Macromedia Fireworks 8

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A few tweaks to creative power, workflow and integration don’t add up to much.

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macromedia fireworks 8

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.

Disappointingly in this latest release the core bitmap and vector tools are left virtually unchanged. There’s a new Image Editing panel which provides slightly 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 new perspective shadow command that can be applied to open paths and text and a new Solid Shadow live effect that repeats the object itself to create its effect. And Fireworks 8 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 new 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.

Unsurprisingly, integration with the other Macromedia applications has also been improved. Fireworks 8 now recognizes ActionScript colour values and Flash Professional 8 can now read Fireworks’ supported blend modes and some effects. For improved integration with Dreamweaver 8, Fireworks 8 now 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 though full-blown editing is better left to Fireworks.

In short, there’s nothing much to write home about and, as with Dreamweaver 8, very little reason to upgrade. It’s a serious disappointment as Macromedia could do so much more with Fireworks’ integrated vector and bitmap handling as Microsoft is currently proving with its work on Expression. Hopefully Adobe, which should shortly inherit Fireworks as part of its takeover of Macromedia, will appreciate the program’s true worth and realize its full potential.

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

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See separate reviews for Studio 8, Dreamweaver 8, Flash Professional 8, Fireworks 8.

August 2005

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