Properties Panel Enhancements
The Properties panel in Fireworks CS5 offers several features that can speed up your workflow. We'll take a look at some of those features in the following sections.
Object dimensions can be constrained from within the Properties panel, as shown in Figure 1. This change saves time because you no longer need to perform several steps with the Modify > Numeric Transform command.
A hollow square to the left of the width and height fields in the Properties panel (see Figure 2) means that the proportions are not constrained. A filled square (see Figure 3) indicates that the dimensions are linked to each other; if you change the width, the height will be adjusted automatically.
Figure 1 Constraining proportions is a big timesaver, but you might not notice this feature unless you look carefully.
Figure 2 Notice that the square is hollow, indicating that proportions are not locked.
Figure 3 Clicking the square toggles proportion constraining on or off.
Fireworks has always had easy-to-use gradient controls, but sometimes gradient fills would display banding, making the effect look less polished and professional. When you apply a gradient fill to a vector object in Fireworks CS5, you can enable gradient dithering from the Properties panel (see Figure 4), smoothing out the gradient for a more finished look (see Figure 5). This will also result in a smoother appearance when the gradient is exported as a graphic.
Figure 4 To toggle proportion-constraining on and off, click the square in the lower-right corner of the dialog.
Figure 5 Gradient dithering smoothes linear and radial gradient fills, making them appear more subtle and professional-looking.
The Gradient control arm makes altering the appearance of a gradient easy. If you just want to reverse the gradient direction, however, you can do so quickly and easily in the Gradient Editor. Simply click the gradient fill box and then click the Reverse Gradient icon (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 No more struggling with color swatches or the gradient control arm if you need to reverse the direction of the gradient. Simply click the Reverse Gradient icon in the Gradient Editor.
Adjusting Vector-Stroke Alignment on the Fly
Changing the alignment of a stroke used to be a cumbersome process, and one not easily discoverable by new users. But now you can change stroke alignment in the Properties panel, switching easily between inside, center, and outside alignment (see Figure 7).
Figure 7 Changing stroke alignment used to require multiple clicks and menu drill-downs. Now this option is easily available in the Properties panel.
Editing and Creating Custom Strokes
The functionality for working with custom strokes has been available since Fireworks version 1, but it required a three-step process in order to access the advanced stroke controls. By contrast, Fireworks CS5 includes an Edit Stroke button within the Properties panel, as shown in Figure 8. You can also use the features in this panel to save a selected stroke as a custom stroke, or to delete a custom stroke with a single mouse click.
Figure 8 Click the Edit Stroke button to access options for customizing stroke effects.
Due to space limitations in the Properties panel, you won't see the Edit Stroke button when you draw a rectangle shape. A rectangle stroke is still editable, though; you can either ungroup the rectangle (losing the corner roundness controls) to make the Edit button appear, or you can access the stroke attributes in the traditional manner by choosing Stroke Categories > Stroke Options > Advanced.