The Active Network
ActiveWin: Reviews Active Network | New Reviews | Old Reviews | Interviews |Mailing List | Forums


Product: Macromedia DreamWeaver 3.01 & FireWorks 3.0 STUDIO
Company: Macromedia Corp.
Estimated Street Price: $379.95
Review By: Julien JAY


Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: DreamWeaver Features
3: DreamWeaver Advanced Features
4: FireWorks
5: Conclusion

FireWorks is according to Macromedia the essential add-in to DreamWeaver in order to design beautiful web graphics that can be even animated. Well after reviewing the software we're not really sure it is comparing to Adobe leading graphic tools but it really offer interesting graphic designing features to webmasters. The first thing to enjoy and use a software is the impression its interface gives the user. Here is the weakness of FireWorks. Unlike in DreamWeaver the interface didn't convince us at all and looks like the ones of the first Win 95 software that came out in 1995 with big 3d buttons. Worst it includes so many buttons/palettes that you don't what to do as you're drown in an ocean of features. When you first start FireWorks to draw something you'll arrive on a white tab (named original) where you'll draw what you want. Three other tabs are also available: the preview tab will automatically show graphics in real time and the two others tabs contain thumbnails where you'll be able to change the export format of your creation to best suit your needs. Hopefully fireworks offers great drawing tools that are in fact the same than the ones of Adobe Illustrator/LiveMotion. So you'll find the classic quill pen that allows drawing Bézier lines as well as a brush tool and various shape-drawing tools. A firework also offers an inking pad to duplicate parts of existing pictures (you've got the ability to specify the size of the pad). The information tab of the information palette will display the coordinates (X & Y) of your mouse cursor position while at the same time indicating the size of each selected drawing. The color management is accurate and complete even if we found the color palette a bit small. One good thing is that on the main toolbar where you can choose the HTML code of each color you select is displayed: it's great to don't waste time finding the good HTML color correspondence RVB code. Sure, FireWorks contains the usual pipette tool to use the exact color you want. Like in Adobe ImageReady or PhotoShop (but who copies the other??? Macromedia or Adobe?) the drawing you produced can be displayed as thumbnails (2 or 4) in order to choose the right compression ratio and to view the size in Kb and the quality of the picture you'll export (sure you can choose the export format: GIF, JPEG, etc. and every thumbnails will be updated). The software will even tell you in how many time the user will retrieve the picture. It's a great productivity feature to avoid bad surprise when discovering the huge size of this wonderful picture that slows down the loading speed of the website. Like every good drawing tool FireWorks supports layouts and like in DreamWeaver 3 its 'history' palette will track all the changes you apply on a drawing in order to save these changes as a macro to automate your graphic creation process. However this history palette cannot undo the changes you made, too bad! In spite of everything FireWorks include a multiple undo level feature. FireWorks also comes with a style library that will help everyone who is in inspiration lack to create beautiful pics by simply selecting a style and the object to which it should be applied. Surprisingly we found this feature very slow as it takes a while before the style is correctly applied to the object. Styles are also customisable as you can choose which effect you want to keep or not to the style you just chose (internal bevel, 3d, etc…). In addition the library of FireWorks can store the objects (even the symbols) you create in order to reuse them later in another composition, great! The text support of FireWorks is traditional but offers one interesting enhancement: when you select a font in the fonts list you'll get an instant preview of the text you typed with the font you plan to use. The reference tools that offer FireWorks to create a hotspot in a picture to launch for example a specific URL are easy to use and covers most of the web designers needs. As every web oriented graphic designing tool, FireWorks offers command to change the position of object between each other: background, foreground, on top, etc. Macromedia has enhanced the FireWorks integration with Dreamweaver as now the FireWorks flying over effects are recognized as native Dreamweaver behaviours, great! When Macromedia means that FireWorks was designed for Web artists they're not wrong at all. Indeed FireWorks 3 really answers to the needs of every web graphic designers. More this new release is cooperative as it perfectly supports other Macromedia tools as well as other graphic tools (Photoshop, Corel Draw, Flash, Illustrator, etc.) in order to at least unify HTML editors and graphic software.

FireWorks GUI (click to enlarge)


Animating a graphic with FireWorks is a breeze: just select the object you want to animate, click the commands menu and choose an animation in the list. FireWorks will automatically generate all intermediate pictures to make a button rotate for example. Once it's finished you can have a sneak peak of it by clicking the preview tab and using the play/stop/rewind buttons. Animated pictures you produce can else be saved as PNG file or exported using the beneficial animated GIF format.

Button animated by FireWorks...

<-- DreamWeaver Advanced Features Conclusion -->


  *   *