobe Bridge, like if I am not in error: Lightroom

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When I first saw Bridge I dismissed it but find it very useful now when browsing large amounts of images. Brilliant for things like RAW files as windows explorer/finder don't display thumbnails.

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Adobe Bridge is not so much a file manager as it is a digital asset manager. It offers much more capabilities to manage files than the Finder and Windows Explorer will ever offer by default, but it is not a replacement for either but rather an enhancement of both.

Bridge facilitates all sorts of tasks, like batch processing all sorts of file characteristics (where scripting isn't a known skill), manage metadata inside files, linking between applications, and other features unique to the Adobe Creative Suite.

I've only just started using it myself for scripting purposes (though I'm still in CS4) and I'm coming to appreciate its usefulness. It's worth looking into especially if you work on a lot of jobs or a lot of files at once.

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