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Adobe CS4 Suite Quick Reviews: Contribute, Fireworks, Flash

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/5/2011

With the reinvention of the Adobe CS4 Suite, do all the applications still work? Here we will take a closer look at Contribute, Fireworks and Flash.

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    Here we look at three applications that tend to have a unique audience. Contribute usually goes to teams who collaborate on web pages. Fireworks often works with Dreamweaver, but isn't as hard core as Illustrator. Flash is a category of its own. To help you make sense of what software comes in which packages, see Distinguishing Adobe CS4 Packages.

    We'd love to tell you straight out -- "This is worth the upgrade" and "This isn't worth upgrading." We can't. We don't know what software you have, what version, and what you do. Furthermore, some applications see lots of new features and improvements while others not so much.We do our best in giving you highlights and lowlights of the applications so you can decide.

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    Adobe Contribute CS4

    Helps teams collaborate and manage their workflow to author and publish web content. Contribute isn’t for the individual designer. Keywords are team, collaboration and workflow. Teams with little or no experience in web design benefit most this WYSIWYG application.

    What’s new in Adobe Contribute CS4

    Pros: Adds Firefox editing capability (but leaves Safari behind). Workflow gives site administrator to require certain pages go through review and approval prior to publishing. Serves existing web sites best.

    Cons: Designers who like to get their hands dirty with HTML and CSS won’t be able to do so.

    Upgrade: Contribute CS4 isn’t much of an upgrade from CS3 and it’s not a good tool to use to create a new site.

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    Adobe Fireworks CS4

    Create web design prototypes and interactive applications before porting them into Dreamweaver. It works best for building quick prototypes without coding.

    What’s new in Adobe Fireworks CS4 (pdf file)

    Pros: Like Dreamweaver CS4, Fireworks CS4 receives a facelift to look like a member of the CS4 family. One of the best and long-needed features is the exporting of a prototype to a validated layout with CSS and images. Fireworks also exports designs as PDF files and lets you create interactive Adobe AIR applications. We love the Smart Guides, which make it snap to align items. Wrapping text around images is easier with the use of the Attach in path command. We’re delighted to see Fireworks’ improvements, which signify that Adobe plans to keep it part of the family as it has many fans.

    Cons: Adobe adds Smart Objects to Dreamweaver, but not to Fireworks. Why not?

    Upgrade: The export to CSS could be enough for many designers to upgrade to Fireworks CS4 and enjoy the interface improvements. Still has text handling and editing problems such as selecting fonts.

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    Adobe Flash CS4

    Creative interactive experiences that work across platforms and devices.

    What’s new in Adobe Flash CS4

    Pros: Adds Adobe AIR, XFL and H.264 codec support. Improved interface especially in the timeline and property inspector. Creating animation is faster with the object-based animation engine so you no longer start with a symbol and then mess with keyframes. Motion Editor uses ActionScript, but those who prefer the old way can still use it with tweens. New 3D features help create more animation while the Bones tool lets you create inverse kinematics animation to move one part of a whole object such as moving a person’s hand also moves the arm. The application feels faster despite our rough start in opening the application for the first time – it took a while and stopped responding briefly.

    Cons: Deco tool – fractalish type rendering -- poorly implemented. Needs to watch out as Microsoft’s Expression Blend could show up Flash. Still can’t duplicate layers like in Photoshop.

    Upgrade: Worth the purchase if new or using Flash prior to CS3 as it has advancements in animation and saves steps.