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Macromedia Fireworks MX

Image editing and effects suite for print and Web By Dave Nagel
When I first used Macromedia Fireworks (back at version 2.0), I thought it was a terrific program for creating and editing Web graphics. It could handle Web animations with no problem, and it compressed JPEG files better than any other application or plugin on the market. While it could handle image editing and effects, I never saw it as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop, even through version 4.0. But with the release of Fireworks MX, I think Macromedia has finally pulled it all together to the point where the program's image editing and Web capabilities can stand on their own.

This is not to say that I'm ready to dump Photoshop. No way. As it stands, I continue to use the two in combination with one another, as I have from the beginning. But for many, with its significantly lower price and excellent set of features, Fireworks would make a perfect alternative.

Working in Fireworks
For me, the most stunning change from version 4 to version MX (or 5.0, whatever you want to call it) is the overall smoothness of operating in a truly mixed vector and bitmap environment. I say "truly mixed" as a distinction not only from version 4, but from Photoshop as well. In Photoshop, you certainly have the capability to work with paths, but you don't get true vector integration as you do in Fireworks. And in Fireworks 4, you had the same level of vector and bitmap features, but they didn't play together all that well, at least not in my experience. But in Fireworks MX, you get the best of both--vector functionality akin to Freehand and Illustrator with extremely capable bitmap creation and editing tools, all wrapped up into one neat package.

This is a bit difficult to explain. But remember in earlier versions of Fireworks when you'd try to do some bitmap editing, click in the wrong place and suddenly be unable to complete your operation because the program had gone into a different mode? (For example--and this happened a lot with me--I'd select and area of a bitmap image to cut, but I wouldn't be able to cut it because the program would tell me no pixels objects were selected.) Well, that's gone. You can now just work freely between bitmaps, text and vectors without any worries of this sort. (Fireworks MX also separates vector and bitmap tools in the Tool palette.) And to me, this marks a clear turning point for the application.

So, essentially, Fireworks MX eliminates the only thing I didn't like about previous versions of Fireworks and opens the way for me to focus on what I do like.

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