When it comes to designing webpages I prefer working in Fireworks. I know, I know. There seems to exist a real prejudice against Fireworks. Sort of like you’re not a real designer if you use it. I challenge any web designer to give Fireworks the old college try. Making the switch to Fireworks was the best thing I ever did for the efficiency of my website building. And here’s why:
1. Fireworks is intuitive to web design.
Fireworks was built originally by Macromedia with a focus on web designer needs. That means it is optimized for a web designer’s needs. They made web-related things readily available like image compression, an intuitive slicing system and a whole different way of grouping and layering. One of my favorite features is that when you copy something, it pastes it in exactly the same place.
And for those of you desperately clutching to Photoshop because it is familiar to you, lots of things are just the same as in Photoshop – some keyboard shortcuts, toolbars, panel layouts, etc. The design environment feels very similar.
The way that Fireworks does its layer groupings is incredibly inclusive compared to Photoshop. One Fireworks file, like an InDesign file, may contain many pages. Each of those pages contains a unique set of layers including but not limited to a web layer where you make your slices (toggle those on or off by pressing the number 2 on your keyboard) and a locked master layer (so you can’t mess it up). If you make a master page, much like InDesign, those design elements will transfer to every page designed after. This is incredibly useful after you design the navigation, for example.
3. The Web Layer.
There is more to it than just slicing and optimization. If you’re a non-coding designer, you can set up links and even rollovers for a working demo version of your site. Coders, you just keep doing your thing. The code it spits out is in no way clean, but it works for instant gratification. Which is nice ‘cause it’s instant.
4. Pixel-perfect sizing.
Do you need to make a box 697 pixels wide? With Fireworks’ inspector (reminiscent of Flash, isn’t it?) you can type in exact amounts. You can even tell it what degree to round the corners. No messy measuring or dragging handles. Simple.
5. Reactive Gradients.
Gradients are all the rage ever since web2.0, right? Aren’t you tired of fighting them in Photoshop? In Fireworks, the gradients have handles. You can grab and drag the points so your gradient starts and stops exactly where you want it to within the object.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some things that can only be done in Photoshop– any kind of bitmap editing, actions, quick mask mode, to name a few. To some degree some of these things can be imitated in Fireworks, but it’s not made to edit everything under the sun- it’s specifically made for building websites.
It’s not like I hate Photoshop. Photoshop is good at what it does. We’ve been good friends for many years and I still use it in conjunction with Fireworks for bitmap editing. It’s just that designing a site in Photoshop always, to me, feels like using a fork to eat soup. Use the tool that was designed specifically for the job. Use Fireworks.