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Author: Scott Manning | Website: http://www.scottmanning.com
Fireworks MX 2004 Beta Review
Author: Scott Manning
Website: Scottmanning.com

Grade: 4 out of 5
Company: Macromedia
System details: Windows XP, 1200 Mhz Celeron, 512 MB, IE 6, DVD, CD-RW.

Well, it’s that time of all our lives where Macromedia surprises us with a new suite of applications. Coming up is Studio MX 2004 which includes Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, and Freehand. I was lucky enough to get a chance to review the beta of Fireworks MX 2004 to see what new tricks the guys at Macromedia had up their sleeves.

First off, I use Fireworks all the time. I’ve been using the product since version 2. It is just perfect for producing web-ready graphics and it’s a piece of cake to use. With each new version of the product that is released, I wonder what other cool features that may pack into it.

Fireworks MX 2004 is no different. Just when I thought this program would be nothing more than slightly enhanced, there are so many new features that there it is actually worth the upgrade. The new features will improve workflow and save a ton of time with graphics.

I’m going to give a brief over of the new features that caught my eye along with my thoughts on them.

Product Activation
I’m not sure if this should be considered a “feature”, because it certainly isn’t a selling point. As with Contribute 2, Macromedia is instituting Product Activation into Fireworks MX 2004. After installation, users have the option to run the product in a 30-day trial mode or activate it.


I had no problems activating the product.

Tabbed Interface
One of the most useful features that jumped out at me is the tabbed interface. In previous versions of Fireworks, designers were forced to minimize and maximize graphics, if they wanted to use the most room possible while working with multiple graphics. Several programs have realized that adding a tabbed interface not only allows people to have more control on what they’re working on, but it also allows them to see everything that is open. The chance of forgetting which graphic is open is less likely to happen with this new tabbed interface.


Dreamweaver MX already had this feature and Fireworks is just joining the ranks.

Automatically save JPG and GIF files in their original format
Possibly the most annoying feature in previous versions of Fireworks was not being able to open a JPG or GIF file, change it, and just click Save. Instead, designers were forced to make sure their Optimize panel was set appropriately and then click File > Export. Then there was the pain of navigating through the computer’s file system to figure where the file should be exported.

Now Fireworks has joined the ranks of many image editing programs and allows designers to simply click Save.

This feature will save me about new seconds on every GIF or JPG that I edit. Time is money and Fireworks is saving me time.

System Anti-Aliasing
Previous version of Fireworks gave the option to apply different styles of anti-aliased text. But no matter how much you tweaked some text, it just didn’t look the same as anti-aliased text on Windows XP or on the new Macs.

Macromedia has added a new feature called “System Anti-Alias”. Basically, it will make the text anti-aliased as it appears on the designer’s machine.


Fit to Canvas
A small, but very helpful feature is “Fit to Canvas”. This feature automats the process of aligning a document within a canvas. It will also crop the canvas down to match the size of the image, if needed.

Support for Windows XP’s Save, Open, and Browse dialogue boxes
Designers using Windows XP will longer have to look at those old, crappy dialogue boxes from older Windows systems. Fireworks now has full support for more detailed, stylish boxes.

Auto Shapes
Fireworks has added the ability to drag and drop nine different shapes including a clock, a talking bubble, and a frame. These shapes are in vector format and can be distorted in Fireworks. While some of the shapes may seem useless, items like a talking bubble could be very useful to some designers.

Also, 3rd Party companies will probably have the ability to add new shapes. If not, they should.


New Vector Shapes
No longer are designers limited to the square, circle, line, and polygon. Macromedia has added a slew of vector shapes.


Some of the new vector shapes do more than look pretty. The connector line will actually connect to graphics. Although there are more advanced products for creating flow charts, it’s now possible in Fireworks.

Photo Professional Effects
While Fireworks is still behind Photoshop when it comes to editing bitmaps for print, it continually comes closer and closer with every release. The new features include a color replacing tool, red eye removal, and motion blurring. All of them are very useful and give designers more a reason to upgrade.

Overall impression
Just with some of the workflow features alone, Fireworks MX 2004 is a nice upgrade. For those of you constantly editing graphics for the web, this new version will save you heaps of time. You will also benefit from all the new features to improve your graphics.

Scott
Scottmanning.com

» Level Basic

Added: 2003-08-25
Rating: 7 Votes: 71
(10 being the highest)
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