Review: Fireworks CS3

Adobe Fireworks CS3 includes very significant new features, in addition to providing excellent integration with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash and Bridge.

Pages and layers

The new Fireworks Pages panel reflects Adobe’s vision of improving web design workflow, from conception to final publication. This panel makes it easy to create functional prototypes of websites that contain multiple pages, links, and rollover graphics within a single Fireworks file. In addition to the master page that contains all the elements you want to appear on each page, you can also use the Pages panel to quickly preview the pages.

Another novelty aimed at rapid prototyping is the ability to share layers between different pages. For example, if you need to display a specific image on multiple pages, you can specify those pages by selecting the layer containing the image in the Layers panel and then selecting the Share Layer To Pages command. Shared layers appear yellow in the Layers panel.

The addition of hierarchical layers, which allow you to organize content into sublayers, provides integration between Fireworks, Illustrtor, and Photoshop. Fireworks maintains the hierarchy of layers in files imported from Photoshop and Illustrator, unlike what happened in previous versions where all layers were combined during import.

The new Create Slideshow command is also an interesting novelty. This command, in combination with the new standard templates, makes it easier for non-programmers to create slideshows that are Flash-based or not. The Create Slideshow dialog contains several subpanels that allow for customization of attributes for albums and slide shows. For example, here are six different slide show templates; five of these templates require the use of the Flash player. The sixth template is based on Adobe’s Spry framework, in which an XML-based photo gallery is created that does not require the use of plug-ins for viewing. Fireworks’ ability to quickly compile and publish a slideshow is impressive. Once the slideshow has been saved, it can be viewed locally on the computer or the files can be uploaded to a remote server for viewing.

Improved scaling

The incorporation of the nine-cell scaling grid (or smart scaling), solves the problem related to distortion when any object is scaled. Specify which parts of the bitmap or vector symbol image to scale, and which other parts to keep as is. Scaling is also maintained for symbol copy and paste operations between Fireworks CS3 and Flash CS3. For example, if you copy a symbol that contains a rectangle with rounded corners on which smart scaling is enabled, you can paste that symbol into Flash and scale the symbol by increasing or reducing its size without distorting the corners.

You can now also select an image and use the Copy to Fireworks command and the Paste to Dreamweaver command to copy an image to the web page. Dreamweaver’s Paste command launches its preview dialog, where it will guide you through the optimization and saving process of the image for the website you are designing with Dreamweaver. Once you’ve saved the image, it will automatically appear on the web page. This copy and paste method is more efficient than that available in earlier versions of the software.

The Commom Library feature provides a means for creating and storing symbols (including buttons, graphics, and animated symbols), which you can later add to any image in Fireworks CS3. The program is supplied with a variety of frequently used symbols geared towards creating mockups, apps, and websites. Complex symbols contain editable properties and attributes that you can change using the Symbol Properties panel. You can also create your own symbols, including the ability to add editable properties, using the Create Symbol Script command. The command opens a dialog box that lets you create a JavaScript file that controls editable properties and attributes, even if you don’t know JavaScript.

More creative flexibility

Creative new to Fireworks CS3 includes a Color palette for creating custom colors, in addition to the seven blend modes available in Photoshop. The new Live Effects dialog allows designers to add and edit Photoshop effects from within Fireworks. However, Fireworks does not allow you to control all the options available in Photoshop. Unfortunately, the Eye Candy 4000 LE and Alien Skin Splat LE filters are no longer included as standard with Fireworks CS3.

Another creative enhancement to Fireworks is the Path panel, which contains updated tools for editing vector graphics. The Extrude Paths tool, although not as powerful compared to the Illustrator equivalent, and the Extrude filter that allows you to create simple 3-D objects.

What needs improvement

Importing or opening Photoshop or Illustrator files in Fireworks is not a perfect operation. For example, Fireworks will convert a Photoshop 16-bit RGB file to a single layer file instead of keeping the entire hierarchy of the original layers. Opening and saving the file as a Photoshop RGB 8-bit image will solve this problem, even if it involves possibly unwanted conversion. Fortunately, this problem will be resolved in future updates. Adobe also acknowledges some integration issues between Photoshop and Illustrator files and Fireworks CS3, and offers some suggestions for improving their performance in various technical notes.


The release of Fireworks CS3 marks the most ambitious update to the program since its inception. The new Pages panel, improved integration with other Adobe CS3 products, and the addition of smart scaling are reason enough to upgrade to the new version. The ability to create slideshows, create custom colors and use Photoshop effects are the icing on the cake. If you design and develop websites, then you should use Fireworks CS3.