Price: 235 . 119 . 705 . 1195
Pros: New guides are excellent and beat Photoshop’s equivalents; PDF export works nicely and is handy for client feedback.
Cons: Occasionally hideous and buggy interface; CSS export isn’t what it’s cracked up to be; upgrade feels relatively minor.
For years something of a poor man’s Photoshop aimed at web designers, Fireworks finally came of age 18 months ago with a major upgrade that squarely positioned the application as a cost-effective tool for prototyping websites. With Fireworks CS4, Adobe has taken things further in that direction – and it has also given the interface a major overhaul.
Having been subjected to much derision during the beta run, the interface changes are variable, to say the least. Adobe’s belief in a single-window workflow makes some sense when it comes to web design, but for me, the Application bar wastes space and duplicates tools found elsewhere. Though performance improvements have been touted, Fireworks CS4 feels slower than its predecessor.
More damning is how many bugs and quirks we found lurking in our review code. Fireworks CS4 offers a split-level tabbed workspace, enabling you to have multiple sets of tabbed documents side-by-side. This works well, although Mac users should note that with the default setup, which lacks the Application Frame, docking the tabs like this simply doesn’t work.
However, we found that entire panel sets would vanish when we closed one, and the only way of getting them back was by changing the workspace’s mode. Even without these issues, we wouldn’t be won over – the interface feels clunky and less robust than that of Fireworks CS3, and its icon-heavy nature affects the immediacy and intuitive nature Fireworks once enjoyed.
If you think we’re banging on about the interface, that’s because distinctly new features elsewhere are few in number, and vary wildly in terms of effectiveness and quality.