Macromedia Fireworks 4.0 and Dreamweaver 4.0

The menu structure is the same, too, so it's easy to find features whichever application you're using. Keyboard shortcuts have been standardised, but are fully customisable to suit the user's preferences. All tools are grouped into logical panels, and the panel layout can be saved and reloaded at a later date. The launch bar at the bottom of the main document window gives quick and easy access between commonly used features.

Fireworks, an image-editing package, was designed specifically for creating Web content. Fireworks can handle the commonly supported formats that are used on the Web, and create the necessary HTML required to produce a specific effect, such as changing an image when the mouse rolls over it.

Version 4.0 builds on this by offering a new creator for pop-up menus, menus which appear only when needed. Creating one for a Web page used to involve lots of hand coding in JavaScript, but with Fireworks 4.0 you just need to select where you want the menu and how you want it to look.

Animation has also been improved, making it far easier to produce basic animations for banners and the like. Simply select the item you wish to animate and then which aspects you want to change - such as distance, rotation, fade out and the number of frames over which it should animate. Once this is all set up, Fireworks will save your creation as an animated GIF.

You can now create selective compression on JPEG images, meaning you can specify the degree of compression applied to certain areas of an image. If your picture has a simple background but detailed elements, high compression would lose the detail, whereas low compression would be inefficient on the simple background areas. Selective compression allows you to choose the detail and specify low compression for those sections, allowing high compression to be applied to the background areas.

In Dreamweaver 4.0, many additions are aimed at simplifying the Web page creation process. There's a new code view, which allows you to see the raw HTML (hypertext markup language) that makes up the page. The code view includes syntax highlighting, allowing HTML tags to be distinguished easily from the surrounding text. For example, all HTML shows up in blue by default. In addition to a dedicated code view, you can opt for a split view showing both the underlying HTML and the page layout. This provides greater flexibility.

Programming in raw JavaScript, as opposed to just dropping ready-made code into your Web pages, has always been a troublesome affair even if you are adept at programming. Dreamweaver introduces a JavaScript debugger aimed at aiding this process.

HTML was never designed as a page layout language and, as a result, positioning items on a page can be difficult. The new layout mode makes it easier to use tables to dictate how a page should be displayed. It can also handle nesting and un-nesting tables without the user having to resort to hand coding, which gives a greater degree of control.

Macromedia has licensed O'Reilly's HTML, JavaScript and CSS (cascading style sheets) reference material so it's readily available within the Dreamweaver environment. If you can't remember exactly how a certain tag should be formed, then help is just a mouse click away. As it's context-sensitive, you can also call up a description of the tag on which you're currently working.

These Macromedia products build on an extremely strong base, providing all the necessary tools in a professional Web design environment. The integration between Dreamweaver and Fireworks is better, and the new clear interface means you spend less time looking for features and more time using the package.

Macromedia Fireworks 4.0 and Dreamweaver 4.0Price: Dreamweaver 4.0 $729, Fireworks 4.0 $729, Fireworks & Dreamweaver Studio $1095Distributors: Scholastic, FirmwareDesignPhone: 1800 665 774, 1300 369 951URL: www.macromedia.com

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