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Macromedia Studio MX 2004

Studio MX 2004 makes enhancements to virtually all of the web design and production applications By Adam Bell
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Macromedia Studio MX 2004
$899/$999 with Flash Pro
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In September, Macromedia made the announcement of the new MX 2004 line of software encompassing virtually every single one of their major web design and production applications. The only major exception to this was Freehand, which came out with a new version earlier this year.

Studio MX 2004 makes enhancements to its HTML editor, Dreamweaver, its web graphics workhorse, Fireworks, its web animation/rich Internet application creator, Flash and also its programming language ColdFusion. I have already provided a lengthy look into the new Flash 2004 and its bigger cousin Flash Professional 2004 and you can read that review here. So I'll touch on Flash a little bit in this review and also touch on some additional findings I have uncovered since I went under the hood the first time with Flash. In addition, since Freehand did not undergo any major changes except for the addition of a minor 'a' upgrade, I will instead concentrate on Dreamweaver, Fireworks and of course, Flash.

All new versions of MX 2004 software include a new startup panel. This panel (which can be turned off in preferences) enables you to select any one of the last 10 files previously opened as well as create all sorts of new files either from scratch or pre-defined templates. For example, if you're new to the world of CSS-based layout and design (as I am), you can use one of the pre-defined CSS templates and use it as the base for your site's design by tweaking it. Same thing with Flash. Need to create Flash interfaces for mobile devices? No problem! Just open up a template and hack at it!

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New startup panel. click on image for a better view
At first, I wasn't originally a big fan of the startup panels. I thought they were plain and added more clutter to my workspace. However, now that I've gotten used to them I really find it a necessary tool and I use them all the time when I start up any MX product. There are still some bugs though with this panel. For starters, in my copy of Fireworks, I cannot seem to click on a filename and get my file to open up. Likewise in Dreamweaver, I sometimes have problem where the startup panel appears above my file panel when I want it the other way around.

Flash Professional 2004 and Flash 2004. Don't get confused. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Much as Adobe now has both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and Apple has Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express, Macromedia now has decided to make two different version of Flash. Both versions offer a new version of ActionScript called ActionScript 2.0 that offers new ways to introduce classes in your code as well as a new ActionScript panel that combines some of the functionality found in the Movie Explorer to make it easier to find the script you really want to edit any time the AS panel is open.

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This new panel allows you to easily add effects and interactivity without programming.
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Another great new feature is the addition of Timeline Effects. click on images for a better view
One new feature that newbies will like is the addition of behaviors. This new panel allows you to easily add effects and interactivity without knowing anything about programming. While this is a great feature, there is a trade-off as Macromedia has dropped the 'normal' mode from the ActionScript panel. So unless you really know you're ActionScript, you may get very lost in the realm of this panel. So make sure you've got the Behavior panel open at all times.

Another great new feature is the addition of Timeline Effects. While the timeline has changed very little from MX to MX 2004, the new Timeline Effects allow third-party developers to make plug-ins to allow all sorts of new motion graphics effects to your Flash movies. Programs like Red Giant's Text, Pixel and Distort FX allow for various motion graphics effects like blurs and explosions while Swift3D Xpress allows you to create 3D shapes and animations without ever opening the main Swift3D application. Reviews of these timeline effects will be coming soon to DMN in the next month or so.

Both versions offer new types of v2 components that replace the components used in the previous MX edition. You can use those old v1 components though in 2004, but these new components are meant to be used to make file sizes smaller. The first component added to the stage is pretty large in size, but because of the unique way these components are structured many pieces of each component are actually shared from component to component. So adding more components only increases the file size slightly.

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The Media Playback components allow you to easily add a player interface and easily link it to external MP3 or FLV (Flash Video) files. click on image for a better view
Flash Pro offers two major additions in the components. The Media Playback components allow you to easily add a player interface and easily link it to external MP3 or FLV (Flash Video) files. The new Flash 7 Player can now progressively download videos ala QuickTime Player and the results are very nice to behold. You no longer need the expensive option of Flash Communications Server to play pre-recorded FLVs. The other major component groups are the data components. These are based on a previous third-party component scheme, Firefly, which Macromedia purchased this past spring. With the new data components you can connect to XML files or Web Services (WSDL) to retrieve live data, images and other SWF files easily without a great deal of programming knowledge required. One thing Macromedia has tried to do is make sure that Flash still can be used by the creative individual without having to constantly call on an ActionScript code geek.

With all of these great additions, there have also been tremendous problems. Trolling the boards on and other Flash sites shows that there are still many bugs with this app and it looks like a Flash 2004a upgrade will be in the works. One major problem I've uncovered is that on the Mac version of Flash, opening any FLA files saved and created in MX or older versions of Flash tends to move fonts down and to the right a few pixels each. Anyone who has designed a comprehensive Flash-based site with lots of Static Text objects will find this very frustrating. This is due to the addition of Unicode support in all 2004 products, which enable users to use any font and any font character, including double-byte characters. This is why I still have Flash MX (6) in my Dock on OS X.

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Related Keywords:Macromedia Studio MX 2004, Macromedia, Studio MX, Adam Bell, web design, animation, internet developmwnt


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