Whether we like it or not Adobe and Macromedia will become one sometime in the future (well, unless the Department of Justice decides otherwise). So, I for one, was interested in what was included in the latest Studio Suite ...
Flash Professional 8
... what's missing? FreeHand. A sign of things to come? Probably.
It seems the Suite is directed at not just web developers but dynamic web developers. Despite my attempt at humour, the exclusion of FreeHand is irrelevant really as Fireworks handles vectors just as readily and FreeHand's clumsiness on the Web is well known. Contribute and FlashPaper make perfect sense to be members of the Suite ... Contribute makes managing web content a shared team task, and FlashPaper's one-click process converts any document into PDF and FlashPaper files for the web. Add to that ... developer's will use Flash Professional to author rich interactive content ... Fireworks optimization tools to balance quality images with compression ... Dreamweaver to deliver clean, standards-based dynamic applications ... And, to my mind, the result is a perfect dynamic web developer's Suite.
Macromedia have made a huge success in the past from listening to their customers. They have a real community of developers and forums and when the feedback comes it is taken seriously. I figure this version of the Studio is a major reflection of their commitment to their customers and it continues to give them an "edge". In fact, the new upgrade policy for Studio 8 also confirms my theory ... "New Upgrade Policy! All previous versions of Macromedia Studio, FreeHand, Flash and Fireworks are eligible for upgrade to Macromedia Studio 8 via this product." .. In short, if you own Dreamweaver MX2004 you may use that product to upgrade to Studio 8 ... impressive.
The first three products in the Suite have an extensive list of new features ... I'm going to outline a few of the best ones here and then over the coming weeks review in full ... Those of you who subscribe to the Web Builder Bulletin will be the first to see those reviews as they become available.
Lets start with Dreamweaver 8 which sports not two but one unified CSS panel, empowering developers to see multi-level cascaded styles at a glance and do quick edits via a new property grid ... I'm pleased with this enhancement as dodging between the two panels in MX2004 made no sense to me. Theres also a style rendering addition to the Toolbars which allows developers to see styles how their users will see them. Dreamweaver is definitely my tool of choice for web development and I'm looking forward to an indepth visit with this software in the next few weeks.
Flash Professional 8 has a range of new goodies ... Filters, Blend Modes, FlashType, Bitmap Caching, the On2 VP6 codec (which is a high quality video codec with low file sizes ... bonus!), embedded cue points (seems Director could well be superseded) and improved panel management (yah!) to name just a few ... again, so many new features which will be looked at indepth in the coming review.
Fireworks has always run its race a poor second to competitors like Photoshop but its optimisation tools are so good that most web developers will have this little gem tucked away in their software libraries. Some of the new features in Fireworks 8 include a new image editing panel which looks suspiciously like Dreamweaver's editing panel (not a bad thing mind). Famous for its popup menus Fireworks now incorporates some nice CSS generated popup menus with the code nicely integrating with Dreamweaver developed websites (lush).
The last two members of the Suite have been around for a while now ... Contribute 3 was designed to give developers less headaches with their techno-challenged clients ... You can read my Review of a few months ago here ... or read about all the Contribute 3 features at the Macromedia site ... FlashPaper 2 allows the instant generation of Flash documents for the Internet and the ability to transform files into secure, compact PDFs for e-mailing. Its full range of features can be found on the Macromedia site here.
All in all this Suite is sweeeet (sorry) ... and earns a double thumbs up from me ... is it worth the upgrade price? In my opinion ... absolutely! ... Its a huge feature-laden upgrade with the improvements to Dreamweaver alone making the upgrade price worthwhile. Nice one Macromedia.