Price: 255 . 125 . 705 . 1195
Pros: Great workflow features for rapid Web site prototyping. Addition of Photoshop Live Effects. Intelligent scaling. Live ‘4-up’ optimization a real timesaver.
Cons: Minor problems importing some Photoshop and Illustrator documents. HTML import requires old-fashioned sites. Interface hasn’t had a CS3-style overhaul.
When Adobe first acquired Macromedia and its products, it was hard to imagine how Fireworks would fit with its new stablemates. Previously, it had been aimed at designers who wanted a Web-oriented Photoshop-like application, but had no need for the Adobe behemoth’s print features.
With Fireworks CS3, Adobe has subtly repositioned the application, making it a near-essential purchase for anyone working in Web design.
The new Fireworks is all about workflow, and rather than encouraging designers to take a single-document approach, it makes you consider the bigger picture. The new Pages panel is provided as a means of organizing a Web site’s various design documents, from site maps and sketches through to completed mock-ups. Fireworks takes a tip from desktop-publishing tools, enabling you to create a master page that contains elements common to all of your page designs.
To assist with this new page-based workflow, the Layers panel has had an overhaul. You can share individual layers across pages or use the panel’s menu to delete the master-page folder from specific pages. Photoshop’s influence is also evident, as the Layers panel now offers nested folders.
This makes for easier arrangement and management of Web-page elements, and it also means imported Photoshop documents arrive in Fireworks with their layer hierarchies intact, rather than being unhelpfully flattened. Fireworks CS3’s performance is equally impressive, ensuring time saved via the workflow elements isn’t lost waiting for the application to catch up.
Two other features vie for ‘best newcomer’ in Fireworks CS3. Live 2-Up and 4-Up optimization should wow users used to nipping in and out of export dialogs to see how compression affects their creations. While this works best on small files, it’s great to make changes, and immediately see the results at different compression levels.
Similarly impressive is 9-slice scaling (above), which enables you to define those parts of a bitmap or symbol that can be scaled and those that can’t. This intelligent scaling allows you to increase an element’s size and retain the integrity of text and corners.
Other useful features, including a library of editable symbols (form widgets, buttons, flow-chart elements), a reasonable slideshow-creation tool (above) and the addition of Photoshop Live Effects, add further value to Fireworks. Indeed, only some interface oddities and the awkward nature of a number of the application’s components stop Fireworks CS3 getting full marks. It’s a close-run thing, though.