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First Look: Adobe Fireworks CS3

New name, new focus By Kevin Schmitt

With the release of the Adobe CS3 line, many questions have been answered with respect to which former Macromedia products would stay and which would go. As it turns out, the big M lives on in a big way in the various CS3 releases, and the focus of our first look piece today effectively sounded the death knell for ImageReady. Fireworks CS3 is the replacement, and with the new name and new version come few new features but an entirely new focus. Let's take a sneak peek at what's new and notable in Fireworks CS3.

What's old is new again

In general, other than adopting the Adobe and CS3 names, Fireworks CS3 isn't a whole lot different than previous versions. Put simply, Adobe Fireworks may as well still be Macromedia Fireworks (fig. 1):


Figure 1

As you can see, the interface is still very Macromedia-esque, and the new Adobe CS3 interface that Photoshop CS3 Public Beta testers are likely used to by now (and which was applied to Flash CS3) is nowhere to be found. Anyway, without belaboring the point, it's useful to know that what was true in previous versions of Fireworks is true for the CS3 incarnation. For those not familiar with Fireworks, the program historically has featured:

  • Adeptness at handling both vector and bitmap images
  • Non-destructive effects (which are now known as Live Filters in CS3)
  • Support for easy conversion of artwork into HTML/CSS-based Web sites
  • Animation and interactive authoring tools
  • Batch processing for repetitive tasks
  • Probably the best and most flexible Web image export engine ever conceived, especially when it comes to JPEGs

 

...Just to name a few. In short, Fireworks CS3 is pretty much the same Web image creation and optimization product it's been since at least the beginning of the century. What that ultimately means, however, largely depends on who you are. If you go way back with Fireworks, you'll likely be relieved at the continuity (not to mention the fact that it beat out ImageReady). However, if you've been using the newly deceased ImageReady, you may be thrown for a bit of a loop when attempting to grapple with the old-school Macromedia interface (fig. 2).


Figure 2: Panel groups, not "true" tabs, still rule the roost.

Regardless of your feelings on whether or not Adobe should have retained the old interface, it should come as welcome news to just about everyone that Fireworks, like the rest of the CS3 line, is compiled as a Universal Binary for the Intel Mac adopters amongst us, while the Windows faithful should rest easy in knowing that Fireworks CS3 and its CS3 brethren are ready for Windows Vista.

A new purpose in life

Part of the subtitle of this piece is "new focus," which refers to the fact that Adobe is keen to have you use Fireworks as a prototyping tool. To that end, many of Fireworks CS3's new features are in keeping with the new marching orders:

Pages. Fireworks CS3 adopts a paradigm usually reserved for print programs like InDesign: pages (fig. 3). The workflow goes something like this: say you're mocking up a Web site. So you bring your artwork into Fireworks (or create it there from scratch, of course, using Fireworks' bitmap and vector creation tools), designate a page as a Master page, create a few other pages, share layers between pages for common interface elements (fig. 4), set up a few hotspots that reflect the names of your various pages (fig. 5), and export out all of your pages to working, hotlinked HTML pages (fig. 6) that your client can navigate as if it were a working Web site. Fireworks CS3 also can serve as a mockup tool for Adobe Flash, but we'll go over that in just a bit.


Figure 3


Figure 4: The yellow layers represent ones that are shared across multiple pages.


Figure 5: Creating hotspots (top) with named pages (bottom, right) will yield clickable HTML-based mockups when exporting from Fireworks.


Figure 6: Hotlinked HTML and images, ready for customer perusal.


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