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Software Review – Adobe Master Collection – Adobe Fireworks CS3 From Adobe Systems

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This is the sixth part of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 (CS3) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS3 earlier this year, they not only released single version products, but also six separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Standard, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

What do you need to run Adobe Fireworks CS3 On Windows you need an Intel® Pentium® 4, Intel Centrino®, Intel Xeon®, or Intel Core™ Duo (or compatible) processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, on Mac, PowerPC® G4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.8 – 10.5 (Leopard), 512 MB RAM, 64 MB Video RAM, 1,024×768 monitor resolution with 16-bit video card, 1 GB hard drive space and DVD-ROM Drive.

Adobe Fireworks CS3 is a bitmap and vector graphics editor that was originally developed and distributed by Macromedia and was acquired by Adobe in 2005, It is available for both the Mac and Windows operating systems. Adobe Fireworks CS3 is the first version released under the Adobe banner and as such is now integrated into the Creative Suite group of products.

Macromedia Fireworks was first introduced in March of 1998 and later that year was released in an integrated studio with Dreamweaver. Many people thought that with the purchase by Adobe that Fireworks would suffer the same fate as Macromedia Freehand and fall by the wayside. After all there is Photoshop; which incorporated much of ImageReady, and Illustrator so what would be the need of Fireworks. Well it appears that Adobe Fireworks CS3 is being positioned as a website prototyping tool.

Since GoLive was replaced by Dreamweaver as Adobe's web development tool, Adobe Fireworks CS3 now has been refocused to become the tool to prototype website and web applications. Now you can use it to do the graphic design and layout that goes into creating a website before it gets into Dreamweaver. Since Dreamweaver and Fireworks have really been together from the start, this move was a natural. They now had to make friends with Photoshop and Illustrator which they finally did in CS3.

So what is new with Adobe Fireworks CS3?

• Integrated with Photoshop CS3 – is one of those must have things to be included into the Creative Suite and in my opinion it is one of the things that make this version a must have update. I recently had to do some button work with some buttons created as .PNG files in Fireworks, but my skills are a tad better in Photoshop and I was very, very pleased that I could do what I needed to in Adobe Fireworks CS3 and then could switch to Photoshop to do some other things I was more comfortable with there, and then back to Fireworks to finish up. This was wonderful. Fireworks also allows you to preserve layer and sub-layer information when importing from Photoshop, add a variety of effects,  including seven commonly used blend modes, and design comps can be saved as native Photoshop files and opened in either application.

• Integration with Illustrator CS3 – now allows you to import native Illustrator files directly into Adobe Fireworks CS3 while retaining attributes. It also supports importing and editing gradient fills, pattern strokes, and pattern fills. It preserves the appearance of RGB colors, opacity and transparency settings, the number and position of Bezier anchor points on vector paths, and linked images.

• Hierarchical organization structure – allows you to better manage and organize your designs with a new hierarchical structure for both web layers and pages. In prior versions of Fireworks you were limited to a single level of layers when designing pages, now you can be as complex as you need to be.

• Intelligent scaling – reinvents the traditional concept of scaling. In the past when you scaled an object, the entire object was transformed as a single unit which on some objects could cause distortion. Now Adobe Fireworks CS3 introduces 9-slice scaling which allows you to scale vector or bitmap images intelligently. By positioning a set of guides over your artwork you can define how it will be scaled. It can also be set to scale three regions as well.

• Multiple pages – now allows you to build complex multi-page web prototypes using a single PNG file. Each page has its own settings for its properties. These can be set on a page by page basis or on all the pages in the document.

• Flex integration for RIA layouts – can help in the development of the next generation of Rich Internet Applications by making it possible to export common library assets as known components for use in Adobe Flex Builder. It will even export the necessary Flex code (MXML) for you as well.

• Photoshop Blending modes – are now included in Adobe Fireworks CS3. They are Dissolve, Linear Burn, Linear Dodge, Vivid Light, Linear Light, Pin Light, and Hard Mix.

• Common Library – will allow you to jump-start your prototype library with a library of common elements. It does not matter if you are designing web applications, forms, interfaces, or web sites, this library can speed up your work flow. It can be used to store graphic symbols, button symbols, or animation symbols. These can be leveraged across multiple documents, as well as multiple designers or developers.

• Seamless integration with Dreamweaver CS3 and Flash CS3 – combined with the integration with Photoshop and Illustrator make this a one stop shop for all of your web development needs.

Fireworks has always been a solid tool for creating websites graphics. Now Adobe Fireworks CS3 takes this power even farther with all of the new features described above. First and foremost is the Photoshop/Illustrator integration. This to me is a great benefit.

Next is the multi-page ability. The pages can vary in the dimension of the pixels, links can be created between pages, and layers can even be shared across pages. Finally the 9-slice scaling is another great feature. Now that you can control the scaling of the slices, you have much more control of the final product.

While on the surface and in comparison to the other products in the Creative Suite, it may not seem that Adobe Fireworks CS3 has had that big of an upgrade and in the global scope of things, perhaps it hasn't. But for those who do web development, the changes that were made make this upgrade more than worth it.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Just A Guy

    I was thrilled to find Fireworks did not hit the cutting room floor of Adobe. As a long time user of Macromedia products, version 2 is where i started. I know Fireworks very (very) well, but have never moved to Photoshop. I am a firm partner with a large group of graphic designers, web designers and programmers.

    I have watched Photoshop users produce web designs, and Firework users produce the same web designs – the major difference is time. In fireworks the man hours (especially considering the integration/relationship with counterpart Dreamweaver) is roughly estimated at 1/4 – 1/3 the time spent on same or like projects by Photoshop only users. It’s simply faster. I am also glad to see Fireworks is a member of the team, as I was told it would loss to Photoshop. I disagreed, its not likely to occur, its only intelligent to keep it as the web design graphic tool. Photoshop is a good product, but its not exactl made for web design graphics – I consider it as a photo editing tool. Its all in the little details.

    Thats my two cents.

  • T. Michael Testi

    Just A Guy,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree! While I am more of a Photoshop guy, I think that within the Web world that there is a very strong case for Fireworks remaining and was very happy to see that it did.

    Thanks — T.

  • Sarthak

    For web designers and people doing web prototyping, Fireworks CS3 is a must upgrade. The features added in the version reduces the time to complete the task even faster.

    The pages feature is a huge advantage. Moving around different files for review and their maintenance has been removed. Also the “previewing all pages” in browser adds to the productivity enhancer.