Monday, April 28, 2008

Fireworks, have at thee!

Adobe Fireworks logoSo! Fireworks CS3 is decidedly the suck. Actually, I should rephrase that. The entire CS3 Web Suite is the suck, in my humble opinion. Those might be bold words so let me clarify:

I'm admittedly a Macromedia fan boi. There. Now that is out of the way, I can go on in an absolutely biased way to completely and utterly trash Adobe.

When Adobe bought Macromedia, they did so for reasons that were so deep into Flash's market penetration that it wasn't even funny. Sadly, the remainder of Macro's apps were mostly dismissed. Dreamweaver was essentially the Web design standard in the HTML editing space so GoLive was out, and Contribute was a slick little tool for managing small to mid-size business' web authors so that's still in. Director ended up being the big-brother whipping boy for Flash, and Freehand was completely cut loose due to the elephant in the room known as Illustrator. That all plays out well, with the exception of Fireworks. It doesn't compete directly with Photoshop so what to do, what to do?

Fireworks is my Web UI development application of choice. It's got decent vector-based editing tools, and acceptable bitmap editing capability. It's nothing like Illustrator or Photoshop for their dedicated tasks, but with it's live effects and excellent file export options, Fireworks turns out to be a awesome tool for a web designers arsenal. It's only natural that this would move to replace Adobe Image Ready. Image Ready and Fireworks could do a ton of the same things, but Fireworks really could do them all better - and Adobe agreed with me.

As for the new MacromediAdobe products, the CS3 Suite has been an utter and complete disaster as far as our in-house design shop is concerned. Disclaimer:: We're all running Macs around here and we're all too aware of Adobe's current Windows-bias. Our print designers have run into a variety of issues regarding product updates and migrating files to the newest versions of the Adobe tools, and our entire Web team has downgraded to Macromedia Studio 8 on our Intel-based MacBookPros. We manage a handful of Contribute users and the rendering of our table-less, CSS layout just falls apart when users go to edit pages. Font management is abysmal to non-existent for the newest version of Fireworks, and last night I experienced a complete and utter disaster.

I decided to move files to a different directory while they were still open - okay, that's admittedly my bad. Of course, I kept on working on the open files and when I hit "Save" the system happily looked like it was saving all of my changes. Apparently that wasn't the case and when I opened the file back up - I was back at version 1.0 of the project. Why wasn't there some kind of error? Why did Fireworks act like everything was fine and the little, tell-tale red button at the top of the window signal everything was a go? It's because the CS3 products are the suck that's why.

In Adobe's defense, I can't leave them solely on the table without leveling some hate at the media's current darling Apple and Mac OS X. Something was asleep at the wheel in my system last night when I was working. I'd expect either Fireworks or OS X to calmly and politely let me know, "Hey moron, you're dicking up your design because you moved the original files and I can't actually save your progress - stop now!" Just give me some kind of sign! I'd love to blame user error and just bend over, but if I click CTRL/CMD+S and warning bells don't go off, I assume everything is fine and keep on trucking. The Mac OS could be just as much, if not more so, at fault as opposed to my graphics app so to be fair, it's either completely to blame, or an unwitting accomplice.

Either way someone should be slapped then shot over my lack of sleep. </rant>

The problem is that the Fireworks development team doesn't have the resources given to it that say Photoshop or Flash does. And that's just sad. There really aren't many options, if any, for graphics tools that cater specifically to UI-authoring for web design. Web design images and CSS are built and tweaked to be trim and fast-loading, and in this designer's opinion, so should my web design application(s).

Photoshop has become extremely bloated over the years and it's subsequent releases. Jason Santa Maria wrote about this exact issue in January and I think he's spot on. Currently, the amount of Photoshop that I would use for my UI-development would total up to around 10% of what that software can do. I don't need the ability to import via TWAIN drivers for 800 different scanners, and I don't need the ability to read/edit RAW image formats. I know some people do, but for them, Photoshop can still be there in all its bloated glory. I don't need a heavy-photo-lifting application that can do all that and cook a steak, I need a tool that can help me design for the low-res Internet. Fireworks fills that void to an acceptable degree, but the amount of new functionality that application has seen since version 3 of the app is atrocious.

Give me the ability to create document defined grid layouts. Give me the ability to specify type based on pixels, or ems, or any number of other sizes that are web-ready. Group my fonts in sub-sets that are Web approved according to browser/OS penetration. Give me CSS export of my background colors and baseline fonts. Or better yet, allow me the ability of a CSS-editing/rendering engine just like Dreamweaver within my graphics application.

Photoshop is a great tool for what it was originally designed for. It's just that somewhere along the way, the internet was born, and with that the needs for a different designer's toolbox. Just hoping that someone can step up and fill the void and I'd be happy and pie if that someone were Adobe. It just seems like Fireworks could be that tool...if only...

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