Macromedia Fireworks 8 review
When Fireworks was launched back in 1998, it was the first graphics application to concentrate solely on producing web graphics. What made it such a success was its integration of vector and bitmap handling, a combination that provided the best of both worlds: control and creativity.
This latest release sees the core bitmap and vector tools left virtually unchanged, but there are some extra features. There’s a new Image Editing panel to provide quicker access to the most common photo-editing commands, and a new AutoShape panel that lets you take precise control of settings (such as arrow length and spiral radius) that were previously set interactively. You can also now turn vector paths into bitmap selections and vice versa. Other creative possibilities come from a perspective shadow command that can be applied to open paths and text, and a Solid Shadow live effect that repeats the object itself to create the effect. Fireworks 8 also adds no less than 25 new blend modes to boost creative options for combining the colours in overlying objects.
That’s it for new graphic power: the rest of the enhancements in Fireworks 8 come in the form of workflow enhancements. Here, there are various minor tweaks, including object locking and automatic naming of text layers in the Layers panel, a new Character Insertion panel and smarter use of default folders for common operations.
The biggest changes are to file handling, with support for JPEG2000 import and a new Save As command, which is more convenient for saving standalone images than the Export dialog. Batch processing has also been enhanced, with the ability to check dimensions when scaling, more powerful file renaming and the addition of a status bar and log file.
Elsewhere, integration with the other Macromedia apps has also been improved. Fireworks 8 now recognises ActionScript colour values, and Flash Professional 8 can now read Fireworks’ supported blend modes and some of its effects. For improved integration with Dreamweaver 8, Fireworks 8 uses CSS by default when creating interactive pop-up menus. The result is much cleaner code that can be viewed and even customised in Dreamweaver’s CSS Styles panel, although full-blown editing is better left to Fireworks.
In short, there’s nothing much to write home about and, as with Dreamweaver 8, there’s little reason to upgrade. It’s a serious disappointment: Macromedia could do so much more with Fireworks’ integrated vector and bitmap handling, as Microsoft is currently proving with its work on the new Acrylic beta (www.microsoft.com). Hopefully, Adobe, which should shortly inherit Fireworks as part of its takeover of Macromedia, will appreciate the program’s true worth and realise its full potential.