I’d used Fireworks a little bit when it was part of Studio 8, from Macromedia. But the features of the CS3 upgrade compelled me to get more use out of the software. Following are my impressions of Fireworks CS3.
The interface is essentially unchanged from version 8. It seems that, like Dreamweaver, Fireworks does not yet rate an updated look and feel the way Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash do. Not much else to say here.
One of the strong features of this edition of Fireworks is the ability to easily open and edit files that are native to Photoshop (.psd) and Illustrator (.ai). And Fireworks can create and save documents in those same formats, which can be later opened by the other programs with no trouble.
A related feature is the ability to use the same layer effects that Photoshop supports. You can even open a document, with effects, that was created in Photoshop, and edit those effects.
You can seamlessly copy graphics within Fireworks and paste directly into Dreamweaver and Flash, saving you the manual saving/importing process.
The new pages palette allows you to seperate elements of your design across different concept pages. You can define objects to be common to all pages you create, and other objects can be set as page specific items. This will help to more quickly develop a new design with multiple, different pages in it, using common elements where necessary.
Despite having one page or many, the whole design is stored in a single Fireworks PNG file.
Photoshop has a nice new feature which allows you to nest layers and layer groups to your heart’s delight. Fireworks has this new capability as well, and it is very useful. It allows you to turn a very long list of layers into a nice hierarchy of nested layer groups. This comes in useful when mocking up a web page, as an example, since you can group related items, with multiple groups for different parts of the page.
Also, when importing documents from Photoshop, any layer hierarchy defined there is retained in Fireworks.
Normally, when you resize symbols in Fireworks, they sometimes get distorted. This frequently happens if there is text in the object, or fine details.
Fireworks CS3 has a (yet another) new feature called nine-slice scaling. It allows you to define the resizable and static areas of an object, then resize the object without distortion. In the end result, only the areas marked as resizable are affected.
As illustrated by the image, Fireworks has been instructed to scale the vertical sections vertically, the horizontal sections horizontally, and the midsection in both directions. And the corner regions are not scaled at all. This can be useful when wanting to shrink or enlarge an image, logo, symbol, etc without distorting it.
Fireworks now includes a library of commonly used images and design elements. These elements range from buttons to textboxes to scroll bars. They come in useful when building mockups, and can be inserted as placeholders to be replaced by custom-designed elemnts later on. The library is displayed and hidden by pressing the
F7 key on the keyboard.
As can be seen from the image, there are a number of categories, each containing their own objects. You can remove any groupings or items you don’t want, and can add your own as well.
One gripe with the library window is that the item shown at the top doesn’t appear very large. It does display at full size when inserted in your document.
Overall, Fireworks CS3 is a good upgrade over v8. It boasts numerous new features, including but certainly not limited to: hierarchical layers, native layer effect like in Photoshop and Illustrator, seamlessly imports files from either, allows scaling objects without distorting them, enables multi-page mockups with the pages feature, and a library of numerous shapes and styles.