Fireworks (Fw) has to be the most misunderstood app in the Master Collection.
In its earlier Macromedia life I would download trial versions of the thing and just could not get jazzed about it. Once I found it with its first appearance in an Adobe Creative Suite box (CS3), I tried to get excited but I was unable to rev myself. However, as soon as I explored Fw CS4 I was hooked. The app finally seemed full featured, unfortunately, it was a buggy mess and crashed all the time. Then Adobe released Fw CS5, a very stable product. Once Fw CS3 was released, Adobe pulled ImageReady from the Photoshop package. The thinking was that all the ImageReady features were now in Fireworks. I continued to use a backwards way of doing things in Photoshop since Fireworks and I were not getting along well. Once I befriended Fw CS5, I began telling everyone about it. The ImageReady features are just a small fraction of what Fw CS5 is all about. I decided I wanted to learn everything about Fw CS5. I looked all around for a great reference of the latest and all-time greatest Fireworks, ever, and was disappointed to find that there isn't much available. The upshot is that there's a fabulous Classroom in a Book (CIB) for Fw CS5. If you look in the back of this book you'll discover that this is written by Jim Babbage. Once Fw CS4 was released, Janet & I watched Jim on Adobe TV and lynda.com. He got us motivated about all the cool stuff we could do with Fw. Jim has to be one of the foremost authorities, in the world, on Fw. So, I went into this book with extremely high expectations of being about to round out some of my rough spots in Fireworks know-how. We're six weeks away from redoing our website, which will be updated every other day. I need to work more efficiently than using my backwards Photoshop methods, so mastering Fw CS5 is essential.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never met Jim, but have group conversations, which include him, on closed web forums about some Adobe apps. But, that doesn't cloud my candor about reviewing this work, or anyone else's.
For someone who has attained a level of expertise in other Adobe apps, they may blow past the first CIB chapters on "Getting to Know the Workspace." Even if you've mastering the likes of InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, but are new to Fireworks, you need to read every word of Fw CS5 CIB's first chapter. The Fireworks user interface (UI) is not like that of other CS5 apps (which I feel is the app's biggest downfall). It still has some Macromedia blood in its veins and this CIB will make the Dreamweaver user feel comfortable. Get to know the first chapter before moving forward.
If you're feeling a little rattled, about being in some unfamiliar territory, the second lesson, on workflow tools, will allow Photoshop professionals to feel at home. Jim even goes above the call of duty in filling you in on when things can come into Fireworks from Photoshop, but not always find their way back (called "round-tripping"). This same lesson gets into states, not a term some will have even heard of, before. It's how Fw allows you to mock-up web interactivity. At first I thought, "Why is only three pages devoted to this?" But, then I realized that's all it took to get comfortable with the tools and basic techniques.
Most of the third chapter, on bit map images, is essential if you do not have any background in that sort of thing. It has to be said. For someone who already knows all of this, it's not a waste of time to carefully walk through the whole thing just to be sure your Fw legs are on firm ground. Being someone who goes back to Photoshop 2.0, I found the example images to be inspirational. Even before I got into some of the features, which are unique to Fw, a few of the images in an alley and the use of watches made me think, "I want to do that!" The fourth lesson of selections cannot be left unexplored, for the beginner. Jim has given the book a theme using images relative to intrigue and espionage, which has to make you smile.
For the Illustrator pro, the fifth chapter, on vector images, will initially seem like old hat and you'll be tempted to zoom through it. That would be a mistake. Fw has a variety of tools and features which are all its own. Jim has set aside a section of this chapter which allows you to see what's unique. Bookmark page 92 for a vector tool reference.
I must admit that I cannot get used to how text works in Fw. It seems clumsy to deal with in a properties panel and the text engine is very weak. It's unlike anything else in the Adobe Master Collection and not easily to fit into the scope of users' experiences, with other Adobe apps. Text, for the web has its own set of eccentricities. Just like in the previous lesson, on masking, Jim makes this applicable to web design rather than taking you through meaningless basics.
Preparing graphics for the web, today, is different than the days when ImageReady was around. More is expected of a truly invigorating website as opposed to the long-ago of trying to make images acceptable to lousy dial-up modems. This book/CD package wisely makes no assumptions that you know anything about optimization basics and dedicates four pages to being sure you have foundational knowledge. This lesson is so well-done that it makes it worth buying the book just for it. Chapter 8 is so elaborately detailed that its something of an indispensable desktop reference.
The very first thing I wanted to do with Fireworks, many years ago, was create some really cool web buttons. I became frustrated and gave up. It was a Macromedia product, then. So, there was no CIB, of course, in those days. Jim summarizes this in a lesson called "Using Symbols." I have been getting by in Photoshop, to do this, and it a very inefficient use of my time. Fireworks is what I should be (and will be) using, from now on. If I had a book like this, way back when, I'd have adopted Fw, long ago.
For an advanced web designer, who needs to prototype (and what pro doesn't), this is the number one reason to own Fw CS5. You really cannot do this via some backwards method in another Master Collection app. Chapter 10 gets you up to speed and chapter 11 gives you the lessons you need to master it. For many, these last two paper chapters are what every web designer MUST tackle.
If that's not enough, Mr. Babbage has two more chapters for you. You can download the pages as one PDF for each chapter and the components of them come on your CD-ROM. I'm clueless as to why the PDFs are not on the CD-ROM. That seems like an oversight on behalf of Adobe Press. If you want to really master Fw, these chapters are essential. They're primary direction is how Fw integrates with other Adobe apps. You cannot be a web professional without what's in these two bonus chapters. They show you how to be more than good, but great. I must admit that, for the most part, I went through page after page of these chapters thinking, "I had no idea!" This is probably the only place on the planet that this is so succinctly examined.
I hate to downgrade this fabulous package to 4.9 stars because of the need to download the PDFs, but I know it irritates some people, so 5.0 isn't possible. However, amazon does not permit fractional stars, so it gets a full 5.