Any Interest in eBooks on Adobe Fireworks (and other subjects)?

To this day, my tutorial on removing image backgrounds non-destructively using Adobe Fireworks is still by far the most visited page on this site. I still receive email about it and questions from people requesting help with how to deal with their own images or more complex images than the ones the tutorial covered.

So, I’m throwing an idea out there : Would anyone be interested in a reasonably priced eBook on the subject that would go much deeper into the issue and even include some video where I show some of the techniques live? If so, what would you consider a reasonable price?

Furthermore, if you’ve had images that gave you trouble and would be willing to share them with me (an anyone who will read the eBook), feel free to contact me and you can then send me the images and I will choose some to use as examples. Any other feedback on this idea you want to provide is very welcome.

Other Subjects

If there’s anything else related to Web design, WordPress or any of the things I usually discuss here that you would like help with then share it in a comment or send a message directly to me. eBooks can cover a lot more ground easier than a blog post or online tutorial so, anything that might benefit from an eBook treatment is something I could write about.


A Quick Review of Fireworks CS5

Reference Point Selector

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, 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…

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 !

Fireworks Strokes Rendering Issues

I’ve been wanting to address this issue here for a while now and this morning I got an email from one of my long time readers asking about it. So I decided to write a quick post to illustrate the issue and offer a solution.

The problem: how Fireworks renders certain 1 pixel strokes as a blurred 2 pixels stroke depending on what tool is used to create the shape or path the stroke is applied to or if the shape or path is cut after it has been created. Rotating an object even by 90 degrees can also affect the rendering of the object’s stroke or its fill’s edge if the object has no stroke. Look at the following image I created a while ago that illustrates the issue.

The grid in the background of that image is a 1px X 1px grid. It looks very large there because I took that screenshot from within Fireworks at 3200% zoom level. What this illustrates is that the actual nodes or anchors on paths can be positioned either exactly at grid lines intersection points or exactly in the middle of a “pixel block”. In reality, Fireworks is not limited to those two positions as it can position objects in much finer increments than half pixels on the canvas. The two positions above are the automatic defaults when creating or editing objects with Fireworks’ native tools.

The result of the above is that, when a path’s anchors or nodes are positionned in the middle of a pixel, then a 1px soft stroke will render normally as a 1 pixel stroke. If you want to see how this works, open Fireworks now and follow these steps:

  • Select the regular rectangle tool.
  • Set the stroke to black and use the Pencil-Pixel Soft troke type and a size of 1.
  • Draw a rectangle on the canvas. The stroke should look likea 1 pixel stroke that is sharp, clean and uniform.
  • Switch to the Rounded Rectangle tool and draw another rectangle using the same stroke settings. The stroke will now look like a grey 2 pixels stroke instead of the sharp 1 pixel stroke of the first rectangle.
  • Switch back to the black arrow tool and select your first rectangle.
  • Swicth to the kife tool and cut its path anywhere. The stroke rendering will instantly change to look like a 2 pixel grey stroke (or a blurry 1px black stroke depending how you look at it…). In any case, it doesn’t look like what you set. Notice that the stroke setting is still at 1px Pencil-Pixel Soft so the look of the stroke shouldn’t have changed.

According to Adobe, this is normal behavior yet, to me, this is a serious bug. They created a technote you can find here addressing the issue in more detail than I do here but I really believe that Fireworks should be smart enough to do what it needs to do to comply with the stroke settings applied by the user, even when a path is being edited. But as you can see, it doesn’t always do so.

There is a solution though but you need to use a third party extension to fix this. Go to this page then download and install Senocular’s Transform Panel extension. With it, you’ll be able to do what you still cannot do with Fireworks’ native tools: size and position objects by sub-pixel increments. Using the Transform Panel.s X and & flields, select the object with the stroke rendering issue and “move” it by a half pixel in one or bothdirection depending on the object (you can enter decimals in those fields which is something you still cannot do in Fireworks’ own Property Inspector).

Using the Transform Panel, you can now take control of how Fireworks anti-aliases strokes, fills and even text. Once you start using it you’ll never go back to the PI, especially if you start using the included 9 Points Proxy below the x and y fields to size and position objects from reference points other than the default (and only) top and left. I’ll write another post specifically about the Transform Panel soon because it has become one of the tools aI used most in Fireworks, supplementing and replacing a native toolset that should have gained similar functionality years ago (IMO). It’s a truly fantastic extension that will save you countless time and headaches…