General Integration and Conclusion
Of course, one of the main reasons for buying Studio MX (the software package including Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, and Freehand) is the tight integration of all these programs with each other. Although it is possible to export your files for use in basically any other program, the "export to program" options make it easier and faster to use the bundle, saving you lots of time.
Let's start with Fireworks because you will probably only export from Fireworks, not import from it. The program offers a Quick Export tab that allows you to export files for use in Dreamweaver, Flash, Director, and even some non-Macromedia products such as Dreamweaver, keeping the images fully editable in seconds. The useful thing here, of course, is that you can easily export your Fireworks-created navigation menus, and other images with HTML content, for use in Dreamweaver. Fireworks automatically creates all the necessary files. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1 The Quick Export menu in Fireworks.
Images edit or created in Fireworks can be prepared for Internet usage by the excellent image optimizer, which can drastically reduce the file size of your image without giving up any quality. This comes with many presets and options. It is also possible to create simple SWF (Flash) buttons and animated text directly in Fireworks. However, this option is very limited, and I recommend that you purchase Flash if you're going to do to anything with animated buttons/banners or other images.
Flash MX can export SWF files, which can be imported directly into Dreamweaver (as well as almost any other HTML editor, for that matter). The biggest integration change here is integration with Web-based applications in terms of server support and the use of XML for Web forms. Macromedia has also published a better server framework for use with ColdFusion MX, which means that your SWF files will load and process faster.
Dreamweaver MX is also optimized for use with ColdFusion. As mentioned in the previous article, it is possible to add code directly into your page from a menu of ColdFusion behaviors and templates. You can also set up testing servers for this code by using the site wizard, and debugging for your ColdFusion code is available as well.
Dreamweaver also easily imports SWF files into your pages and lets you edit some of its characteristics from within the program itself.
The best thing about the software package is that, once you are familiar with one of the programs, you will be able to work with any other program in the series without many problems. The similar layouts, options, and layout structures ensure an easy transition from one program to another, and the quick-export features make this an even easier process.
Overall, these programs function very well together as a group, providing the average Web designer with all the programs needed to build, design, and set up a successful and good-looking Web site. The switch Macromedia made from being more design-based to being both design- and coding-based (for example, by focusing more on server support in Dreamweaver and improving ActionScript capabilities in Flash) is a successful one, making the bundle a more attractive choice for a larger group of designers.
I think the MX series is, in general, worth upgrading to. In the long run, it will save you both time and money.
Remember that you can download free trial versions of all these programs at Macromedia's site.