Macromedia has bundled Fireworks with other products, such as Dreamweaver and Flash, through many releases. Fireworks has fluxed through massive growth from one generation to the next; sometimes a new version brought a lot of new features, and sometimes we saw hardly any feature improvements at all. Fireworks 2, for instance, was a huge jump forward from Fireworks 1. In contrast, Fireworks MX 2004 offered very few improvements over Fireworks MX. Fortunately, Fireworks 8 is a massive improvement over any previous version. In this article, I'll briefly review the most interesting and useful of the many new features.
It's Easy To Create with Fireworks 8
Fireworks has always followed closely on the heels of products such as Photoshop to give you the best possible experience but at a much lower price point. You'll see this focus over and over in Fireworks 8. From new blend modes to enhanced shadowing effects to tighter control over text, Fireworks gives you the tools you need to get your job done right.
Live Effects and Blend Modes
Control over your digital photos is crucial to your design. You'll be delighted to see that Fireworks has finally been updated to include many of the photo-retouching tools you've used or envied in competing products. Images can be easily repaired; for instance, red eye can be removed. You can easily add enhanced Live Effects, such as motion and blur, to any bitmap image.
Each effect is completely controllable; for instance, you can easily modify the tolerance, direction, and strength of a blur effect. Live Effects can be applied to every object on the Fireworks canvas. Multiple effects can be applied to each object; for example, text can have drop shadow and motion effects applied to it simultaneously.
The Fireworks blend modes extend your control over graphics. In previous versions, many of the advanced blend modes were available only through third-party add-ons. The extensive blend modes library in Fireworks 8 significantly reduces the need to rely on third-party tools. The following list shows the many blend modes that can be applied to images:
- Color Burn
- Inverse Color Burn
- Soft Burn
- Color Dodge
- Inverse Color Dodge
- Soft Dodge
- Soft Light
- Fuzzy Light
- Hard Light
Shadows and Vector Images
The drop shadow is a fundamental feature for many designs. With Fireworks 8, you can apply solid drop shadows to open path and text objects. In addition, a new Live Effects filter can repeatedly stamp a shadow onto any object. This feature gives an increased illusion of density to the object.
If you design graphics in Fireworks that are to be used in Flash 8, you'll really love the new shadow optimizations. Any object with a shadow applied to it can easily be cut and pasted into Flash. Unlike earlier versions of Fireworks, the image is not converted into a bitmap in Flash, but retains all vector lines and paths. This capability allows you to create complex vector illustrations in Fireworks and save your work as vectors in Flash.
Enhanced Text Control
You probably will use some kind of text in all your Fireworks drawings. Fireworks has always demonstrated strong text support, but the level of support has been significantly increased with Fireworks 8. A simple but effective new feature is the naming of layers from a text object. A new layer is created as you add a text object to the canvas. The name of the layer is pulled from the text you're writing. This new feature makes it easier to use the Layers panel to locate the text object you want to modify.
A new Special Characters panel allows you to add symbols such as copyright (©), trademark (™), or registered trademark (®). In previous versions, you had to either create bitmap images that were imported into the text or dig around the Dingbats font until you found the character that placed the symbol you needed into the text block.
Applying text to a path has also been made easier. All you do is select the text and path of a shape and choose the menu command Text, Attach to Path. The text is immediately fitted to the path you selected. (The text can still be edited on the new path.)
Getting Started Fast with Templates
Fireworks 8 ships with a series of templates you can use to get working and designing fast. One useful collection of templates is designed specifically for mobile devices. In addition to the mobile templates, you'll find sample buttons, animations, themes, and bullets.