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Macromedia Fireworks 4.0

I use Fireworks for most of my online work. It easy to work with, has a small learning curve, and seems to be more focused on Web-based output than other graphic editors. Fireworks makes outputting and publishing your work to the Internet a breeze.

In General

The new Fireworks interface has tabbed menus, which are easy to customize for your needs. Keyboard shortcuts to specific actions can be accessed easily by clicking a button in the menu bar. (Macromedia was even kind enough to add the ability to use Photoshop and Illustrator shortcuts.)

GIF animations are easy to create with this new version of Fireworks. Animation paths keep track of moving objects on your screen, which makes it much easier to determine what is moving where, compared to the old timeline. You can just draw a line and enter some parameters (such as movements and rotation), and voila[ag]! Although GIF animation is not used any more for general Web graphics, this feature is extremely useful when working with banners.

Another great new feature is the capability to add pop-up menus for the Web, without even having to leave the program. Again, you can just enter the information into the pop-up menu dialog box, specify the URLs that you want the buttons to link to, and instantly see the result. You can customize the cell colors (for rollover effects, for example) and fonts to make the menu blend in with your site design. When you are finished, the program automatically saves the data to an (external) JavaScript file, which you can then load into your favorite HTML editor—preferably Dreamweaver. I personally am really excited with this new feature; you can work on a heading graphic for your page and then integrate a pop-up menu and see instant results. You can also preview it in your browser. The only downside is that the code generated by fireworks is a bit bulky, but, in my opinion, the pop-up menus are worth the extra loading time.

New options such as the drag-and-drop rollover effect can be added even if you don't have the slightest knowledge of JavaScript coding, using the Behavior panel in Fireworks. All you have to do to create a rollover is to drag a handle over the position where you want the image to appear. This is great for people who know very little about code programming in both JavaScript and HTML.

The Library window helps you keep track of your images, objects, and hyperlinks. Similarly to Dreamweaver, you can simply click and drag images and links over your image to duplicate them. Special effects can be added to objects easily using the Effects tab. The nice thing about Fireworks is that the effects update while you are working, so you can see instantly what it will look like. What I do miss here is the capability to add effects to layers, as in Photoshop. Maybe we will see this in future versions of Fireworks.

Layers and frames can also be worked with, although I find layer use in Fireworks to be a bit more confusing than in Photoshop. Creating a rollover menu from an image is not as easy as it seems, although, with a little practice, it should take you much less time then having to do it manually by slicing the image using Photoshop or an HTML editor.

A button maker also comes with the program. This wizard guides you through all the steps of making (rollover) buttons and assigning a URL to them. It is extremely easy to edit each state of the button, and you can add more functions using the behavior manager. Again, this is a real timesaver for the average Web designer.

Fireworks' integration with other programs is great. The program imports and exports layered Photoshop files. It can also import Illustrator and Freehand files without losing vector edibility. It also enables you to export SWF (for simple Flash animations) and Adobe Illustrator formats.

Fireworks 4 has an amazing export wizard that gives you advice on which file type to use, and at what quality level, when exporting either for the Web or to a file. You can even input a desired file size, and Fireworks will automatically calculate what image format would be best to use. In addition, you can preview different output options in different windows to see which one looks best and to compare file sizes, or you can decide to export only a small part of your image by using the crop tool.

As you can see, Fireworks 4 was made for graphic designers. The unique functions of this program make it perfect for Web designers, and this is a real timesaver when it comes to exporting and publishing your work, not to mention the capability to easily add HTML and JavaScript behaviors.

Product Information

Price: The full version costs $299 at this writing, and the upgrade costs $149.

System requirements (Windows):

  • Intel Pentium processor (Pentium II recommended)

  • Windows 95/98, 2000, XP, or NT version 4.0 or later*

  • 64MB of available RAM

  • 80MB of available hard-disk space

  • 800 x 600, 256-color display (1024 x 768, millions of colors recommended)

  • Adobe Type Manager Version 4 or later with Type 1 fonts

System requirements (Macintosh):

  • Power Macintosh Processor (G3 or higher recommended)

  • Mac OS 8.6 or 9.X

  • 64MB of available RAM

  • 80MB of available hard-disk space

  • 800 x 600, 256-color display (1024 x 768, millions of colors recommended)

  • Adobe Type Manager Version 4 or later with Type1 fonts

Product Web site: http://www.macromedia.com/software/fireworks/

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