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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – Fireworks CS5 from Adobe Systems

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This is the seventh of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS5 this year, they not only will release single version products, but also five separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, 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.

Adobe Fireworks CS5 is a bitmap and vector graphics editor that was originally developed and distributed by Macromedia. It is the industry leader for prototyping and rapid web building. It has heavy duty exporting and image optimization abilities and is the software of choice for web designers that build large websites.

 Fireworks CS5

Sometimes there is confusion between Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Photoshop. Fireworks is not a replacement for Photoshop, but rather it is a tool that is better suited for working with site layouts and mock designs. It is also more efficient in creating web graphics as it has everything you need in one application.

Being positioned as 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.

So what is new with Fireworks CS5?
• Feature and workflow enhancements – include productivity improvements for letting you create rich, multi-layered web images, comps, and interactive designs with fewer steps, while maintaining the quality, accuracy, and flexibility of your designs. In addition, significant changes have been made in the user interface that enables you to access key features directly from the Properties panel. These include faster and more accurate vector resizing, precise gradient editing, easier adjustment of vector stroke alignment, custom stroke editing and creation, and page preview and insertion.

• Performance improvements – have been made for better UI responsiveness that include faster installation, up to 10% less disk space, up to 15% faster launch time on cold starts, and 49% faster on warm (restarts) starts. Even the response time in UI components is faster.

 Fireworks CS5

• Adobe Device Central Integration – lets you easily experiment with designing for mobile devices. The integration between Fireworks and Adobe Device Central makes it easy to set up a Fireworks project and preview it in Adobe Device Central saving you time and money in development costs.

• Adobe Flash Catalyst workflow – means that Fireworks is optimized for designing screen graphics which makes it ideal for creating assets for delivery via the Flash Platform. Fireworks CS5 supports the latest FXG format (2.0) so you can easily export individual objects or multipage designs as editable FXG elements for use in Flash Catalyst and other software.

• Adobe Swatch Exchange – gives Fireworks the ability to open and create Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) files. These can also be used in Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator software. The ASE files created with other Creative Suite applications can be easily imported into the Swatches panel in Fireworks, allowing you to work with color schemes that may have been created in other projects. Additionally, you can create ASE files from Adobe Kuler themes and use them in your design.

• Document templates – will save you time by giving you the ability to jump-start your project with a variety of templates, including web and mobile designs, wireframes, grids, and document presets.

• Improved type handling – takes the Fireworks CS4 Adobe text engine which introduced exciting new capabilities for high-quality typographic design and efficient text handling, and takes it to the next level. In Fireworks CS5, the power of the text engine has been enhanced further to provide features for editing and formatting text. Together, these refinements make it much easier for you to efficiently achieve the typographic quality and effects that you want.

 Fireworks CS5

• Pixel-perfect precision – in Fireworks CS5 includes numerous features to enable you to precisely control the placement and appearance of design elements. In addition to those already described—stroke alignment, type-handling enhancements, proportional scaling, and FXG export—Fireworks CS5 allows you to create crisp graphics that align to the underlying pixel grid.

It had been announced that this release was always about stability. During the course of software development, when you have a number of releases that have added a lot of features, sometimes it pays to go back and rebuild your foundation. That is what Fireworks CS5 does.

While this version of Fireworks CS5 may not be the big new flashy WOW version, it does bring a lot of base stabilizing features that I think will not only be welcome, but well regarded. First and foremost it is smaller, leaner and very much faster than the previous release. Not only that, but it feels much more stable and refined as well.

When you add all of the workflow and productivity enhancements, the integration with Device Central and Flash Catalyst, the improved type handling, and type handling, I think that this makes for a very serviceable release and especially for those who use Fireworks regularly and for those who are looking to take the plunge, that I can very highly recommend this release.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.