Price When Reviewed: £229 plus VAT; £99 plus VAT upgrade
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Fireworks 4, like Dreamweaver and UltraDev, sees the adoption of the new Macromedia interface, which tightens integration between all the companies’ Web titles. This universal approach aims to provide a common method of working across its product range improving familiarity, and effectively offering a single solution for the professional Web designer.
Tighter integration means improved workflow as switching across applications is more transparent. Roundtrip table editing has been added, allowing images and code to be passed between design and production teams while protecting elements created by both. A designer can design and create a basic table in Fireworks, slice images, and then pass the code to a programmer who can create custom code that’s subsequently protected when brought back into Fireworks for further possible image editing.
One of Fireworks’ most identifiable strengths is its ability to turn design concepts into Web pages using features such as rollover creation with sliced and optimized graphics while generating the corresponding HTML code. Fireworks 4 includes a more advanced pop-up menu creator, which allows for the creation of efficient HTML layer-based navigation systems using a simple wizard approach.
Version 4’s masking and layers panel has been enhanced to offer an expanded thumbnail view of each layer’s objects, and advanced masking capabilities have been added that improve image manipulation and navigation within the document. Layers now include a refined import/export facility that allows objects to maintain their editability in Adobe Photoshop.
Further export controls have been added with the ability to customize file setup and export. This provides greater control over the resulting code or attributes so that your output complies with specific work methods, such as automating HTML into an application’s ‘style’ for tools such as Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive and Microsoft FrontPage.
Web animators will be pleased to see the new Live Animation feature in Fireworks 4. Sharing many similarities with Flash’s symbol approach, the feature lets you use onscreen controls to create and edit simple animations that move, scale, rotate or fade an object over several frames.
Fireworks was originally developed to act as a single solution for the Web-graphics designer. Version 4 has strengthened this concept with the welcome addition of a batch-processing function. Although Debabelizer remains the industry workhorse for batch-processing, not every user is happy with the somewhat daunting scale of the application – or its cost.
In Fireworks, the new function – which replaces the previous dialog box approach – allows easy processing that defines actions such as Export, Scale, Find and Replace, Rename or Commands to specific files. These actions can also be used to set up naming schemes for the resulting files, which can then be exported automatically to a chosen destination.
Further refinements in this version of Fireworks include improved bézier and vector tools. The capability for selective JPEG compression has also been added. This is great for reducing file sizes in large images where definition is necessary for specific areas and allows for greater compression of the background while maintaining the clarity of foreground elements.
As with the latest Dreamweaver upgrade, most of the changes found in Fireworks 4 are refinements on existing features. That said, the improvements to Version 4 are invaluable, and along with the modified interface, show a maturity in its approach to workflow that most Web designers will welcome wholeheartedly.