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Choosing Optimization Settings and Exporting Graphics

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Where Fireworks really shines is in enabling you to export graphics into many different formats quickly and easily, with fine control over every detail, including colors, transparency, and compression. In the previous hour, "Image Collection and Management," it was pointed out that the Fireworks Save command saves your work as a Fireworks PNG source graphic. To create other kinds of graphics in many different formats, using the Export command will be discussed here.

In this hour you will

  • Learn about the different export formats

  • Preview and compare different export options

  • Change settings to optimize quality or file size

  • Save custom settings to make output more consistent

  • Create a simple placeholder Web page graphic

Working with Different Output Formats

There are a number of different graphics formats that Fireworks can export, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, exporting as TIFF might create a file even bigger than the Fireworks source PNG. JPEG is particularly bad as a format for images with lots of text, like a screenshot or button. The following is a list of different file formats that can be optimized and exported with Fireworks:

GIF—GIF images are one of the most widely supported formats for computers and the Web. Images with lots of text or line art and a limited palette work best as GIF images. GIF images have a palette of no more than 8 bits but can create very small files. GIF images can also contain a transparency mask.
Animated GIF—Animated GIF export creates files of the same format as regular GIF files, but they can contain multiple frames and display them at intervals to create moving images. Animated GIFs can become very large unless special steps are taken to optimize them.
JPEG—Another widely used format for the Web is JPEG, which is best for photos and other images with a full range of colors. With JPEG you can vary the level of compression by trading image detail for file size—the smaller the file size in bytes, the less detail the image will contain.
PNG—PNG export is for creating PNG graphics without Fireworks' special features. Most Web browsers and graphic applications do not support all of Fireworks' special PNG features but do support the more basic format features. The basic PNG format uses non-lossy compression like GIF but saves more detailed color and transparency information.
WBMP—The wireless bitmap format is used for creating graphics for tiny, monochrome displays common on wireless devices, such as cell phones and PDAs. These images are naturally very small because each pixel must be either black or white and the dimensions must be similarly restrained. Non-lossy compression, such as GIF compression, is employed to make the files even smaller.
TIFF—This format is often used in the print industry and for moving images between graphics applications. Many Web browsers do not support this format. TIFF files exported from Fireworks employ non-lossy compression and can contain the full RGB palette plus an 8-bit alpha channel.

NOTE

When your image-processing software, in order to reduce the file size, removes information that is more or less redundant to the human eye, this is known as lossy compression. The advantage of lossy compression is that it gives a very high degree of compression, often 5 to 30 times. The disadvantage is that the quality of the image is reduced as the compression increases.

When you use a non-lossy compression format, all original information will be saved in the image. The disadvantage is that the compression ratio is much lower, leading to larger file sizes.

PICT—Used almost exclusively on the Apple Macintosh platform, this format does not use compression; files can be made smaller only by restricting the palette or dimensions. PICT image files are rarely used in Web pages. They are used mostly in production as a backup or transfer format.
BMP—This is the basic image format for Microsoft Windows. Like PICT, it can use the full RGB palette but does not use compression—but this can also create very large files. For this reason this format is also less common on the Web.
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