The Basics: Words and Graphics
Fundamental requirements for most Web sites include text and graphics.
For editing existing bitmaps, such as JPEGs or GIFs, use Fireworks. If you want to create bitmaps from scratch with drawing tools, you could use Fireworks, Flash, or FreeHand. All of them can export GIFs and JPEGs. FreeHand has the most powerful drawing capabilities. However, each program has some unique capabilities not found in the others.
For a comparison of the tools in Fireworks, Flash, and FreeHand, see Chapter 3, "Introducing the MX Interface," page 23. It's largely a discussion of similarities in the tools, but it also gets into differences.
All four Studio MX programs deal with text. Fireworks and FreeHand excel at applying special effects such as drop shadows, embossing, and blurring. Usually, applying the effect converts the vector text to a bitmap, so it can no longer be edited as text. Then the text is typically exported as a bitmap file, such as a GIF, to be used in a Web site.
Dreamweaver, on the other hand, works like a word processor in that it directly manipulates the system fonts provided by the operating system. There's no need to convert to or export to a bitmap format. However, when it comes to changing the appearance of the text, you're limited to just a few standard possibilities, such as bolding, italicizing, and changing the font size.
If you just want to get text online, use Dreamweaver. For instance, if you want to put a short story online, just type it and apply text formatting in Dreamweaver, save, and publish. Dreamweaver also provides the most straightforward means of combining text and graphics.
The main reason to use FreeHand or Fireworks with text is for effects such as drop shadows, embossing, and blurring. Each has some unique effects, such as 3D (extruding) in FreeHand and motion trail (comet tail) in Fireworks. If you want to use text effects, a couple of hours playing with them in both programs will be time well spent. (Fun, too.) Text with effects applied has to be exported in a bitmap or Flash (SWF) format. If you want to combine the text with an image, you can do that, too.