Macromedia Studio 8

May 16th, 2006 Software, Tech, The West Australian

Despite intermittent advances in technology, the basics of print design have not changed in the 570 years since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.

At 15 years old versus six centuries, web design is considerably younger and it’s changing at breakneck speed. Faster in fact than the amount of time it takes most users to get completely comfortable with the previous standard. One of the stakeholders inevitably affected by such sweeping changes is software makers.

So it’s commendable that Macromedia has produced a suite of design and development tools that remain relevant to the way online content is built by real-world designers and developers.

Macromedia’s first major release under the ownership of former competitor Adobe incorporates Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. However, there are glaring omissions as well as welcome additions.

Vector drawing — the method of using mathematical equations instead of coloured pixels to draw lines and objects — can have an important place in both print and web design. So the first controversy is the demise of Freehand, taken over by Macromedia years ago so they had a vector drawing tool to compete with Adobe’s Illustrator.

The fact Macromedia has dropped Freehand and incorporated vector drawing functions into pixel-drawing tool Fireworks says something about its success in that quest, but Fireworks is now the Macromedia Studio’s one-stop graphics shop.

The suite also includes Contribute, the easy-to-use content management system that allows approved website visitors to change content without destroying the design, thereby future-proofing the product against your company growing beyond just you and your web developer.

An example of how standardised web design practices have become is in the way Dreamweaver now handles cascading-style sheets (CSS) — the new method to design web pages. Before, you had to flick back and forth between your style sheet and the HTML document referencing it.

Dreamweaver now assumes CSS will be an integral part of your workflow, so it has a dynamic CSS palette where you can adjust your settings and see how they affect the design without having to move constantly between files. Together with additions such as improved text rendering in Flash, it proves Macromedia knows what it — and everyone else — is doing, building functionality into the software that’s going to become important as things change.

What’ll be interesting now is seeing whether this is Macromedia’s last hurrah.

In the hands of new owner Adobe — which already has both vector and pixel graphics applications and a HTML editor under its belt — what might future releases of Studio or Adobe’s Creative Suite consist of? We can only hope Adobe does not lose sight of the intimate user knowledge Macromedia has used to create Studio 8.


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