Macromedia touts Studio MX 2004 suite

Tomorrow's Web experience will bear little resemblance to today's browsing, thanks to new interactive tools already emerging, says Rob Burgess, Macromedia chairman and chief executive. He described the company's vision for its products and the Web in a keynote address at this week's Seybold Seminar.

"All over the Web we're seeing these types of interactive experiences," Burgess said, referring to such sites as Miniusa.com's Flash MX-based Build Your Own site. The Mini Cooper site lets you choose the colors and features you want in your car, see the price change as you make selections, and send your decision to a dealer (once you've registered with the site).

"It's an interactive, engaging online experience that delivers what Mini needs," Burgess told the keynote audience. And it was developed with tools in Macromedia's new Studio MX 2004 suite.

MX 2004, released this week, features three new programs--Dreamweaver MX 2004 Web-design software, Flash MX 2004 animation software, and Fireworks MX 2004 image-editing software--as well as the FreeHand MX illustration program, which Macromedia released last February.

Suite Details

The new suite's most significant enhancement is its integration of the separate applications. For example, when you open a Flash or Fireworks file in Dreamweaver, you can work on the file with a subset of the tools available in the original application. This enables you to use Dreamweaver's Property Inspector to customize elements dragged in from Flash, for example, or to edit and optimize images without having to open Fireworks.

It continues the trend Macromedia began with its previous update of the Web design tools.

A version of Studio MX 2004 containing the new Flash MX Professional lets enterprise developers use a more familiar forms interface rather than Flash's timeline to create applications. This feature is intended to make generating Flash content faster and easier.

One of the most significant changes in Dreamweaver MX 2004 is the program's enhanced support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which let designers make site-wide changes with just a few keystrokes. The new CSS Rule Inspector makes it easy to see which CSS rules apply to the current section, and the enhanced CSS Panel lets you view style definitions from within your HTML code. Other noteworthy additions are support for Secure FTP and the capability to check pages for CSS compatibility with specific versions of the Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers.

Studio MX 2004 costs US$899, while the version with the new Professional version of Flash MX 2004 is priced at US$999. Current Studio MX users can upgrade to the new release for US$399 (US$499 to get the version with Flash MX Professional), and people using a recent version of any single application in the suite can upgrade to the new product for US$499 (US$599 to get Flash MX Professional).

New Looks Online

Burgess said development of this new breed of interactive applications is taking off in such markets as education and e-learning. But one field surpasses all these: "Online advertising has exploded," Burgess said enthusiastically.

Macromedia thinks its approach with the new Web design tools will set trends and change the capabilities of Web sites, Burgess said.

"The broad range of applications that people are building with these products is phenomenal," he told the conference.

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