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Coming Up On pixelyzed.com In 2011

To say that I have been busy in the latter half of 2010 would be an understatement… my lack of posting here or on my company blog is a testament to it. But I’ve been learning a lot and plan to share my best finds as usual. So, here are a few things that are coming up here soon…

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A Quick Review of Fireworks CS5

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or you are not a Web designer or working in a related field, you cannot have missed the announcement of Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5 a few weeks ago. I have been using two products in the suite for a while now, including of course, Fireworks CS5. As is becoming a tradition here on pixelyzed.com, here are my thoughts on the new version as well as a few thoughts on the future…

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What About that Fireworks CS4?

Although the new version of Fireworks has been in public beta for a while now, I haven’t talked much about it here yet. Not because it’s not an exciting release, quite the opposite, but only because until a month ago I was basically working 2 full time jobs and since I turned a full time freelancer, I’ve worked hard at setting up my new business, re-branding its image and getting into my freelance groove. I’ll talk about all that later but I’m just saying that I just did not have the time to write anything meaningful about Fireworks CS4. This post is just a start.

Anyone who’s read this blog before or had to “endure” some of my long winded tirades about Fireworks’s development and direction in the last few years knows that I just haven’t been happy at all about a lot of what happened and a lot of the decisions that have been made during the development of the last 3 versions. On one hand, I have been a long time evangelist of the product but, on the other hand, one of its harshest critics as well. That’s because I care about it… a lot. Fireworks is one of the reasons I was able to build a nice Web design business for myself on the side while working a full time job in the printing industry. It enabled me to work faster and get ideas into concrete form easier than with any other graphic application I’ve used before or since. So it has long been a key part of my tool-set and now that I do this full time, it’s becoming even more important to me.

But there is a lot to be happy about in the new CS4 version. It still misses some long requested features but it has finally started moving in the right direction again and actually made a huge leap forward.

If you do not want to download and install beta software and are not interested in reading lengthy new features descriptions, please just take a few minutes to watch this video on Adobe TV that features Alan Musselman (who is an application architect from the Fireworks team) demonstrating some of the key new features and improvements in Fireworks 4.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been this excited about a new Fireworks release but this one really is a fantastic and worthwhile upgrade. Beyond the UI changes, most of the new features go to work flow efficiency and ease of use which have been Fireworks’ main strengths from the beginning. With this release, it’s really starting to shape up like the creative powerhouse application it was always promised to become. I can’t wait to see how much further Fireworks will jump with the CS5 version…

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Fireworks CS4 Beta on Adobe Labs!

Fireworks is finally getting some long overdue exposure. A beta of the next CS4 version has been posted on Adobe Labs today. I will blog about this in more details later this week. Long story short is that there is a lot to love in this new version and Fireworks is finally gainning some maturity and sophistication.  There are still many areas that need work like, for example, its desperately archaic color management features as well as not having any way to maintain links to external assets (just to name these two) but a LOT of progress has been made in this release…

Check it out !

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Fireworks and the PNG Format Revisited

It seems that the debate over this issue which I discussed in detail in a previous post is still going on in the forum thread that inspired my bringing the issue up here. It also was the issue in a recent post from respected Fireworks evangelist and now Adobe employee, Trevor McCauley (Senocular).

The thing is, Trevor brings up just the same weak arguments we’ve heard before in favor of keeping the .png file extension which I have tried to debunk in my other post on the subject. Basically, his only argument for keeping the extension and justifying his claim that changing it would do “more harm than good” is that, support for the files in other applications would be lost.

I have already addressed this specific issue in my other post and showed that, for the only applications where I believe this really matters (Web browsers), you could take a PNG file, change its extension to .xyz or anything else that strikes your fancy and IE, Firefox and Opera would all still open it. That’s because those applications do not just look at file extensions to determine file types.

For the applications that do this like Photoshop or Illustrator for example, you could always temporarily rename your “.xyz” or whatever file to .png and open it there then change it back later. In my opinion, it becomes even more important to use a new file extension when opening editable files in editing applications like Photoshop that do not support the proprietary data chunk that holds the native data saved by Fireworks. Saving a PNG file from Photoshop will loose all editable data no matter what. If the file had another extension, Photoshop wouldn’t open or save it without having to change the extension to PNG. That would mean designers would really have time to make sure the file they open in Photoshop or another editing app is not a native file or that, if it is, they’ll have to be extra careful how or where they save it back out of Photoshop.

I think this debates really boils down to theses two choices. On one hand, if you change the extension, you have the minor inconvenience of having to rename it if you want to open it in applications that are dumb enough to only look at file extensions to determine file type. On the other, if you keep the status quo, users will still accidentaly overwrite native and editable PNG files and loose hours of work. Which one is the bigger inconvenience in your opninion?