Review of Adobe CS4: Flash, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver

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by Patric King

Adobe CS4: Flash, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver

About the Author

Patric King is a contributing editor to Print and the co-owner of web design and development studio House of Pretty.

Flash’s improvements in CS4 are made primarily for animators. The app is now fully Adobe-ized, with the Adobe interface, and opens Flash-based content from other Adobe applications—most notably InDesign and After Effects.

Previous versions of Flash applied “tweens” (animator-speak for two keyframes and a series of frames linking the motion between them) to a timeline concept, which required a ridiculous amount of menu and keystroke work. In CS4, Flash’s tweening is encapsulated in a much simpler workflow: In a single step, an animator can draw an object, create a symbol from that object, create a keyframe, and move the playhead forward on the timeline to set the last part of the tween. That’s a net work reduction of about 80 percent. For more experienced animators, Flash adds a new motion editor which allows for tiny, granular adjustments.

Another classic animator’s tool new to Flash is the bones tool. Bones are commonly used in animation and 3D applications to create a skeleton underneath a body and set its limits of movement, thereby opening up an entire world of character design and animation possibilities only available with a lot of careful forethought in previous versions.

Fireworks, which has long suffered from the misconception that it was an over-complicated version of ImageReady, has undergone a serious repositioning in this release. Adobe’s putting a lot of emphasis on Fireworks as a rapid prototype tool for the web and mobile applications. The interface is new to CS4 and sports the same use of smart guides familiar to users of InDesign and Illustrator, and meshes easily with the newly-redesigned Device Central, which contains multiple profiles from Adobe’s online repository of mobile devices. This may seem esoteric now, but with the slow proliferation of mobile devices and changes in their uses, it’ll soon seem as familiar as choosing a pixel size in Photoshop. The new Fireworks also allows for exporting to Adobe AIR—which is a stand-alone application framework—or PDF, PSD, or CSS. It’s a perfect little prototyping tool.

Dreamweaver was the coder’s darling in the late 1990s, since no other visual HTML/CSS editor matched it in controllable code and consistent results among browsers. No other visual code editor has ever really replaced it, and yet it has fallen out of favor, largely due to coder’s suspicions that they couldn’t control their results as cleanly as they should be able to do. That’s no longer true, if it ever was; and Dreamweaver is now basically reborn with several new, useful concepts powering it. The interface is completely redesigned to match the rest of the Adobe Suite. The app frame is there, workspaces can be customized, and presets can be saved. More importantly, Dreamweaver is updated to show the dynamic nature of many modern sites.

Dreamweaver previews code much more accurately than it did, and sports an interesting new feature to quickly look at modal features such as animations and interface widgets. It’s called Live View, and shows the action in live time while displaying the code resulting from the action right next to the action. Additionally, interactive items can be frozen between states, much like a frame-by-frame animation view. This way, the developer can tweak the widgets as delicately as they need. The application now also works with data sets—an invaluable tool for creating database-driven sites.

There’s a related files bar on the interface which displays any related external JavaScript or cascading style sheets, and uses them as buttons. Click the related file’s name, open it, edit, save, close, and refresh your master view to show your changes in your code. Dreamweaver supports CSS best practices, and understands the notions of nested CSS rules—invaluable for clean code.

Adobe Creative Suite 4 review

* Main introduction to CS4.

* Bridge “In Bridge, a designer can manage a campaign and its assets across print, video, web, and mobile media.” Click to read more about Bridge.

* Photoshop “Some of the greatest differences between CS3 and CS4 can be seen in Photoshop.” Click to read more about Photoshop.* Illustrator “Illustrator’s biggest improvements are found in the program’s smaller details.” Click to read more about Illustrator.

* InDesign “It’s now easier to design prototypes of Flash sites in InDesign to hand off to a full development team.” Click here to read more about InDesign.