Fireworks 4.0: Win9X/NT4 SP3 review:

Fireworks 4.0: Win9X/NT4 SP3

  • 1
Hot Products

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Drag-and-drop rollovers; sophisticated batch processing; live animation features.

The Bad Customizable keyboard shortcut sets cannot be imported or exported; does not allow complex object movement paths with live animation; styles are still difficult to edit.

The Bottom Line Now easier to use, with new features matching every skill level, Fireworks 4.0 is definitely worth the upgrade or first purchase.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

Macromedia Fireworks 4.0 brings many welcome improvements to an already robust Web graphics application. From its standardized Macromedia interface to increased animation features and productivity options, Fireworks 4.0 comes closer to being the one tool every Web designer should own. Macromedia Fireworks 4.0 brings many welcome improvements to an already robust Web graphics application. From its standardized Macromedia interface to increased animation features and productivity options, Fireworks 4.0 comes closer to being the one tool every Web designer should own.

Familiar interface
Macromedia users will notice that Fireworks now sports an interface similar to Dreamweaver, FreeHand, and Flash. The common menu structure, the panel management, the active document window launcher bar, and the Tools panel layout provide a consistent look and feel, making the program more intuitive and approachable. Fireworks even shares an identical Bezier pen tool with FreeHand and Flash. The new Layers panel lets you easily manipulate the arrangement of objects within your composition. You can customize your keyboard shortcut sets to match the other apps in your toolbox. It's a shame that shortcut sets can't be exported or imported, though. Portable shortcut sets would make it much easier to create and share a common set among workgroups.

Even more productivity
As with earlier versions, you can import and export Photoshop files, but Fireworks 4.0 adds improved layer mask handling and a new Color Fill Live Effect. Fireworks 4.0 includes better overall integration with Dreamweaver, as well as advanced export controls that let you specify precise HTML/JavaScript and image output. Especially useful is the new selective JPEG compression, which lets you selectively compress portions of an image more or less than other areas to maintain image clarity while reducing file size. We also found the new batch process environment impressive. Developers working with a large number of files will find this feature invaluable. With it you can quickly set up and execute batch processes for multiple files. Processes can include exporting, scaling, and renaming, as well as executing any available Fireworks command scripts. Any commands you create via the History panel can now be used to batch-process multiple files.

Animation made easy
Users who found Fireworks 3.0 animation features difficult to work with will welcome the simplified JavaScript rollover capabilities. You no longer need to work with the Behaviors panel (although it is still available). To create a rollover, you simply drag and drop from one slice to another. When selected, a visual cue appears between the slices, which can be freely moved throughout a project without losing the rollover behavior. The new Pop-Up Menu Creator lets you develop sophisticated multilevel pop-up menus in a step-by-step visual environment without having to write a single line of code. The new Live Animation features let anyone automatically move, scale, rotate, and change the opacity of an object by defining simple parameters. The frames for the resulting animation are created automatically, and the parameters for the animation can be changed at any time. Unfortunately, the movement path for an object is restricted to a straight line (albeit in any direction). Complex paths are not supported.

Inevitable upgrade
As with version 3.0, Fireworks 4.0 is a definite upgrade or first purchase for any professional Web developer. At $299, with its depth of features and level of sophistication, Fireworks 4.0 is pricey but still a good value. By adapting a more familiar interface, enhancing import and export features, introducing complex batch processing, and making animation much easier to deal with, Fireworks retains its lead in the dedicated Web graphics application race. Of course, improvements can still be made. We'd like to be able to export keyboard shortcut sets and work with more complex animation paths. And changing specific Style characteristics is still not possible without creating a new Style altogether--a leftover glitch from past versions. No product is perfect, but Fireworks keeps getting closer with every upgrade.

Rollovers can now be created with a simple drag and drop. After a rollover is set up, a visual cue shows the relationship between selected slices.

Hot Products

 

Discuss: Fireworks 4.0: Win9X/NT4 SP3

Conversation powered by Livefyre