NEWS • AUGUST 25, 2003
Macromedia Unveils MX 2004 Lineup
New versions of Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks slated for September release

by David Nagel

Macromedia today unveiled its new lineup of graphic design tools in the MX 2004 family. These include two new versions of Flash, Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004; Dreamweaver MX 2004; and Fireworks MX 2004. The company has also introduced the new Studio MX 2004 suite, as well as Flash Player 7. All are expected to be available next month for Mac OS X and Windows.

Completely new to Macromedia's lineup are split versions of Flash, the standard version and the Professional edition. The standard Flash MX 2004 adds new functionality and gains several workflow enhancements. It includes new Timeline Effects for adding common effects like blurs and drop shadows without scripting; pre-defined behaviors for navigation and media control; ActionScript 2.0 for enhanced interactivity; support for cascading style sheets for producing hybrid Flash and HTML content; spell checking and global search; accessibility features; and Unicode and localization tools. It also gains a high-performance compiler for improving playback considerably, including playback of content created for earlier versions of the Flash Player.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Like all of the new MX 2004 releases, Flash also gains a new user interface. And it gains extensibility so that users and third-party developers can create distributable custom extensions and effects.

The Flash MX 2004 interface

The Professional edition includes all of the new features of Flash MX 2004, as well as a beefed-up application development environment for developing rich Internet applications and tools for delivering video with interactivity and custom interfaces. It adds forms-based programming capabilities as an alternative to timeline-based development and offers connectivity to server data with scriptable binding, supporting SOAP, XML and Flash Remoting. For video, Flash Professional includes a streamlined development workflow with Apple FInal Cut Pro and other video editing systems. With the new Flash Player 7, it provides support for full-motion, full-frame video and progressive downloads. And it includes pre-built components for building custom interfaces and easily compositing text, animated graphics and images into a video presentation. It also gains for developing content for mobile devices.

Both Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004 will include MX Elements for Flash, a set of application components, including templates and UI components, for creating interactive Flash applications. The standard edition will sell for $499 for the full version, $199 for upgrades (from FLash 5 or MX) and $199 for education customers. The Professional edition will sell for $699 for the full version and $299 for upgrades.

Dreamweaver and Fireworks have also been boosted into the MX 2004 fold. The primary focus of Dreamweaver MX 2004 is the simplification of cascading style sheets, with the entire design environment built around CSS for precise control over design elements. It offers support for SecureFTP, dynamic cross-browser validation functionality, built-in graphics editing, integration with Microsoft Word and Excel (including copying and pasting formatted tables) and updated support for ASP.NET, PHP and ColdFusion technologies. It will ship with MX Elements for HTML, which includes starter and template components for Web pages, including preset cascading style sheets.

Dreamweaver's preset cascading style sheets

Dreamweaver will be available in September for $399 for the full version, $199 for upgrades from Dreamweaver MX and Dreamweaver 4 and $99 for education customers.

Fireworks is Macromedia's image manipulation tool for Web graphics, offering support for both vector and bitmap images, along with functionality for generating Web animations, Flash elements, interactive menus and the like. The new version includes improved interoperation with other products in the MX line; check-in and check-out functionality; roundtrip editing with support for server-side code; nested tables; and built-in FTP. On the creative side, it adds new tools like Auto Shapes, which are preset primitive objects that allow for multi-dimensional transformations; Contour Gradients, a feature borrowed from Freehand MX; motion blur; new anti-aliasing options; new photo tools for touching up images, including red-eye removal; and Unicode support. Macromedia says it also sees performance improvements of 85 percent, particularly in working with large images and performing processor-intensive tasks.

The new Fireworks MX 2004 interface showing the cog Auto Shape

Fireworks MX 2004, set to ship in September, will sell for $299 for the full version, $149 for upgrades (from version 4 or MX) and $99 for education customers.

Finally, Macromedia has also announced the upcoming full release of Flash Player 7, an update that reportedly doubles the performance of Flash, with speed enhancements geared specifically toward Mac OS X clients. It also gains support for cascading style sheets, ActionScript 2.0 and SOAP Web services, as well as customizable update notification. It will be available as a free download free in September.

All of the new applications will also be available wrapped up in the Macromedia Studio MX 2004 bundle, which will ship in two configurations, one with Flash MX 2004 standard and one with Flash MX Professional 2004. The Studio includes Dreamweaver MX 2004, Fireworks MX 2004, Flash MX 2004, FreeHand MX and a developer edition of ColdFusion MX 6.1 (Windows only). They'll sell for $899 (with standard Flash) and $999 (with Flash Professional). Upgrades will run $399 to $599, depending on configuration.

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Contact the author: Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Mac OS, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at [email protected].

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