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Adobe Studio 8 Review:
A View to a Kill-er Suite of Tools

by theo Rushin Jr
TeraTech http://www.teratech.com/

 
Macromedia Inc. (now Adobe) has never failed to disappoint me. This is especially true when it comes to the latest release of Macromedia Studio 8. This powerful suite of tools offers everything I need as a web developer and designer. I have been using Macromedia products for quite some time now to create, design, illustrate, animate, develop, and manage various web sites and Rich Internet Applications. Studio 8 has significantly improved upon the core applications I have come to know and love; Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Fireworks, and ColdFusion MX 7 (developer edition). They have become like a family to me. So let’s break it down and find out what kind of improvements you can expect and if you’re new to the Macromedia suite of tools I think you’ll be pleased.

“What do Web Sites Dream of?”

Dreamweaver has for many years been my preferred tool for web development. At first glance Dreamweaver 8 looked very much the same at it predecessor, Dreamweaver MX 2004. As my mother would always say, “It’s what’s within that counts.” and that’s certainly true for Dreamweaver 8. Macromedia greatly improved its support for CSS. Not only have they improved the CSS rendering engine within Dreamweaver it now includes a unified CSS panel allowing you to see how styles apply to elements. Macromedia has also improved the workspace layout allowing you to customize your entire layout to suit your specific needs. The Dual Screen option in the Workspace Layout menu item was wonderful. I was able to separate the many panels from the Document window across my two monitors allowing me to take advantage of all the screen space I have available.

“This Isn’t Your Daddy’s Flash”

Over the years I have witnessed Flash’s evolution from an animators tool to a full-fledged, professional Rich Internet Application development environment (my how they do grow). Flash has proved itself as the most popular method of delivering truly unique and engaging web sites. So how can one improve upon what is already a great product? Usability! Flash 8 includes a large variety of new features geared towards enhancing application design and development. One of the more exciting features included are variety of Filters that can be applied to text, buttons, and movie clips. Filters such as Bevel, Glow, and Drop Shadow allow me to easily create effects that previous relied on external tools, such as Fireworks, or creative workarounds. Another exciting new feature is the new video codec called On2 VP6. It was designed to provide better video quality with smaller sizes and more interactivity.

“Fireworks: Not just for Independence Day”

Throughout my software and web development career I have used many graphic-editing packages, from Corel Draw to Paint Shop Pro. But I never found a graphic-editing tool that was so tightly integrated with other web development tools as Fireworks. The tool supports tighter integration with Dreamweaver 8 and Flash 8. Objects copied back and forth between Fireworks and Flash maintain much more of their properties and attributes. Fireworks 8 now use CSS to format and style the interactive Pop-up Menus for cleaner integration into Dreamweaver.

“ColdFusion, My Foundation”

ColdFusion has always been my foundation for web development. It’s ease of use, flexibility, and powerful language never fails to impress me. The new Report Builder tool gave me most of the capabilities I need to create sophisticated queries and attractive reports. This biggest and most anticipated feature in this release are Event Gateways, which make it possible to build ColdFusion application that can react to messages and data coming from non-web connections. I can now “roll” my own Instant Messaging application using ColdFusion.

“The New Guys in Town”

Those who have used (or are still using) Macromedia Studio products may notice something missing and a couple of new faces. Yes, Freehand, the vector graphic editing tool, has been traded for Contribute version 3 and FlashPaper. At first the trade seemed a bit odd but after the buyout of Macromedia by Adobe it made perfect sense. These two additions to the Studio family complete the web development process. Contribute is a sophisticated but easy to use web content management system. It allows users to edit their web site content without requiring the user to know HTML. FlashPaper allows users to create PDF-like documents that can be viewed on the web. Why FlashPaper instead of PDF? FlashPaper user the Flash technology and thus can be view within any browser supporting the Flash Player. Since the Flash Player comes already installed within most modern browser there is nothing to download.

I must say that I am very pleased with the new Studio 8 and to that end I give it two thumbs up. In the words of one of my favorite film critiques; “It’s like a film that escaped from the imagination directly onto the screen …”

Bio

Theo is a Senior Web Developer and Instructor working at TeraTech, Inc in Rockville, MD. While he has a passion for web development, teaching and all that this entails, he considers himself an artist, writer, and director. The web is his canvas and the applications he create are his works of art. He has been programming for over 20 years and was introduced to ColdFusion and Flash back in 1999. Since the pre-release of Flex 2.0 he has begun to spread the "Good News" about Flex. Since then, he has never looked back.

Currently he is seeking to create the perfect synergy between the various web technologies such as ColdFusion, Flash, Flex, and Ajax.

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