All in the <head>

– Ponderings & code by Drew McLellan –

– Live from The Internets since 2003 –


End of The Road for Fireworks?

18 April 2005

It’s been announced that Adobe are to acquire Macromedia. When one large company acquires its direct competitor, thoughts immediately turn to what will happen to the product line of each.

I’m fairly certain that a large part of the purchase would have been to acquire Flash. Another strong contender (and traditionally a strong seller) is Dreamweaver, which leads the market for visual editors above Adobe’s own GoLive product. Perhaps we’ll see some sort of coming together between the two products – hopefully taking on the Dreamweaver features and extensibility, combined with the solid engineering and stability you get from Adobe products.

My real concern, however, is for Fireworks. Web designers typically either use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator for their work, or they turn to Fireworks which combines the best of those two products for the sort of tasks carried out when working for the web. Personally, I was a long time Photoshop user but once I realised the flexibility that could be gained by working in vectors I quickly switched to Fireworks. I’ve not found the need to switch back – indeed on the times Photoshop has been the only tool to hand, I’ve found myself heavily frustrated with its what feels like old-fashioned and clumsy approach. The answer, as I understand it, is to throw Illustrator into the workflow – but the concept of dealing with two heavy applications instead of one isn’t very appealing.

Is there a place in Adobe’s product line for Fireworks? If there is, I can’t see it. I’ve long thought that Macromedia themselves don’t really appreciate what a gem of a product they have in Fireworks – so to expect Adobe to understand that in the face of their own long-standing best sellers, is somewhat of a push.

Is it the end of the road for Fireworks?

- Drew McLellan


  1. § Jaakko: Just out of interest, what is done so much better in Fireworks when it comes to designing web layouts? Quite a few people swear by the name of Fireworks but I’ve never really understood why. Any good advice where to start looking for some tips when it comes to working with Fireworks for web layouts?
  2. § Jon Hicks: Unfortunately, I think it maybe is. I do hope not though

    If they do keep it, maybe we’ll get decent font menus for once!
  3. § Peter Parkes: I hope that, whatever the reduced range of product is, that Adobe’s user interface designers get to stay – I’d be very upset if Macromedia’s lot got their hands on Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ll confess to having been put off Fireworks and Freehand purely because of the interface design.
  4. § Mike P.: Yeah, I’m a Fireworks fann too, and I really hope it survives.
  5. § Matt Wilcox: Are we on the road to a ‘killer application’ called Adobe? Where all our print work can be converted into a webpage in one fell swoop? This could be great. Imagaine exporting your print vector work from Illustrator, straight into Adobe Flash, no hassle, no glitches. Shared symbols over all applications…

    drools at all the possibilities
  6. § Willem: “Adobe’s user interface designers get to stay”

    Funny, I think it’ll be heaven if Adobe software takes on teh Macromedia-style of dockable palettes. With Adobe, your image can disappear behind you palettes, and I certainly don’t want to press Tab every second. with MM, everything is dockable and roll-uppable in the right way.

    One of my pet peeves is when I see other PS users yank their palettes around constantrly because they’re in the way, and the result is a mess of palettes on their workspace, which is completely impractical.

    In Photoshop, I use vector layers all the time, and the only issue I have is that the Stroke is not an actual Stroke, and that makes it nearly impossible to create a thin, curved line. So apart from that, I don’t fully see what Fireworks has that’s better than PS in what you need for webdesign.
  7. § Peter Parkes: with MM, everything is dockable and roll-uppable in the right way

    The palettes in Adobe’s products are also fairly dockable and roll-uppable – I’m not sure what the precise differences are, though.
  8. § Daniel Oliver: I really hope not. I was like you and I used to use Photoshop for the vast majority of my web work however about 3-4 months ago I started to use Fireworks a lot more and I have learnt to love it.

    It would be a real shame for Fireworks to be dumped.

    I think as Matt said though a real benefit from all this would be compatability. I think working between different applications would become a dream for many designers.
  9. § Hans: My heart… it just hurts knowing that there’s only one company to turn to! And I really do hope they don’t touch Fireworks.
  10. § Allen: Maybe… just maybe…. They’ll add Fireworks into Photoshop and get rid of Image Ready. I used to fireworks when it first came out, even in beta for it. I used it when ever a company didnt have photoshop already. From what I remember (not sure what any of the newer version had for features) Fireworks could easily be an Image Ready replacement?
  11. § Jeni: I don’t think that it’s the end for Fireworks. I think that Adobe will continue to sell Fireworks as a stand alone application and completely ditch ImageReady. They’re a smart company, and they know that Photoshop + Illustrator == too much for web designers.

    I hope that we’ll see Fireworks get a little more robust in the bitmap section, but otherwise I hope that it will stay the same. I also hope that Adobe will fix the festering pile that is Flash on OS X. It would be nice not to have it crash on a daily basis.
  12. § Scott Cropper: Hopefully this discussion will be seen by someone at Adobe if they are trying to decide what to do with Fireworks. I use it daily for almost all of my imaging needs.
  13. § Drew McLellan: I think ultimately the only thing that will save Fireworks is its sales figures. I’ve no idea how many people buy it on its own rather than part of a bundle like Studio MX. I fear not many.
  14. § Jesse: My gut says ‘uh-oh’ but my mind is saying ‘wait a minute I use to love Adobe.’ Maybe Adobe brings in what is good about Fireworks into Photoshop or maybe they maintain the status quo for profits sake? Maybe Flashpaper was really starting to dig into the quick and dirty PDF market? The next year will be interesting.

    Upside is that Adobe has polished high end products, MM has a decent feature set. Shall see what comes of it all…
  15. § B. Adam: I love Fireworks, but even if it does go the way of the Homesite don’t forget about open source alternatives.

    The GIMP might suck now but who knows, in a year or so it could be the next Firefox. And we all have a lot more control over where its development goes than we do over Adobe/Macromedia.
  16. § Malarkey: “I’ve long thought that Macromedia themselves don’t really appreciate what a gem of a product they have in Fireworks – so to expect Adobe to understand that in the face of their own long-standing best sellers, is somewhat of a push.”

    And in a conversation with MM at SXSW, this became all too clear. I can’t imagine a day without using Fireworks.
  17. § gaston: My heart… it just hurts knowing that there’s only one company to turn to! -Hans

    I think Hans is right. It’s never good when you can only turn to one company. So it’s back to the monopoly thing again.

    I’ve used The Gimp before. And I just recently installed the The Gimp Shop, which is a version of The Gimp that’s been midified so that shortcuts and the interface are similar to Photoshop’s. It’s good, it’s really good, but still a long way to go.

    I hope more alternatives show up in the horizon, or else it’s gonna be one lovely Adobe world.
  18. § setmajer: Adobe and Macromedia are on a collision course. Adobe has the de facto standard for digital document distribution (where ‘document’ means something either coming from or destined for print—legal forms, publications, etc.). To hold onto that position, they need to get into electronic forms: electronic documents that accept input from the recipient. Doing so pushes them into the space occupied by xForms, WinForms, InfoPath, Office documents and good ol’ fashioned HTML.

    Macromedia wants Flash to become the de facto standard for ‘rich interfaces’ for distributed application. Most of those ‘distributed applications’ are in the enterprise and government space, and they are mostly —surprise—glorified electronic forms.

    Flash + PDF allows Adobemedia to attack the market from both ends in a pincer movement. The only trouble is that between those pincers are two small obstacles called ‘Microsoft’ and ‘IBM’.

    Oh, and Macromedia’s UIs waste loads of screen real estate, are no better about collapsing than Adobe’s (how do you get MM palettes to collapse into the bottom of the screen as P’shops do?) and do not allow you to save multiple workspaces (a MAJOR boon if you work on a laptop both at your desk and on the road). I’ll take the Adobe UI, thanks.

    And give me a shout when the GIMP can render text that doesn’t look like buttock.
  19. § b Berg: anyway. i’ll lock a copy of fireworks in my safe. it’s been my precious treasure for a long time.
  20. § Sean: ” do you get MM palettes to collapse into the bottom of the screen as P’shops do…”

    Dock them at the bottom, then press the little triangle.

    ”...and do not allow you to save multiple workspaces…”

    In Fireworks, set up your workspace.
    Commands > Panel Layout Sets > Save Panel Layout
    Rinse, Repeat.

    You can do the same in Flash, though it is in a different menu. Oddly enough, I cannot find the option in Dreamweaver.
  21. § beto: It is good to see I am not alone on lamenting the possible throw of Fireworks into oblivion by Macrodobia. Anyone who has ever tried Fireworks’s approach to web graphics, including the capacity of manipulating raster images with vector capability and convenience all in a single application (I have yet to see PS / AI do that)will know how much of a godsend this is. Unfortunately, this appreciation for Fireworks’s raw power and convenience seems to be the concern of only a chosen few, and most designers seem to be so used to fumbling back and forth between Adobe applications that they accept that as natural not knowing (or rather, not wanting to know) there is a much better approach. Would suck the big one if FW goes the way of roller disco.

    Now, if Adobe leaves Fireworks untouched, names it ImageReady Pro or something like that and enhances compatibility with Adobe products, hey, I’m all for it.

    But who knows, indeed?
  22. § Josh: “Imagaine exporting your print vector work from Illustrator, straight into Adobe Flash, no hassle, no glitches.”

    Uuugh. I’m picturing generated markup, the likes of which make Word-exported HTML look good. [shudder]

    As for the impending loss of Fireworks? I’m not as broken up as most, because I could never get over the blending of the vector/raster models I guess. I do hope Adobe looks at the jpeg exporter/optimizer, as it seems to consistently beat the size/quality coming out of Photoshop.
  23. § Tim Callahan: Fireworks has a unique set of features that separate its elegance from Photoshop. If Fireworks dies, then part of my design soul does too.
  24. § SethMonster: I remember being in college studying CS and just discovering Dreamweaver and GoLive (which of course was acquired by Adobe) and thinking that the competition between the two products was only going to result in better, stronger versions of each product as time rolled on…fast forward 5 years later and we have one company. Not good.

    To me, this is really an antitrust issue. It goes without saying that the current administration is going to hand the KY to Adobe and say “go for it” – but who knows. If M$ were to acquire Real or for the love of God make the move to buyout Apple (QuickTime) is there any doubt that the current administration would do nothing to intervene?

    The point I want to get across is that innovation and competition are going to be curtailed as a result of this merger (fuck the synergy bullshit.)

    I guess Its time to Bring Out The GIMP.
  25. § Dave: As a number of my graphic design clients use Photoshop for their design comps, I have been using ImageReady CS more than Fireworks lately.

    I am actually quite impressed with ImageReady CS – it seems to match and even improve on Fireworks in some areas. That said, there are certain tasks for which Fireworks is perfect, and it would be a shame to see it discontinued. However, even if it was, what’s to stop us still using it?
  26. § Timothy Groves: Some of my reasons for using Fireworks for web layouts:
    – Search & replace fills and strokes, text, pretty much everything document- or folder-wide.
    – Symbols, especially button symbols
    – Imported symbols from other documents that stay linked
    – Being able to group objects à la Illustrator/Freehand
    – Shift-select several objects and change attributes with one click
    – Copy & paste styles, not just effects
    – Smart Objects (stars, etc.) stay editable
    – SWF export!
    – Numeric positioning of objects

    I still use Photoshop for, well, Photoshop work (the bitmap tools in Fireworks don’t even come close). Basically they’re two different tools for two different jobs.
  27. § Ray Mosley: As a heavy duty web designer I made the switch to fireworks about two years ago. For image manipulation I still use photoshop but for web graphic creation fireworks with its fills effects easy optimisation and general better interface make it my only choice….

    I will be truely gutted if they scrap it and will continue to use fireworks mx even when it has biten the dust!
  28. § Jason: One thing I do know, if you do a comparison in image optimization techniques for the web, Fireworks wins hands down compared to PS. I hope Adobe knows this. I have personally noticed with larger images being optimized as a gif or jpeg in Photoshop to have around 1 – 3K more of file size. On smaller images the difference decreases, but we all know that every byte counts, even today.
  29. § setmajer: Sean wrote:

    Dock them at the bottom, then press the little triangle.

    Not working for me in DW MX ‘04/Win. Haven’t tried on the Mac yet.

    Sean again:

    _In Fireworks, set up your workspace.
    Commands Panel Layout Sets Save Panel Layout_
    Rinse, Repeat.

    You can do the same in Flash, though it is in a different menu. Oddly enough, I cannot find the option in Dreamweaver.

    It’s not there—I’ve looked. :-( That’s the worst omission for me, as I use DW far more than any of the others and on my PB it has a nasty tendency to hang if I used it last on 2 monitors with palettes on both and try to launch it away from my desk when I have only the built-in screen.

    FreeHand might have it, but I don’t have it to hand.

    Thanks for the suggestions, tho.
  30. § setmajer: Beto:

    Anyone who has ever tried Fireworks’s approach to web graphics…

    I wouldn’t say ‘anyone’. Havng heard how wonderful FW is, I tried to do a whole project in Fireworks once and vowed never, ever again.

    I’m sure it’s a great piece of software; I just couldn’t get used to its UI metaphors.

    As well, that was v4. It may be much improved now.
  31. § Joshua Kendall: I think it will be the end of Fireworks, I would rather work in Photoshop, but that might just be because I have always used Paint Shop Pro.

    I would like to see them provide a halfway decently priced studio which has Dreamweaver (Or whatever they change it to), Flash, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Eh, we will just have to wait. They will be releasing a new version of Studio (most likely MX 2005) before the whole merger, so I guess I will buy it since it will be the end of an era sort of thing
  32. § Jon: I hope they keep it in separate products and don’t put it all a gigantic web and imaging tools that “got it all”. Even if some products gets discontinued, there is no reason to believe that this new company with a lot of bright people will not come up with some new tools for the web in the future.
  33. § Chris: adobe’s strongpoints are photoshop, illustrator, acrobat, indesign, macromedia’s are flash, director, dreamweaver… the extra redundant programs like freehand, and fireworks, golive, should probably just be dropped… in either case flash supports illustrator input better than freehand’s input, and flash complements acrobat.. a new studio combining each company’s strongest products would be the epitome of functionality… who could compete? just my two cents…
  34. § Andy: I’m glad some high profile blogs are singing the praises of Fireworks. Yes, its vector graphics approach is ideal for creating web graphics. When working in collaboration with design firms using Photoshop their PSD files are awful – scaling and rearranging objects and handling text is a nightmare.
  35. § Mark: hopefully taking on the Dreamweaver … extensibility

    GoLive already has extensive extensibility, and they just posted the info on just released CS2: GoLive SDK

    Differences? Well, GoLive includes a very slick JavaScript debugger for extensions, and more. Some developers have taken advantage of both. For example: LassoStudio GL and LassoStudio DW
  36. § Tomasz Staniak: Well, I do think that it is the end for Fireworks. That comes as a shame for me as I just recently became familiar with it. But I doubt that the death of Fireworks or any of the Macromedia pack will be sudden.
    I think that Adobe will keep them all for now, merging them (hopefully) with own products.

    Aside that I wonder where exactly is Adobe going and what they are up to as buying out Macromedia isn’t the last of “big” decisions. Adobe Creative Suite 2 utilizes Opera’s browser engine and Opera’s SSR technology.

    A friend of mine couple of days asked me, whether buying out Opera Soft. wouldn’t be the next move of “big A.”.
    Come to think about it, this would not be so odd…
  37. § Alexandre Juneau: I don’t care. I’m never unistalling Fireworks 4 (the best one) from my machine. It’s quick, easy and does a great job :)
  38. § EricM: When you are a hammer erverything looks like a nail to you.

    I hope that the good folks over at Adobe realize the value of having the right tool for the job, and in the case of web development I have long felt Fireworks to be a better suited tool.

    But for me a bigger issue remains the entire merger, which I feel will have many more negative impacts on consumers. In the end I hope it doesn’t go through.
  39. § Jaakko: I’ve been playing around in Fireworks for a while now and it really has some potential. The biggest issue right now is that Fireworks doesn’t recognize any user input before I let go of the mouse button. This is especially annoying when working with sliders, instead of real time change like in Photoshop I have to let go of the mouse button in order to see the result. Is this just a Mac issue or does PC’s Fireworks function in the same way?
  40. § Oliver Nielsen: Maybe Adobe won’t kill the Macromedia brand. A big company like Adobe NEEDS a close competitor. Some like Fireworks, some like ImageReady+Illustrator or whatever. In marketing it’s not always bad to have competitors, since they stimulate the market. And now, Adobe even has full control with their closest “competitor”... The market may not care that both companies are owned by one company. The end-user wants a choice.

    People discussing this matter all over the web seem to be very black-and-white on the end-result of the merger: Adobe wil make it all adobe, and maybe just kill the majority of macromedia’s applications with the exception of Flash…

    Well, there is more to marketing and branding than that. Look at Yahoo for example. They have as “A Yahoo Company” – but still a separate brand. Adobe may choose to do the same, so don’t be so worried all of you;-)
  41. § Kevin Rapley: Although Fireworks may well not be developed further, current versions are always going to be available. Fireworks MX 2004 is quite a tool and has come a long way. Fireworks fans are always going to be able to use this software.
  42. § Andrew: I think it would be foolish for Adobe to overlook the market represented by web designers who want to perform relatively simple graphics operations for use on websites. I, for one, do not want the cost or bloat of Photoshop. Clearly it’s an awesome tool and I’ve been impressed with it for years. Nonetheless, I don’t need it. To me, it’s like buying a PDA-enabled cell phone when all you care about is making phone calls. Could the fancier phone do lots of neat stuff? Sure could! But,if you don’t want or plan to use all the extra features, they (1) raise the price, (2) get in the way and clutter up the interface.

    Keep Fireworks!

    I could see the usefulness of two product lines: (1) a web suite for web devlopers who need to do limited graphics work geared for the web that includes: Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, etc. (2) a web suite for graphic intensive web design that includes: Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, etc.

    Worst case scenario? Well, since I own licenses for every version of Macromedia Studio since version 4…keep using Fireworks MX 2004!

    Best case scenario? Adobe continues to develop Fireworks and does some feature blending between the Photoshop and Fireworks products, keeping in mind the target audience of the two products.
  43. § angus: I think the comments about “not knowing what they have ” are the most worrying.

    Having an audio background, I’ve been dismayed to see Audition marketed as a video tool rather than the most powerful pc audio application there is.

    Prior to that, their stratagy with pagemaker shows that it’s the percieved market placing that dictates policy rather than the strengths of the application.

    On the ui comments ithink they have already sussed that and have gone part way in in design?
  44. § Sarnil Prasad: Why not merge Fireworks with Dreamweaver? It’s obvious that Adobe won’t get rid of DW. As it is DW “links” with Fireworks quite a bit. The slicing aspect, being able to edit the original PNG’s using Fireworks from DW.

    The merge will be perfect.
  45. § Marje: I am an AVID PhotoShop fan. Been using it for 10 years. Couldn’t live without it. But there is NO WAY I would layout a web page design with anything but Fireworks.

    The thought of losing FW sends chills down my back.

    Why can we have BOTH! They complement each other beautifully.
  46. § Adam: As a professional web template designer I have been always used fwmx, but after hearing of fw’s uncertain future I have started offering my products in duel formats… I have been working with Photoshop on and off for a number of years now, and I can tell you this – nothing has changed… it is still a dog..

    Viva la Fireworks!
  47. § Ben: i love fireworks. :(
  48. § Lisa Giovanni: Bye, bye FireWorks…
  49. § Creford: I’ve long used the version Fireworks 4 since 2001 to make the Animator GIF images, this software for graphics also gave me some good memory during those years, because I never found a more excellent software for web images such Fireworks those years. I used Photoshop to design and to switch the GIF and JPG formats and so on.

    Adobe had acquired Macromedia, if I have to guess, I bet happen: Fireworks always to be improved, because it’s better to keep a famous software in the market in future. And the accessibility of Adobe’s products also will be improved for web designers.

    However, I think Fireworks 4 and Photoshop 7, these 2 softwares are usable enough for web designers.
  50. § 3klicks: thats really sad.
    i did a lot of work with fireworks…

  51. § prog house: did you ever heared of logic audio.
    the same story, there are no updates since 3 years for windows…
  52. § Reiner: I use since 5 years Fireworks. I swear on it!

    Godd app – good work!!
  53. § liamsquire: Thats a bad!!! i love Fireworks and the Programm is excellent for popup menus and navigation. So my hope is that Adobe will support Fireworks.
  54. § Sywan: It’s now been half a year since this post started and it seems like Adobe is going to keep the Macromedia brand name for now. Fireworks seems like it is doing fine since it came bundled with Studio8. Just got my copy of the Studio8 Suite today.
  55. § Bruce Anderson:

    Yes, Fireworks is great for some things. I think Adobe will keep it like all other Macromedia products. Actually, there is no great competition between Adobe and Macromedia. Adobe’s earnings comes from Photoshop.

  56. § fivel:

    fireworks is great product.. hope they keep it. Im looking forward to see the newer version.


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About Drew McLellan

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Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.