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Adobe Fireworks: Is It Worth Switching to CS5?


Adobe Fireworks is the Swiss Army knife for many developers and Web, UX, UI and graphic designers. The application is known for its versatility, excellent blend of vector and bitmap tools and powerful built-in wireframing and prototyping options. Also, according to the SoDA 2010 Digital Marketing Outlook1 survey, Fireworks has become an important tool for many digital agencies.

It now has the same standing as other core Adobe products, such as Flash, Flex and Dreamweaver (to the question “Which technical skill sets, if any, will you look to hire or contract in 2010?”, approx. 12%2 of the survey respondents replied “Fireworks”, and to the question “Which tools/products will you or your organization use in 2010?”, more than 44%3 of the survey respondents replied that they will be using Fireworks).

A lot of official Adobe pages cover the latest version of Fireworks, CS5, in detail: for example, the new Fireworks CS5 product page4; the Fireworks CS5/CS4/CS3 comparison chart5; and the pages that highlight Fireworks CS5’s Web workflows6 and design workflows7.

But none of these official Adobe pages actually answer the question that so many design professionals are asking in the first place: is Fireworks CS5 really better? Will it save you time and effort? Are the new features worth the upgrade price? This article gives detailed answers to these questions. We’ll present a neat list of Fireworks CS5’s new features and improved workflows, along with examples of how they will make your work much more efficient.

1. Better Performance Link

Performance Improvements Link

One of the most notable (and welcome) improvements in the latest version of Fireworks is performance. Fireworks CS5 is faster and more lightweight, it uses less RAM and it is much more stable than any previous version of Fireworks.

For example, look at the following performance graph. Testing was done on a five-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad, with a 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium-M CPU and 1.5 GB of DDR memory.

Adobe Fireworks CS5 - performance graph (start-up times on a ThinkPad)
Performance graph of start-up times.

Notice that start-up times are much better for the CS5 version, and Fireworks CS5 may need less than 4 seconds for a “warm” start on a five-year-old machine; some Mac users already report similar performance improvements8.

More performance stats9:

  • “Cold” launch times improved by 3 to 9% (average)
  • “Warm” launch times improved by 30 to 32% (average)
  • Memory (RAM) usage reduced by 2 to 16% (average)

Adobe Fireworks CS5 - performance graph (general performance improvements)
Graph of general performance improvements.

So, while major new versions of Adobe applications are usually more resource-hungry than their predecessors, seeing that this is actually the opposite case with Fireworks is a pleasant surprise.

Better Handling of Files Link

Fireworks CS5 opens and saves PNG files faster, better and more reliably. It also allows you to open multi-page Fireworks PNG files much more easily, because the open dialog shows a preview of all of the pages inside.

Adobe Fireworks CS5 - open/import dialog
Multi-page preview in the “Open” and “Import” dialog boxes.

(NOTE: Files created in Fireworks CS4 (and earlier versions) will not have the preview option available by default; a Fireworks PNG file must be saved at least once in Fireworks CS5 so that the multi-page preview becomes available for this file.)

Recovery Options Link

Fireworks CS5 is much stabler than its predecessor. Still, in case the worst happens and Fireworks CS5 suddenly crashes on your Mac, it automatically places a recovered copy of the file in a Recovered Files folder on your desktop. Windows users are protected, too: they can use the AutoBackup extension1210, which works perfectly with both Fireworks CS4 and CS5. The extension works on Windows and Mac and automatically saves copies of all opened PNG files at a user-specified interval inside a folder named FWAIRBackup (which is located on the same path as the original file).

Fireworks recovery options for Mac and Windows users
Fireworks CS5 Windows and Mac users are protected from data loss.

EDIT (2010/Oct/02): Bruce Bowman recently updated11 me on the Fireworks CS5 Mac auto-recovery feature. It seems that even if the feature was available and tested in Fireworks CS5 Beta, it was removed in the last minute, so the final build shipped without it. I am not sure if there will be a later patch for Fireworks CS5 that will include it again, so I am recommending now to both Mac and Win users to download and install the AutoBackup extension1210!

2. PI Panel Improvements Link

The powerful property inspector (or PI) panel has always been the core of Fireworks and one of its best features. From this panel, you can instantly change almost any available property for almost any selected object on the canvas: vector object, bitmap object, text object, a group of objects, etc.

The Property Inspector Panel in Fireworks CS5
The new PI panel in Fireworks CS5 (overview).

In Fireworks CS5, the PI panel has been largely improved. It now responds much faster, and compared to CS4, the “refresh” times are reduced, especially on Windows. It also has many new features. Let’s look at the four most important ones:

New “Constrain Proportions” Option for Resizing Objects Link

No need to use the Numeric Transform tool anymore when you want to resize an object and keep its proportions locked. The new “Constrain Proportions” option on the PI panel simplifies this and saves you time (and a few extra clicks).

The Property Inspector Panel in Fireworks CS5 - Constrain Proportions option
The PI panel option to lock the proportions of an object.

New Dithering Option for Gradients Link

Gradient Dithering is a new feature introduced in Fireworks CS5. When working with gradients, switching the Gradient Dithering option “on” or “off” is now just a click away.

The Property Inspector Panel in Fireworks CS5 - Gradient Dither options
PI panel option for switching Gradient Dithering on and off.

New Stroke Alignment Options Link

Need to change Stroke Alignment properties? You don’t need to open the Stroke options anymore — just use the new Stroke Alignment icons, right on the PI panel.

The Property Inspector Panel in Fireworks CS5 - Stroke Alignment options
The Stroke Alignment options on the PI panel.

New Compound Shape Tools Link

Fireworks CS5 has a powerful new feature: Compound Shapes (more on this feature later). Creating and editing them is done easily from the PI panel, too.

The Property Inspector Panel in Fireworks CS5 - Compound Shapes
Editing Compound Shapes on the PI panel.

3. New Text Engine Features Link

Fireworks CS5 has a much better text engine, with many new features and tiny enhancements that will help in your routine work with text. Here’s a quick list of the enhancements:

  • Kerning, tracking and leading between characters in a text block can now be easily controlled using only the keyboard (simply put the cursor in between characters and use the keyboard arrow keys).
  • The slider value for kerning and tracking has been increased to 200.
  • If you open a PNG file created in Fireworks v. CS3 or lower, the kerning and tracking values will be automatically mapped and the look of the text will be preserved.
  • A new option (unique to Adobe Fireworks) allows you to multi-select characters and words in a text box and then style them together at once. This is complemented by another new option that allows you to auto-select similarly styled characters, words or paragraphs inside a text block, and then modify their styles at once.
  • An editable and auto-completing font list box feature has been added (Windows version only).
  • Now, you don’t need to restart Fireworks after installing a new font (Windows version only).
  • Undoing (Ctrl/Cmd + Z) and redoing (Ctrl/Cmd + Y) at the character level is now possible while you’re in text-editing mode.
  • Double-clicking selects the word, and triple-clicking selects the entire paragraph.
  • In the Layers panel, text object layers are now marked with a tiny “T” icon, for easier recognition.
  • A Text Overflow indicator appears when extra characters (that don’t fit the text-in-path or text-on-path) exist.
  • Copying and pasting text from any version of Microsoft Office into Fireworks is much improved.
  • The number of characters that can be copied and pasted into a Fireworks text block at once has been increased from 2000 to 8000.

(We may highlight and explain text engine improvements in Fireworks CS5 in greater detail in a future article.)

4. Improved Adobe CS5 Integration Link

Integration of Fireworks CS5 with other Adobe CS5 applications is much improved.

  • Fireworks CS5 now supports ASE swatches13, the same color file format supported by Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Kuler14. The .ASE support will allow designers to easily exchange color schemes between Fireworks and other Adobe products.
  • Fireworks CS5 has very good integration with Adobe Illustrator CS5. Fireworks CS5 can import graphic assets from Illustrator CS5 almost perfectly, and copying and pasting directly from Illustrator CS5 into Fireworks CS5 is possible with a high level of fidelity and editability, too (there exist only a few exceptions to this).
  • Fireworks CS5 can export in the new FXG 2.0 file format15, and FXG 2.0 files can be imported into Illustrator CS5, Flash Catalyst CS5 and other Adobe programs with almost no loss in editability.
  • Fireworks CS5 is integrated with Adobe Device Central CS516 (read the article about Adobe Fireworks CS5 and Adobe Device Central titled “Mobile workflows using Fireworks CS5 and Device Central CS517“).
  • The integration with Adobe Photoshop CS5 is excellent, too. Fireworks CS5 can import graphic assets from Photoshop CS5 very well. Fireworks CS5 has much better support for Photoshop PSD files. Adjustment Layers in a PSD file now retain their appearance when opened or imported in Fireworks. Gradient round-tripping is now possible between Fireworks and Photoshop.

5. Miscellaneous New Tools And Features Link

Compound Shapes Link

Fireworks CS5 has powerful new vector tools in its toolset, called Compound Shapes. Compound Shapes are special vector groups that give you greater vector power. You can create new compound shapes out of existing vector objects and you can also draw in several compound shape modes. A Compound Shape group allows the editing and styling of several vector objects as one, while preserving the original vector objects inside the group. The individual objects can be easily re-edited or ungrouped at any stage.

To use the new Compound Shapes, simply select several vector objects together, and then use one of the available Compound Shape operations (found on the PI panel): Add/Union, Subtract/Punch, Intersect, Crop.

After you have created a Compound Shape group, editing individual objects within the group is easy: simply use the Subselection tool (white arrow) to select and modify any individual object. To edit the Compound Shape group as one object, switch to the Pointer tool (black arrow).

Here’s a simple example:

Compound Shapes in Fireworks CS5 (example)
Example of Compound Shapes.

The introduction of Compound Shapes in Fireworks CS5 gives designers even more flexibility, because the standard vector combine workflows (Modify → Combine Paths → Join/Split/Union/Intersect/Punch/Crop) can be complemented by the new non-destructive combine vector workflows18.

Compound Shapes are also fun for all kinds of creative artwork:

Compound Shapes Creative Example (illustration by Ani,
“Monsters,” a creative use of Compound Shapes (illustration by molif.com19).

Dithering Option for Gradients Link

Fireworks CS5 now has a Dithering option for gradients, which almost completely reduces any “banding” in radial or linear gradients.

New Gradient Option in Fireworks CS5
The new Gradient Dithering option reduces “banding” in gradients.

NOTE: The Gradient Dithering option is available for Radial and Linear gradients only. For now, other types of gradients in Fireworks are not supported.

Reverse Option for Gradients Link

Fireworks CS5 allows you to easily reverse the direction of any kind of gradient, which can save time.

New Gradient Reverse Option in Fireworks CS5
Reverse Gradient option.

Snap-to-Pixel Link

Snap-to-Pixel is a new feature in Fireworks CS5 that allows you to fix instantly almost any blurriness in a vector object (or a group of objects), after some complex transformations have been applied to it. To apply this command, use Modify → Snap To Pixel, or the Cmd/Ctrl + K shortcut. This is one of the best and most useful new features in Fireworks CS5.

Templates Link

Fireworks CS5 introduces Templates. Now you can easily create and share your own PNG templates inside a small or large design team.

To use this new feature, simply select File → New from Template to open an existing template, or File → Save as Template.

New Templates in Fireworks CS5
Templates options in the File menu.

Fireworks CS5 comes with several pre-built templates (neatly organized in a few groups: Grid Systems, Mobile, Web, Wireframes, etc.). Users can extend these easily by creating and saving their own templates.

Better CSS Export Options Link

Fireworks CS5 has much better CSS and HTML exporting options. Here are some highlights:

  • A new option to export multiple pages as CSS, HTML and images at once; a great feature for quickly exporting your designs as dynamic, clickable prototypes.
  • It is now possible to tag text objects by tag name to output the text with a particular HTML tag.
  • A Text Area symbol has been added for improved HTML-form prototyping.
  • There is a List Item symbol to allow for the creation of unordered lists (both normal text lists and lists with links).
  • Font sizes are now in percentages to allow for easy and flexible text resizing in all browsers.
  • Divs with set heights now have min-height equivalents to allow for text resizing and any amount of content.
  • Many other small and big improvements have been added to the CSS Export script.

Global Preference for Grids Link

In Fireworks CS5, preferences for grids are now global and can be overridden for individual documents.

Grid Settings in Fireworks CS5
Global preferences for grids.

Redesigned Align Panel Link

The Align panel is improved and more powerful. It now remembers the most recent settings used and is more usable.

Align Panel in Fireworks CS5
Align panel options.

New “Copy to Clipboard” Option for Colors Link

You can use standard option for copying color values of any selected color, or use the new option for one-click copy of the color value.

In Fireworks CS5, you can copy the hex value of the current selected color with one click only
Copying color #hex values is now easier.

New “Don’t show again” Option for Resample Dialog Link

When you copy and paste objects between files that have different resolution (dpi setting), Fireworks will ask you if you want to resample the pasted vector or bitmap object. While it is certainly useful to have this option, experience have proved that leaving the original dpi setting of the object to be pasted is often the best choice and leads to better results.

So now in Fireworks CS5, you can select the “Don’t Resample” option and check the “Don’t show again” checkbox. Setting will be remembered and in the long run, this new option may save you time.

Better paste options in Fireworks CS5 (for documents with different dpi)
Better paste options for documents with different dpi settings.

6. Early (P)reviews Link

Fireworks CS5 was released just a few days ago, but the (p)reviews thus far have been largely positive. Let’s read some of them:

Fireworks CS5 is a very strong release.… For Fireworks CS5, more than with any other release in our history, we listened to our users. They told us that we needed to make sure Fireworks had rock-solid stability and reliability, and that we needed to refine the existing features before thinking about new ones. That’s exactly what we did, and the results are impressive.

Bruce Bowman20, Fireworks Product Manager at Adobe

I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend some time working with the new Adobe Fireworks CS5, and it has been a pleasure. The stability improvements are immediately noticeable, and although this has been described as a “stability release,” there are some very useful new features that should not be overlooked.… Overall, Adobe Fireworks CS5 is a fantastic release. Stability, new features and a smoother workflow with other Adobe products keep it as the front-runner when designing for pixels on the screen.

David Hogue21, Director of Information Design and Usability at Fluid, Inc.22

Aside from the major performance, stability, install and memory enhancements… there are tons of tweaks under the hood of Fireworks CS5!

Darrel Heath23, freelance web designer and developer24

Adobe has published a really extensive piece surrounding the details behind Fireworks CS5. I’ve talked about it with a few designers, both Fireworks and Photoshop users, and had a gut feeling that it would be mostly a bug-fix release. While every Adobe product under the sun needs at least one full version release consisting of mostly bug fixes, I gladly welcome Fireworks CS5. The fixes mentioned in the piece have me really excited to put more time into working with the application after it’s released.

Jonathan Christopher25, front-end developer at Overit Media26

Fireworks CS5: improved performance, more precise control over the pixel placement of design elements and a streamlined, accelerated workflow.

Webdesigner Depot27

Adobe Fireworks CS5 is better than ever. The engineers searched high and low to find ways to make Fireworks faster, more stable and easier to use. I know I’m impressed and I hope… you will be too!

— Jim Babbage, author at Lynda.com28 (Part 129, Part 230)

Enjoy the increased stability and polish in Fireworks CS5. If you haven’t upgraded in a while and passed over CS4 as some people I know have done, don’t pass on CS5. It will make your current workflows much smoother and does add a few welcome new features. I highly recommend it!

Stéphane Bergeron31, freelance Web designer at Webfocus Design32

7. Conclusion Link

So, is Fireworks CS5 really better? For me, it is. Fireworks CS5 may not be absolutely perfect or contain any “wow” features. But at the same time, it is a very welcome release — fast, stable, polished, with lots of tiny refinements and additions that will make your design work more efficient.

I wasn’t able to list all of the new features and improvements in Fireworks CS5, but I hope your curiosity now is piqued enough that you will want to try Fireworks CS5 soon. If so, grab the 30-day free trial33 or order Fireworks CS5 from Adobe (either separately or as part of Web Premium CS5, Design Premium CS5 or Master Collection CS5).

Further Reading Link

We hope to see more smashing Fireworks-related articles in the next few months, so if you have questions, feel free to share them in the comments!


Footnotes Link

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Michel is a freelance designer, illustrator and photographer. He also happens to work as contributing editor at Smashing Magazine and is very passionate about modern UI design tools, HTML/CSS, Web Standards and the smell of good coffee. When not editing articles, he can often be found reading about design, riding his bicycle, looking at the clouds in the sky, or tweeting. :)

  1. 1

    Jack Griffiths

    May 22, 2010 1:09 am

    I personally find Fireworks CS5 a lot quicker.

    • 2

      I’m quite looking forward to getting my hands on this. Particularly excited about the improved Illustrator integration and the dithering options on gradients.

      If the Illustrator integration is as complete as I hope it is then it’s going to be a massive boost for productivity. Currently FW falls over when it encounters any gradient or style info it doesn’t understand which makes Illustrator > Fireworks a nightmare.

      • 3

        Michel Bozgounov

        May 22, 2010 2:28 am

        Fireworks CS5 imports Ai CS5 objects pretty well, with a few exceptions (for example, Illustrator’s Gradient Meshes are not supported by Fireworks). But Illustrator shares its library with Fireworks now, which improves the level of integration a lot.

        I think you should make your own tests, by trying to import into Fireworks various objects from Illustrator (you can use the 30-days free Fw trial — it will give you plenty of time to test every feature of the new version)!

  2. 4

    Jonathan Dumaine

    May 22, 2010 1:26 am

    One thing that pisses me off to NO end are the color wheels that show whenever you click any color picker (like the one in the properties window for instance). They suck, and I was hoping they’d use Photoshop’s instead.

    Also, wtf is with the “Photoshop Live Effects” still sucking nuts? It’s really a half-assed implementation of Photoshop’s layer effects.

    • 5

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 2:20 am

      When working with colors in Fireworks, you can switch to the Swatches Panel, and with the introduction of .ASE support in Fireworks CS5, I don’t see why the default color picker in Fireworks is such a big problem? Also, you may open the Color Palette panel (Window > Others > Color Palette) which is much more flexible and has many additional options for working with color.

      About Photoshop Live Effects — not all Ps live effects are supported by Fw, indeed. But many are. Now let me ask you a question — how many Fireworks live effects (live filters) are supported by Photoshop? ;)

    • 6

      You seem to be a photoshop fanatic!!! No need to be so rude here if you dont like Fireworks. You can continue using your photoshop and let those who love fireworks use their favourite FIREWORKS!

      Sorry if this hurts :P

  3. 7

    Thank you for the extensive review Michel.

    Snap-to-Pixel is the highlight of this release for me. On the flip side text editing is still not up to scratch but there is always Photoshop!

  4. 8

    I upgraded to CS5 a few days ago myself from CS3 and it’s been a huge improvement for me. I’d been tempted to get CS4 but I like to skip a version for economics sake. It runs smoothly with aero desktop enabled on Windows unlike CS3 and it’s very fast, no longer do I hesitate to launch Fireworks to make a quick edit to something, coming up as fast as 4 seconds on my machine with a warm start, or 12 on a cold start.

  5. 9

    Text layout PI obviously still isnt perfected then? Why don’t they just lift all the same funtionality from Indesign? e.g. laying up bulleted lists is still going to require 2 text fields. My FW-CS3 is pretty quick so I’m not sure I’ll be upgrading. Thanks for the article though, muchos appriciatos. M

  6. 10

    I haven’t had a chance to play with fireworks CS5 but this article gives me hope! Fireworks has been an essential tool for web development and graphics!

    • 11

      “essential tool for web development and graphics” lolwut?

      Am I the only one who find this program a waste of money

      • 12

        Lilian: yes.

      • 13

        I don’t like fw!

      • 14

        If you design websites in Photoshop then ur a retard! If you insist that ur not then ur surely a fucktard!

        • 15

          Hey David,

          With your great spelling and language, I somehow doubt you have much skills in anything. You seem to have the mental I.Q. (that’s stands for Intelligence Quotient since you’re too **** to know) of a preschooler.

      • 16

        Yes. Lilian. You are. Fireworks remains an awesome tool for screen graphics.

  7. 17

    Interesting read if you’re already using Fireworks, but if nobody minds me asking: What’s the actual use of Fireworks for webdesign? I’ve been designing websites for nearly 12 years now and always did it with just Photoshop. I’m very sure I don’t even know what goodies I’m missing out on ;-) By the usage statistics posted here it’s evident that it’s worth my time learning to use Fireworks, but can anyone tell me what exactly it does for me which I can’t already do with Photoshop..?

    • 18

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 2:50 am


      I think you miss the point of the article, which is not about what Fireworks does that Photoshop doesn’t already do for you, but how effectively you can do it in Fireworks! And Fireworks CS5 really excels when it comes to design for screen.

      Of course, everyone has its own favourite tool for design for screen (and Web), like Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks or Inkscape. Photoshop is great at editing bitmaps, and yes, it works with vectors, too, and you can use it for interface and Web design, but the workflows in Fireworks are simply easier and faster.

      And instead of giving you more arguments, I will recommend to you the following articles about Fireworks and how effective you can be using it:

      Hope these will help you to answer your question! :)

    • 19

      Stéphane Bergeron

      May 22, 2010 5:21 am

      In addition to Michel’s links, here’s an article about this I wrote a few years ago:

    • 20

      Exactly this is my concern… Why they replace Perfect ImageReady by not integrated fireworks? – Even in CS5 IMO fireworks is still not integrated with adobe package on level ImageReady was.

      My main every day tool is photoshop ant jumping to fireworks is useless. Especially when designing for print web and multimedia in same time.

    • 21

      The single thing that keeps me coming back to Fireworks over Photoshop is this:

      When you have 30 elements on a page, each of them is in a different layer.

      When you want to select one of those elements, say a bitmap icon, and move it to one side, in Photoshop you have to find its layer in the list and select it, or right click on top of it, and then select its layer. You don’t get a good visual cue on the bitmap icon itself that it is selected. But now you can move it.

      In Fireworks, you simply hover over the bitmap icon with your mouse and its edges light up in red indicating that if you click it will be selected. When you do click, its edges light up in blue and it’s selected. Completely visual, doesn’t require navigating a list of layers. It’s just faster and easier.

      Maybe I’m missing the way to do this in Photoshop. And I know that people who know Photoshop really well are able to be highly effective in it. I just find this one simple thing immensely easier about Fireworks. Moving stuff around is something you do thousands of times in a work session. Making it easier really adds up to something.

      • 22

        Umm, in Photoshop select the move tool (this is the first tool in the toolbar, it is the tool above the rectangular marquee tool in the toolbar). The controls bar then shows different options. One of which is “Auto-Select”. Tick the box beside it and select “Layer” from the drop-down menu. (Photoshop will save this as the default so you don’t have to do this everytime you start it up.) Now you can simply hover and click on an object and it is immediately selected to be moved. You can also tick the box “Show Transform Controls” and it will show the bounding box of the object you clicked on.

        Really, it doesn’t get much easier than that.

        • 23

          Michel Bozgounov

          May 24, 2010 10:36 am

          Fireworks is not only about “click-to-select, select-to-edit”. Fireworks has really intuitive workflow, when creating designs for Web, and there exist many differences between Ps and Fw. Some of them may be covered in a future article, though.

          Btw, the relatively new “auto-select” feature in Ps was borrowed from Fireworks. ;)

        • 24

          Thanks! I didn’t know about this. Doesn’t work as nicely as FW but good to know it’s there.

        • 25

          Hu hu you just forget to explain after that how to simply move the object in PS from one layer to another one. In FW it’s just as easy as copy and paste.

    • 26

      Leo Robert Klein

      May 24, 2010 5:36 pm

      Each app has its advantages. I go to Fireworks when I need both bitmap and vector work. It’s far better combining the two than Photoshop.

  8. 27

    I’m glad they fixed some (most?) of the stability issues. But they really need to cool it with the ‘integration’ stuff. Fireworks is one app that is just fine as a standalone app, but it’s too expensive, and Adobe keep shoving Bridge and other crap down our throats.

    • 28

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 2:54 am

      Yes, Fireworks is fine as a standalone app, but integration is important in today’s design world, too — being able to open a Ps PSD file in Fireworks and make some edits and then export it with best optimization settings, is a huge plus for me!

      And you might be happy to hear that when you install Fireworks CS5, Bridge CS5 is not installed — Bridge is installed with Ps/Ai and the “big” CS5 Suites only! ;)

  9. 29

    I am a great fan of Fireworks.
    But every time I am disappointed to see that Adobe could make Fireworks an ultimate tool of webdesigning, but repeatedly they are ignoring.

    to me, Fireworks CS5 should have to come to user as a free upgrade.
    they released a new version because they had to. nothing else.

  10. 30

    I really don’t get fireworks. I have the CS4 Design premium suite, but never touch Fw. I personally find using Illustrator and Photoshop together far easier. What are the benefits of using Fireworks? It seems like an unnecessary piece of software to me.

    • 31

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 4:04 am

      What are the benefits of using Fireworks (for Web and screen design)? Well, you answered this one yourself — it can completely replace the workflow of using constantly two apps (Illustrator and Photoshop) instead of one. Plus, you work much faster. And not to mention that Fireworks CS5 costs only $299 in the US ($149 upgrade price), while Ps + Ai cost $1’598. Enough arguments, I think! ;-)

      • 32

        Visual Craftsman

        May 22, 2010 6:32 am

        Lmao…nuff said.

      • 33

        If you’re also doing print design, like many of us, you’ll need the design premium suite and fireworks is just an interruption to your workflow not an addition to it.

        I think fireworks is great as a niche product for a web-only focused designer but integrating it into a complete workflow that already involves web/print and encompasses Ps, illy, and indesign doesn’t make much sense.

        • 34

          Visual Craftsman

          May 22, 2010 6:59 am

          I do wish Fw handled resolution a bit better…like Ps. Although, it appears you can finally export Fw vector files with effects and retain their integrity in illustrator…FXG support. Fw is definitely NOT an interruption IMHO but a necessity if you design for the web. Improving the way Fw handles hi-res would be a great addition but should never replace its big brothers Ps and Ai.

        • 35

          Michel Bozgounov

          May 22, 2010 7:35 am

          Fireworks, a niche product?

          In this case, Photoshop is a niche product, too, because its main purpose is editing photos. And Illustrator is a niche product, too, because its main purpose is working with vectors (and print).

          The Web is the fastest growing part of today’s world, and Adobe Fireworks is an excellent tool for Web/screen design. So yes, it is a niche product that works best for the biggest “niche” of the modern world, one might say… ;-)

          • 36

            I consider the convoluted workflows of Illustrator and Photoshop more of an interruption. Every time I’m in these apps and I need to do something simple like work with gradients that have alpha stops or adjust the corner roundness of an object I’m thankful for the fact that I only have to use these apps for a short while and will soon be able to return to FW.

        • 37

          No fireworks user will ever claim that fireworks must be used for PRINT. Ur argument is biased as it clearly states that its meant for web.

      • 38

        In my opinion it’s true that Fw have a better workflow when designing websites and applying general changes for example. But in other things it’s not so good, I had a lot of problems with cs4 and the shape strokes in the middle of a pixel etc, Illlustrator and Photoshop stills being better when creating nicer graphics and interfaces. Maybe then it’s difficult to edit Ps files, but, the result, it’s, for me, nicer.

        Anyway, I use Fw, cause yeah, sometimes it’s easier when doing some things faster.

    • 39

      There is so much you can do with Fireworks that you can’t with photoshop when it comes to web designing. One of them is wire framing, being able to email my client a working document they can click on the links and see how the site works is fantastic.
      There a many more great reasons to use fireworks over photoshop for web design, take a look at this article

  11. 40

    CS5 is so much better than CS4. CS4 crashed a lot and with a memory handling problem.

    If you ask me, what’s the difference between FW CS4 and FW CS5?
    well, they got most of the bugs from CS4 fixed. that’s all!

  12. 41

    MUCH more stable & faster than previous releases.
    BEST release yet!

  13. 42

    A feature article about an advertiser? Come on guys. Where is the journalistic integrity?

    • 43

      I agree.

      Thanks for taking the time to put up this illustrated list of features and improvements, this is useful information… but on the whole it looks like a piece of advertisement for Adobe, complete with only extremely positive reviews.

      What about the fact that Adobe should have released a proper & free update to fix the big performance and stability issues that plague CS4, instead of this expensive upgrade? What about the fact that MAC and Windows users don’t get the same customer service from Adobe?

      It’s not about bashing Adobe, it’s about writing a proper article with both sides of the story.

    • 44

      Oh pleeease…just because they have an ad for something doesn’t mean they can’t write about it. This is a site for web designers. A lot of people like to use Fireworks or are interested in it. The author’s just giving info (very detailed info) I might add as to why you might like it. He never said it was the best thing you have to go buy it now click an ad from us to go buy it!!

      Get over yourselves and think for 3 seconds.

    • 45

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 7:45 am


      I do not work for Adobe — I am an independent design professional that uses and needs Adobe Fireworks, every day.

      Fireworks is a professional tool for design(ers) and I think I am completely free to write an extensive review of the latest version I use & enjoy! :)


      Adobe have released a few patches that fix most of the performance and stability issues in Fireworks CS4 — this includes the patch for Win/Mac and the 10.0.4 patch for Mac:

      So no one forces you to upgrade to CS5…

    • 46

      Adobe tools are the defacto standard for the design industry. How can you expect a design focused website to ignore them? Do you also expect gadget focused websites to ignore the iPad because they may have counted Apple on their list of advertisers?

  14. 47

    I’m still using Fireworks MX 2004 because it’s faster than CS4…I wonder if it can still beat CS5…

    The installation file is only 28MB.

  15. 48

    Thanks for covering the new features of Fireworks. I started on Photoshop and Illustrator, so its really hard for me to think of using Fireworks, but I will check some of the links above and give it a shot.

    I wonder if Adobe fixed the issue with CS4 not being able to automatically detect video cards without having to force it with a registry file.

  16. 49

    Of course, you could ignore all of this, and just use its considerably more powerful, feature rich older brother. honestly i have no idea why they didn’t scrap Fw when they bought Macromedia.

    • 50

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 6:43 am

      Because often the “feature rich older brother” (Photoshop?) is also known to be not the most effective tool for screen design — it’s currently overbloated with features (who needs 3D for screen design? or content-aware fill?), it’s slower, and it’s much more expensive.

      Fireworks is a tool that concentrates one one task, but being done very well; it is also lighter, it is much more powerful than Ps when working with vectors, and it has features specific for screen design. So for many designers, Fireworks has proved to be the right choice. I am glad it’s being developed, and I am not alone ;)

      • 51

        This idea of software being “bloated” is something I’m having trouble with. I can understand it with web apps, but a pieces of design software, like photoshop, can never have “too many features” like you seem to suggest. For me, its about the freedom. 3d or CAF may be ideal for a particular project, web design isn’t just about drawing boxes and rounded rectangles in the right places, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve jumped to my trusty brush library to grab something to add a bit of detail, or had to seriously edit a bit of stock, or an image provided by a client, before I put it on a website.

        Saying Fw is “all you need” for web design were as using Ps and Ill is a longer workflow is plain bullshit, what if you need to mainp some imagery for something? Or achive an effect on a shape that needs Ps’s layer styles? You open Ps. Thats the point of the adobe suite, you use a recipe of different applications to create something wonderful.

        If you want to use Fw for the bare-bones site structure then that’s great, who am I to tell you its wrong, but if you ONLY use Fw, chances are your creating some pretty boring, run of the mill, web design.

        • 52

          Michel Bozgounov

          May 24, 2010 12:25 am


          Please refer to my other comment about Fireworks — I give a few examples there that show anything but “boring” results achieved right in Fireworks! :)

        • 53

          If you think ur a good designer then whatever editing you do to images & vectors in photoshop, u must be able to do it in FW! If you can’t then its time to find urself a new job! :P

    • 54

      In what ways are Photoshops vector handling methods superior to Fireworks.

  17. 55

    Didn’t liked Fireworks for poor text support, I’ll try a CS5 trial to see if it any better now.

    • 56

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 7:07 am

      I think that the text engine in Fireworks CS5 is much better than the text engine in CS4. At its core, it’s the same Adobe Type Engine (ATE) that is used by Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. Each app has its own differences when working with type, of course.

      Two of the main new things in Fireworks CS5 that make working with text a real pleasure for me:

      1) There are a few new features in the text engine that are pretty much unique — like the ability to select multiple separate characters/words/paragraphs simultaneously (within one text block) and then style them together — once you master this technique, this can speed up your workflow quite a lot.

      2) As we all know, Fireworks is a tool that is intended to be used for Web/screen design mostly. And Fireworks can be extended. So right now I am using a very powerful extension that allows Fireworks’ text engine to “imitate” ClearType anti-aliasing (which is very popular):
      — with some of the options that this extension provides, text can successfully be styled to look more closer to what text might look in a real browser (on Windows). I can recommend this extension to you, too!

      • 57

        Thank you for that link — never saw that before. What a brilliant extension!

  18. 58

    It’s not really a case of it being superior for design, as it is for it’s efficiency.

    Having the option to use master pages, symbols, and sharing items across other pages make a huge difference when designing sites that are large or have multiple templates. Wireframes, especially.

  19. 59

    I never saw the use for FW when I have PS and AI. So far, I’ve been a bit disappointed in PS, but that’s simply because I’m having an issue with the program where it constantly causes the display driver to fail and successfully recover.

    I thought diabling OpenGL acceleration would help, but alas, it doesn’t. I have an open ticket with Adobe about it, but they’re both slow to respond, and have not arrived at a conclusion.

    Gotta give PS CS5 cold boot startup time its dues though. In 5 seconds, the thing is ready to go. Simply amazing. AI on the other hand takes 12 seconds. Wonder why so vastly different?

    Anyways if people like FW for what it does, more power to them. I went from Web Premium CS3 to Video Production Premium CS5. I have CS3 versions of DW, FW and Contribute as well as Acrobat 8.

  20. 60

    Visual Craftsman

    May 22, 2010 6:43 am

    Wow, I have been a Fw user since 2004, Studio 8. I’ve used CS3 for the longest time b/c it has always been stable for me. With all these improvements, I may upgrade…especially for FXG support. I have always wanted better results when importing Fw vectors with effects into illustrator (copy vectors just didn’t cut it). Sounds like it has improved! Btw, what’s this snap to pixel business all about? I didn’t see an example in the article.

    • 61

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 7:13 am

      You should try Fireworks CS5! Btw, FXG 2.0 has its own limitations, too, but I hope I can cover this topic in a future article, as well as Snap-to-Pixel. Stay tuned! :)

  21. 62

    The text is still ugly and blurry in cs5.

  22. 63

    Thanks for this article! It was perfect timing for me.

    I just installed CS5 Premium yesterday. I use Fireworks daily and so I opened it right away after installation. I didn’t notice much difference in the interface on first review. So I went out to Google and Adobe searching for new features in FW CS5 and I didn’t find much. Your article was fantastic!

    The stability and performance enhancements are definitely a good thing. But there are many tiny features covered in this article that I have longed for while using past versions or will welcome to my daily workflow (constrain proportions, alignment, text enhancements, templates, stroke buttons, reverse gradient, etc.). In many ways, I find this type of upgrade better than new features because these enhancements improve my existing workflow and productivity rather than introducing a learning curve to new features. Don’t get me wrong…I love new features but this upgrade will be a very welcome improvement to my workday.

    Adobe should re-publish this article on their community forums. Its better than the content there currently. Good job!

    • 64

      Visual Craftsman

      May 22, 2010 7:07 am

      I agree…good article. I watched the live stream of CS5 when it came out a couple weeks ago and they didn’t mention one thing about Fw. Thankfully, there are bloggers out there that keep up on things!

      • 65

        Michel Bozgounov

        May 22, 2010 7:19 am


        Thanks for the kind words — I invested a lot of effort into covering in detail most of the new things in Fireworks CS5! :-)

        @Visual Craftsman:

        Adobe was never keen at promoting well Fireworks… They still do not list it on the homepage of But let’s hope Adobe staff is reading Smashing Mag and they notice they own Fireworks and lots of professionals actually use it every day! ;)

  23. 66

    Unfortunately, I already have problems using Fireworks, in link that i am posting, you can see again text box problems like first release of CS4 have. Text is in one line, and box is visually far back. I click SELECT ALL and it select all materials that i have in Fireworks file, and you see what happen. Hoping that it will be fixed in first update.

    • 67

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 8:21 am

      Could you please post a bug (together with a PNG test file, and a detailed description) here:
      Adobe Feature Request/Bug Report Form

      I am sure that if a “dot” release is planned for CS5, this problem might be addressed by the Fireworks Team! Thank you in advance! :)

      • 68

        My friend, in CS4 versions because of crashing Fireworks, Flash and Illustrator, I send enormous number of crash reports, and still nothing is fixed with any update. So that kind “report bug” i have fear that nobody is reading at all.

        Like you say, I already send report, we will see when they will fix it.

        • 69

          Michel Bozgounov

          May 23, 2010 7:25 am

          No, all bug reports are actually read — so please, file your bug!

          But unfortunately, what is fixed (high priority) and what is not fixed (low priority) is something that not the individual Adobe teams decide; the decisions are made at a higher level. This is the reason why Fw CS4 was not a very good release… :(

  24. 70

    The fact that FW CS5 doesn’t crash constantly on my MBP the way CS4 did is already a bonus. (We have such low standards for software nowadays don’t we?) I’ve been a FW user since the Macromedia days, but like many others just preferred to use PS and AI because of FW’s idiosyncrasies (um, a brush tool that basically never worked in *any* version) — then an entire CS4 release where it didn’t work at all didn’t help me keep it top of my tool list.

    There are some terrific features in Fireworks — exotic layer blend modes, pixel alignment, built-in wireframing tools, awesome symbol libraries, and the FW pen tool just rules over any other Adobe pen tool. In fact, one of my biggest gripes is that AI, ID, and PS haven’t incorporated FW’s oh so much better pen tool.

    I used FW CS5 for the first project-related task just yesterday. I am re-designing a .NET GUI application. I used FW to slice the main UI screens up into their components so I can rearrange the elements on a fresh canvas to begin working out a new application information architecture. This worked so much better than redrawing the whole thing as a wireframe because I have to work within rigid space constraints and many of the controls cannot be resized. Plus, one of the things the client is asking for is a more unified and refreshed color scheme: so keeping the GUI controls (buttons, icons, tabs, etc.) lets me experiment with colorizing the details instead of rough wireframe sketches earlier in the workflow. (Tight timeframe, small budget, improvised workflow on this project.)

    So far I’m very impressed with CS5.

  25. 71

    absolutely amazing….great post,This time you collected most useful articles.

  26. 72

    I love Fireworks and I always design my work in Fireworks but my clients always wanted a PSD file in the end so I did a save as PSD extension and opened it in Photoshop and the colors changed completely to like a pastel look. Why? Did Fireworks CS5 fix that problem?

  27. 73

    Whenever I read a “I don’t get the point of FW” comment, I have to smile. Although a big part of me wants FW to gain in popularity, there’s another part of me that likes how it’s always been a bit under the radar. Every agency or design team I’ve ever worked with has had very little to no experience with FW, and that’s always been fine with me — I was happy to convert to PSD and keep it my little secret.

    I’ve been designing for the Web exclusively in FW for almost 10 years, so it’s been quite a secret at that. What I’ve loved about FW is that it’s so easy to put an idea on the screen. With Photoshop, there have been many times where I’d be hesitant to experiment or try and idea because of how cumbersome it would be to implement. With FW, I always feel like it gives me the tools I need and then gets out of the way.

    For those who don’t understand why I don’t just use PS or IL, that’s fine. In FW I can do my job in less than half the time as with other tools, and certainly with better results. When you can improve quality and decrease time, your costs go down. When costs go down, you can be more competitive when bidding on jobs. So please, by all means, continue to doubt. :)

    • 74

      “When you can improve quality and decrease time, your costs go down. When costs go down, you can be more competitive when bidding on jobs.”

      This. :)

    • 75

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 12:01 pm

      What I’ve loved about FW is that it’s so easy to put an idea on the screen. With Photoshop, there have been many times where I’d be hesitant to experiment or try and idea because of how cumbersome it would be to implement. With FW, I always feel like it gives me the tools I need and then gets out of the way.

      Thumbs up! Couldn’t agree with you more! :)

    • 76

      Oh, just come off your high horse. Fireworks is for people who need it simple. The sort of people who want to buy a bike and get a ‘city bike’ – ignoring the mountain bikes and road racers that are in the shop and cost a bit more. When I read that it takes sooooo long to do certain things in PS and AI that this is surely down to the fact that you don’t know how to use these software packages. Just because you have 10yrs of experience with a certain software doesn’t make you god of web design winning all the business. A person with 10yrs experience in PS and AI will be able to outrun your incredible work flows with ease because they know how to use it. And additionally, they will be able to respond to 3D questions, create print ready artwork (and therefore generate more revenue as they can sell much more than just a new standalone website). When you launch of the website, they can make sure that the brand works throughout all of the company’s collateral and media publications. Too many website I have seen by Fireworks designers just like you living in a bubble because they are unable to think further than oh so fantastic gradients and layer blends.

      I think this whole article is a bit weird. There is people who open CS5 and cannot see a difference between CS4 and CS5. They have to go onto Google to find an article about FW to figure out how much better the software now works. I am sorry, but this doesn’t sound like the best selling argument. And the fact that 12% of employers will look for this software… 88% don’t – and I am sure 100% will be looking for people with PS and AI skills, because this is the standard software with which you can do EVERYTHING.

      So, I am going to switch of the lights and have a bath. I will light some candles. With my electric lighter. Do you know these kind of things? The next time you buy your monthly box of matches, ask the person behind the till. They will show you some. They cost more than matches, but they work much better, more reliable and definitely longer. And you might be able to fit it on the rack of your city bike…

      • 77

        You are the poster child for my point of view — bizarre generalizations and uninformed criticisms and all.

        Keep up the good work!

        • 78

          That’s alright. I can live with that. Sometimes it’s the only way to respond to up on the high horse comments spiced with patronizing remarks. Go on producing high volumes of shite websites with no soul and please don’t call yourself a designer because for designers time should not matter.

          • 79

            Michel Bozgounov

            May 23, 2010 1:32 am

            Do you know that‘s mobile interface was designed with Adobe Fireworks? Interesting fact, isn’t it? :-)

            Or will you call it a “shite website with no soul”, too? ‘Nuff said! :)

          • 80

            I am not taking advise of someone who is so “independent” that he lists Adobe as client on their own portfolio website. This whole article is embarrassing for Smashing, Adobe and yourself and will never convince me to buy such boldly featured product.

          • 81

            Michel Bozgounov

            May 23, 2010 2:24 am

            Will you buy Adobe Photoshop CS5, if tomorrow Smashing Magazine publishes an extended review for it? Or will you blame Smashing Mag for publishing the review, because it highlights the new features of latest Photoshop, and lets the users decide if they would like to try it or upgrade to it?

            I think it’s time to close the discussion since it’s not very useful…

          • 82

            “Go on producing high volumes of shite websites with no soul and please don’t call yourself a designer because for designers time should not matter.” – I’m betting that for my clients, it does. Yes, actual clients, as opposed to people who look at a website and claim that it has a soul – i.e. other designers.

          • 83

            Oh here we meet Falk the great designer who earns million dollars!!! Glad to meet u arse hole

      • 84

        Falk, You sir, are a legend.

    • 85

      Couldn’t agree more with you J.

      Ive used both Fireworks and Photoshop for years, the only reason I use Fireworks is to use specific features, like alpha transparency.

    • 86

      I see: so if you get Fireworks, then you’ll blaze through all your work… and then not be able to stop, and die a violent death.

  28. 87

    i’ll love it :)

  29. 88

    Great article on fireworks! I would have to say fireworks, for webdesign, is far better than any other programs.

    And I believe the compound shapes function was out since cs3 :)

    • 89

      Michel Bozgounov

      May 22, 2010 11:30 pm

      Nope, Compound Shapes is a new tool introduced in version CS5. :)

      • 90

        Oh maybe I am confused. In CS3 and CS4 you can go to modify -> and combine paths, but is this a different tool?

        • 91

          Michel Bozgounov

          May 23, 2010 11:13 pm

          Yes, this is a different tool, indeed. Modify > Combine Paths > … combines paths in a destructive way. The new Compound Shapes allow to combine several vector objects in a non-destructive way.

          Both ways of combining vector objects (each way his own advantages and disadvantages) can be used now and this gives much more flexibility to the designer. We’ll shed some more light on the subject soon! :)

  30. 92

    Thank you Michel,
    It is nice to know what others think of this in such detail. I have been using FireWorks for a long time now ( Not that I wanted to switch over Nathan ;) ) and I can not imagine using anything else.


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