Adobe Fireworks CS4 review

£270
Price when reviewed

Fireworks CS4, Adobe’s dedicated web graphics application, finally becomes a fully-paid-up member of Adobe’s flagship suite with CS4 and gets a complete interface overhaul too. Document tabs, iconisable panels and customisable workspaces have been added, plus faster load and save times and a more responsive feel all round.

It’s not just the interface, though; Fireworks CS4’s whole working approach has been streamlined. Improved guide handling and the introduction of interactive Smart Guides for on-canvas feedback makes positioning and sizing objects far easier. To ensure consistent object appearance you can choose from a range of style sets and from styles in any open document, while the Redefine Style command lets you update object formatting globally.

To ensure total consistency between objects, you need to use symbols and here Fireworks CS4 offers simple in-place editing, support for nesting and automatic updating. Smart guide alignment, style updating and advanced symbol handling are so central to efficient web page production, it was embarrassing that Fireworks didn’t offer them before – but they are here now.

Fireworks CS4 also goes back to basics when it comes to its new design power. The core Rectangle tool has been reworked to enable nine-slice scaling of rounded corners. The Text tool has also been re-engineered and is now based on the core Adobe text engine, while the new Attach in Path command lets you create text block shapes and runaround effects. In addition, Fireworks CS4 sees path filleting and real-time previewing of vector-based fade effects.

For those who still prefer to work up their original design ideas in Photoshop, the new Photoshop File Open dialog and support for editable text and image slicing make a big difference. As soon as you’ve imported your PSD, you’re immediately ready to export the image slices and HTML/CSS necessary to recreate your graphical layout as a fully-functioning, web-optimised page. Thanks to improved CSS handling, the resulting web page is also more efficient.

There’s also the option to output multi-page prototypes as interactive PDFs. Alternatively, you can now output your fully functioning prototype to a cross-platform desktop-based AIR package. That makes Fireworks CS4 ideal for rapid prototyping but there’s one major disappointment. Although you can now output individual images to the new FXG format there’s no support for XFL, which would allow you to open prototypes directly in Flash Professional.

That aside, this new version of Fireworks sees the program pushing forward strongly on all fronts with the future looking bright. A refreshing sight when just a few years ago development had all but stalled.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/design software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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