Adobe Fireworks CS4 Review & Buying Guide

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Fireworks CS4


Fireworks can optimize web graphics, rapidly prototype websites, edit, design and create interactive designs. This is all done seamlessly with the enhanced toolset that works with other Adobe applications. Artists and designers can demo their work live on the web to their clients. PDF files can be generated from Fireworks and E-mailed to clients. With the new CS4 version of Fireworks, Adobe had introduced new production enhancing features and enhanced most of the other tools to work in conjunction with live web applications and other tools that deliver prototypes and interactive designs to the client. The ability to work in an online interactive environment with the client expands the designer’s client base and overall capabilities.

New Performance Improvements (5 out of 5)

Fireworks CS4 has significant performance improvements that make it a powerful tool for the designer. These new features make Fireworks a stand-alone application bridging the gap between design and delivery options for Web-based creations. While previous versions focused mainly on handling small edits and setting up designs for Web applications, Fireworks CS4 combines functionality and interactive design features that are easy to work with and use with other Adobe products.

  • Improved Performance - Adobe has made Fireworks handle file operations much faster. File opening, saving, updates and handling bitmaps now are handled faster and smarter.
  • PDF File Export - This is one of the handiest improvements. Now the designer can export a file to a PDF and E-mail it to the client all in one seamless motion. Files can be password protected, also.
  • RIA Authoring Support - Another great tool that according to Adobe, “Prototype layouts for RIAs in Fireworks and then export them directly to Adobe Flex, while retaining absolute positioning, styling, and professional-quality coding.”

Design Feature Changes (3 out of 5)

Some changes in design have increased functionality, but are not as easily accessed. Other design changes are more cosmetic than functional and some changes replaced easy to use features with more options, but with less thought to workflow.

  • Exporting within the suite - With CS4 they did away with the Quick Export Button on the upper right side of the workspace. The Quick Export Button was fast, easy and handy. All the export options including the preview were located here. In CS4 the user has to access these from the Main Toolbar. This is not as intuitive and takes more time.
  • Auto shapes - In CS3 the menu was more intuitive. Fireworks CS4 has more options with the Auto shapes, but they are not as intuitive to use.
  • Toolbar Style - The Toolbar in CS3 is in color and made the tools more distinct and easy to identify. CS4’s color palette is gray and the Toolbar is now gray, black and white. None of the tools stand out.
  • Photoshop Interface - Not all the functions from Photoshop import into Fireworks correctly. Photoshop is a powerful image editor with a specific design. Trying to use Fireworks the same as Photoshop doesn’t work. The layers shift during import, fonts are different, there are problems importing layer masks, and layer fills don’t import correctly. These are some of the issues between the two. The more complex design functions should be completed in Photoshop.

Other design features like the Path, Image Editing and other Panels have a wider selection of functions and more powerful than previous versions, but they are not easy to use and require some thought and study to become adept at using. The panels are a mixed bag, they have improvements, but they are not as easy to use as other CS4 application panels. This is proof that Fireworks is still evolving.

Collaboration Tools (5 out of 5)

Here is where Fireworks CS4 shines. Fireworks is evolving into an application that web based production artists and designers can rely on to create and interface with the client. Thumbs up for listening to users and creating exporting tools that make collaborating easier between the designer and client.

  • Faster Interface - Faster switching from other Creative Suite applications.
  • Type Handling - Enhance type handling. Selecting, wrapping and attaching text is made easier in this version.
  • Online Services - Can’t say enough about this. Collaborating with other designers and clients on the web.
  • Live Demos - Live meetings with clients using high-fidelity PDF and interactive HTML comps. This is what Web designers have been waiting for.
  • Creative Suite Integration - Importing files while keeping the hierarchical structure to layers and effects. Fireworks formats and imports from all the applications with the Adobe Creative Suite family.

These are the improvements that make Fireworks an application that is evolving to meet the needs of modern Web designers, interaction designers and Web developers.

Design Tools and CSS Support (4 out of 5)

Overall the design tools have been improved and enhanced. Some tools and panels take a little working with and there are still places for growth and improvement, but Fireworks CS4 has some exciting improvements.

  • CSS & AIR Export - More and more designers are moving towards CSS and away from HTML. Designers want to spend their time creating and not writing code. This is a great new addition.
  • Tools Panel Upgrades - Color Palette, Slice Scaling Tool and Styles, these all have been improved with added features for functionality. Other tools have been enhanced or added.
  • Prototyping Tool - This is a new feature where all pages can be viewed as a SWF file. This is a great Demo tool.

Fireworks CS4 has many new tools and features that are welcome additions. While the CSS support is an excellent addition, the overall improvements still could use some design fixes. All of these additions are significant improvements over the previous CS3 version.


Fireworks CS4 has many exciting improvements and is vastly improved over the previous version. Fireworks was a small editing program to set up images and graphics for the Web, but now it has evolved into a stand-alone application for new media and Web design applications. Web designers, interactive designers and Web developers have used bits and pieces from different applications to meet their needs, but now have an application that is fast moving towards meeting the needs of new technology and the people who design Web applications. The new collaboration features let the designer and client interact through E-mail and online. Fireworks still needs refining, but it is worth checking out for those designing for the Web.