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Macromedia updates Web tools

The company releases the first major update to its MX line of Web development and design tools.

Macromedia on Tuesday launched the first major revamp of its MX line of Web design and development products, hoping to court a new class of developers.

As previously reported, the MX 2004 product line includes a new flavor of Flash, Macromedia's set of tools for creating applications, interfaces and animated graphics using the widespread Flash format. Flash MX 2004 Professional uses a forms-based interface similar to that used by programming environments such as Microsoft's widely used Visual Basic. The regular version of Flash MX 2004 will use the timeline-based interface familiar to long-term Flash developers.

Macromedia has acknowledged that broader acceptance of Flash as a development environment is necessary to realize Macromedia's goal of transforming the animation format into a broad foundation for delivering Web content and services. The company is working on another Flash variation, code-named Royale, that will use a text-based interface intended to appeal to developers accustomed to working with Java.

Besides the Flash MX 2004 versions, the new products include Dreamweaver MX 2004, the company's main Web design package; Fireworks MX 2004, a collection of graphics design tools; and Studio MX 2004, a package that combines Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and several other products. All are available now at prices that were announced earlier.

The new version 7 of the Flash Player, the small application that PCs use to render Flash content, is also available for download now. Improvements in the Player are focused on boosting performance to allow Web applications and video to run faster.