Review: Adobe Systems Fireworks 8

Make great web graphics with Fireworks. (December 28th, 2006)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Adobe Systems Inc.

Price: $299.00 US

The Good

  • Integrates with Macromedia Studio 8 or can be used with other web design programs. It does both vector and bitmap graphics. It can be used to create a button, banner, or the whole page. Easier to to learn than you thought.

The Bad

  • It is expensive. Hefty learning curve.

Fireworks 8 is a powerful, multi-featured cross-platform graphics program, available as a stand-alone product or bundled with Macromedia Studio 8. Fireworks is perceived as a professional tool, so MacNN decided to investigate how easy it is to use for normal, everyday Mac users who may want to produce a few graphics or web pages.

What It Does

Fireworks works with vector graphics much like Adobe Illustrator and it also works with bit map images like Adobe Photoshop. If you are comfortable with Illustrator or Photoshop, you will find many common tools and features in Fireworks. In addition to graphics editing, Fireworks converts graphics to web safe colors and optimizes them for placement into Dreamweaver 8 or other web creation applications. It also compresses JPG photos or reduces the size of a GIF or PNG by removing color information, all without changing how your image looks on the Web.

Fireworks integrates nicely with other parts of the Macromedia Studio 8 suite of applications. You can work with Dreamweaver to create a web page and open Fireworks to create or edit your graphics. Dreamweaver updates the changes automatically. In other web design programs, you have to stop what you are doing, open your graphic program, make your edits, save the graphic, and then place the graphic again. While in Dreamweaver, Fireworks creates a vector button, optimizes a graphic, and lightens a photo, all without leaving Dreamweaver.

Fireworks in Action

If you need to create a slide show, Fireworks will batch process a folder of images so they are all the same format and width, and then optimize them to the same JPG settings. You can also use Fireworks to make a navigation bar using Cascading Style Sheets or even make an entire web page with Fireworks.

When you need your type to follow a path, Fireworks lets you create a path and attach the type to it. You can edit the line to change the image or edit the text even after you have saved it. You can add spaces between letters, change font attributes, or use the special character panel to drop in hard to find characters.

How hard is it to learn

If you have used Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, you should feel comfortable with Fireworks 8, but there is a lot more to learn. This is a major piece of software with many features. I recommend you start with "Getting Started with Fireworks" in the Help menu. There are many additional very helpful topics in that menu as well. Plus, Adobe has great information and links on their website, including a tour of Fireworks 8. The best way to learn Fireworks 8 is to jump in and get your feet wet. You should be able to learn the main features over a weekend.

This very powerful program helps you make great web graphics. Its optimization abilities are essential to create web pages that quickly download to web browsers. While it sports a hefty price tag, you will find that it saves you time and makes your workflow easier. Adobe plans to offer Universal support for Intel-based Macs in their next release of Fireworks.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Rick Curran


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