Review Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004

Fireworks MX 2004 is a superb application for creating, optimizing, and exporting web graphics. While it mainly deals with bitmap or raster graphics, it also has tools for working with vector images. It is tightly integrated with the other products in Macromedia Studio MX 2004. It performs more quickly than did previous versions so there isn't any lag time.

Fireworks MX 2004 has the ability to export SWF files so that banners and other animated objects can be created in Fireworks and then simply exported in the more compact SWF format. With its capability to create vector shapes, this capability is even more limitless.

Flash, Dreamweaver, and Freehand all have the ability to launch Fireworks from within their interfaces in order to edit bitmap images. Fireworks, also, includes the ability, as does Dreamweaver and Flash, to check files in and out, which is very useful when working with a team.

Fireworks MX 2004 is very closely integrated with Dreamweaver MX 2004 and shares in a lot of tasks. Roundtrip editing of sliced images in tables can be created in Fireworks, shipped to Dreamweaver and shipped back to Fireworks for additional work. Consider Fireworks as the image editor adjunct to Dreamweaver although it is not an image editor in the sense that Photoshop is. It is more a program to prepare images for the web. When a rollover is created in Fireworks or another effect using JavaScript™, these behaviors are editable as native Dreamweaver code. Fireworks has the ability to prepare graphics in CSS layers which can be shipped to Dreamweaver. In Fireworks, frames, slices and layers can all be exported as CSS layers. Fireworks is integrated with Dreamweaver, Freehand, and Flash in more ways than I have mentioned in this review. These will be discussed in the other product reviews.

Fireworks MX 2004 has many new features: It will save certain file formats in their original form, if desired, such as a BMP instead of automatically becoming a PNG in Fireworks; Auto Shapes is a very interesting concept. The control points on the shape have built in functions. See the box on the left. It takes very little to be able to stylize them. The Options Panel is highlighted in red. By clicking on it, a menu drops down. The first item listed "Get More Auto Shapes" is a direct link to Firework Extensions on Macromedia's website.

Auto Shape Shapes Panel To Firework's Extensions

Some of the actions that have been streamlined are: removing red-eye, scaling objects from the center, fitting the image to the size of the canvas. Some new tools are the Replace Color Tool, Dotted Line Stroke, Contour Gradient, and others that have been enhanced such as Anti-aliasing of text. Fireworks is Unicode supportive. One can create double-byte graphical and alt text and use double byte characters. Text can also be attached to a path and the orientation of the text can be horizontal, vertical, skewed, etc. In Fireworks MX 2004, these actions are controlled by commands.

The Properties Bar, which is at the bottom of the page, has many functions and is very useful. It takes all the information about an object and displays it. For example, if using the text tool, it will show more than just the font, size, etc.

The information for the fill tool, for example, will also show variations that can be created with the fill.

While Fireworks has two basic filter sets - those above the line in the image on the left plus Eye Candy 4000Le and Alien Skin Splat LE, one can add more filters from another program plus textures and patterns from other programs.

In the effects department, under Command>Creative, other effects can be found. I have chosen two to highlight. The one pictured below is the Fade Image.

Command - Fade Image Fading Choices Original and Preview

And the other is the Add Picture Frame. It comes with a variety of options for the frame.

While I work with Fireworks MX 2004 in general, the basic tools I used for preparing screen captures for the web were only three: modify>image size - to get the correct size for the image, modify>canvas size - to add a small border, and modify>canvas color - to add a light gray border to some of the graphics. The resampling down (when I modified image size) was so good that I didn't have to sharpen the image at all nor did I have to do anything to the contrast to make the text clearer. When the text is not totally clear, it is because I didn't feel it was necessary for the concept I was illustrating.

The system requirements for Macromedia Fireworks FX 2004 are:

  • 600 MHz Intel Pentium III processor or equivalent
  • Windows 98 SE (4.10.2222 A), Windows 2000, or Windows XP
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
  • 150 MB available disk space
  • 500 MHz PowerPC G3 processor
  • Mac OS 10.2.6 X and later, 10.3
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
  • 100 MB available disk space

The cost for a new package is US $299.00 with many different upgrades available. See Fireworks MX 2004.

Fireworks MX 2004 has many uses other than just as part of Studio MX 2004 and is an excellent stand alone product.

© Paula Sanders 2005