Macromedia Studio 8 review

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With its planned takeover by Adobe, this will almost certainly be the last version of Studio and its component applications released under the Macromedia brand. So is the company going out with a bang or a whimper? More importantly, does Studio 8 do enough to persuade users to part with their cash?

Macromedia Studio 8 review

In many ways, this should be an easy decision. With Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash Professional, Macromedia provides the market-leading standalone web authoring, web graphics, and web development applications. More than this, with its shared interface and technologies, the integrated Studio suite can claim to be more than the sum of its parts, especially in this release, which also bundles two new components: Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2.

But the argument isn’t solely about features, it’s also about value, and here Macromedia is able to make the case for Studio even more compelling. In particular, the price for both Studio and its upgrade are more than 40 per cent cheaper than the equivalent combined standalone prices (also note we’re being charged the same as US citizens for once). And to encourage former users to rejoin the Studio bandwagon, Macromedia is offering the same upgrade price to previous users of any of the main components, making it even more of a bargain.

Then again, it’s important to remember that there’s no point paying for features you won’t use, and this puts things in a very different light. While all potential Studio users are likely to use Dreamweaver for producing their web pages and Fireworks for producing their GIFs and JPEGs, the number who’d make serious use of Flash will be much lower. And for those thinking of upgrading, the benefits for the mainstream page-based web author are also correspondingly smaller. In this release, it’s clear Dreamweaver 8 and Fireworks 8 remain market leaders of their respective fields, but that’s thanks to their long-standing strengths rather than any new must-have features.

For Flash users, though, it’s a different story. The new Flash 8 format and Flash Professional 8 authoring environment push forward on all fronts, building on the Flash player’s popularity to make ‘the world’s most pervasive software platform’ more attractive than ever. Flash’s power and reach is undeniable and, if you want to deliver the most dramatic web experience, Flash 8 provides the best way to do it and Studio 8 the best way for most users to buy into that future.

Ultimately, whether Macromedia is going out with a bang or a whimper, and whether you should buy Studio 8 or not, depends on your primary interest. If you’re producing page-based sites with Dreamweaver/Fireworks, version 8 is a damp squib of an upgrade, but if you’re producing or planning to produce ‘rich Internet apps’ with Flash, it’s a breakthrough release. But despite Flash’s amazing strengths, the majority of web authors will be sticking with the much simpler page-based approach for some time to come. Nonetheless, Studio 8 is a watershed release.

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