After many years as a Web graphic drawing tool, Fireworks became a Web site prototyping tool in Creative Suite 3 – as Photoshop’s superior art tools made Fireworks rather redundant. Fireworks was always better for creating interactive elements such as rollovers – so the new task sat naturally – but it still grated that its layout and design tools were a clear second to Photoshop’s.

The CS4 version attempts to correct this by including more features taken from Photoshop (and other Adobe applications). These include a much improved set of guides and Adobe’s Text engine – as well as the whole CS4 interface upgrade.

Smart Guides debuted in Illustrator CS3 and were also added to InDesign in the CS4 upgrade. They’re green lines that appear when you move or resize an object to align with the edge or centre of another (or with the centre of your canvas). Standard guides have also been enhanced so that when you move one, Fireworks shows the distances between it, other guides and the canvas edges.

Fireworks’ text engine has been improved – so there’s support for ligatures for the first time – though strangely some text elements are supported but can’t be created, such as struck-through text. These work if you import a PSD file with such text inside them, but this formatting can’t be modified within Fireworks. There’s also a simple text wrapping system, which reflows text around a path that you define.

The import and export capabilities have been made better. PSD files can now be resized on import, and projects can be output as CSS-based Web sites or as AIR applications. These give you more options to output prototypes of your work in the format that the final piece will be in, and gives you some actions specific to the format that your prototype can mimic – for example, AIR applications can have embedded functionality that allows them to be be dragged around, minimized, maximized and closed. You can also export projects as PDFs so clients can use that format’s review and annotation tools.

Adobe says that Fireworks CS4 also adds improved performance – though we couldn’t check this out on our beta version. The new release also includes editing of symbols on your current project, a redesigned Style panel and the ability to quickly create a demo of the current file for when the client ‘drops by’.

You’re still going to want to keep the workflow of designing in Photoshop and then adding interactivity in Fireworks, but making modifications here just became a lot easier.