Macromedia revs MX line, introduces new solutions
Next month Macromedia will ship new versions of their MX product family, including updates of Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks. The company will also ship a new product, Flash MX Professional 2004, and introduce new "building blocks" called MX Elements and Halo.
Studio MX 2004 will include Dreamweaver MX 2004, Flash MX 2004 or Flash MX Professional 2004, Fireworks MX 2004 and Freehand MX. FreeHand MX was released in February.
Studio MX, released in 2002, became the best-selling product in Macromedia's history. The 2004 version delivers even deeper cross-product integration, according to Susan Morrow, Macromedia's senior director of product management and marketing.
Studio MX 2004 will also be available with Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 for advanced developers delivering rich Internet applications. Using Studio MX with Flash Professional, developers can design Flash and HTML Web forms, add components, integrate with data, and build in application logic and navigation.
"Studio MX 2004 is a major step for Macromedia and really builds on the success of Studio MX," Morrow told MacCentral. "Studio MX 2004 offers major revs of our anchor products -- and more than just products."
The MX 2004 applications all use the same customizable workspace to streamline design and development tasks. And all have consistent user interfaces, including start pages, panel management, document tabs, coding metaphors, and Property Inspectors. What's more, all the MX products leverage Unicode support to use, render, and save any font and encoding supported by your operating system, including double-byte character sets.
"We've done lots of work on the internationalization of our products," Morrow said. "The Unicode support will make a big difference for our international customers."
Studio MX 2004, available for Mac OS X (10.2.6 and higher) and Windows, will cost US$899 for new users. Upgrades from Studio MX are $399; upgrades from other eligible products are $499; education customers can upgrade for $199. Studio MX 2004 with Flash MX Professional 2004 is available for $999 to new users, $499 for upgrades from Studio MX, $599 for upgrades from any eligible product, and $249 for education customers.
Macromedia DevNet Professional members will receive the products contained in Studio MX 2004 automatically as part of their annual subscription. Education, corporate, and government volume licensing will also be available. These products will be available in English in September, with Simplified and Traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish versions due to ship soon afterward.
Dreamweaver MX 2004
Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia's tool for building Web sites and applications, has been re-architectured to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for presentations rather than HTML, with its 2004 incarnation.
Dreamweaver MX 2004's entire design environment is built around CSS to enable faster development of clean-coded sites with sophisticated designs. As CSS helps developers separate presentation and style from content, Web sites built with CSS require less bandwidth, are easier to maintain, and give developers and end users precise design control, Morrow said.
"It's time for CSS to become the broad standard it should be," she added. "However, to date, it's been difficult to implement."
What's more, Dreamweaver MX 2004's dynamic multi-browser validation automatically checks tags and CSS rules for compatibility across Web browsers.
"This helps solve one of the most common headaches for Web developers and one of the issues our users wanted addressed: cross-browser compatibility," Morrow said. "Dreamweaver MX 2004 offers dynamic validation of whichever browsers you target and gives visual clues regarding the validation or lack of it."
The latest version of Dreamweaver builds on the success of Dreamweaver MX by further integrating visual layout tools, application development features and code editing support within a technology-agnostic, platform-independent environment. It also includes SecureFTP, built-in graphics editing, and integration with Microsoft Word and Excel. For example, you can import highly formatted Word documents and transform everything to CSS. Dreamweaver MX 2004 also has updated support for ASP.NET, PHP and ColdFusion server technologies.
"Dreamweaver is the only development tool that supports all major Web technologies," Morrow said.
Dreamweaver MX 2004 incorporates a streamlined design and development environment. Core feature improvements such as enhanced table editing and a streamlined file editing process all help users better manage the basics, Morrow said. Users can code more efficiently with right-click coding tools, revamped find and replace, and an improved tag inspector, she added.
Dreamweaver MX 2004 also includes advanced integration with Macromedia Contribute 2, a new tool that allows Dreamweaver users to delegate Web content updates to content owners without giving up control of their site.
Dreamweaver's pricing remains unchanged from the previous version: $399 for new users, $199 for upgrades from Dreamweaver MX and Dreamweaver 4, and $99 for education customers.
Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004
Macromedia's goal with Flash MX 2004, the latest version of the tool for creating rich content, was to "focus on making the common things people use it for even easier," Morrow said.
For instance, the new Timeline Effects let you add common transitions such as blurs and drop shadows without scripting. Predefined behaviors help eliminate the need for complex scripting of navigation and media controls. And the compiler improves playback performance, even with content created for earlier versions of Flash Player.
New tools in Flash MX 2004 give developers more control over content quality and interactivity. The new ActionScript 2.0 scripting language enables them to add sophisticated interactivity to their content. Flash also now has CSS support, which lets users deliver hybrid sites that blend Flash and HTML with a consistent look and feel. There are also accessible components, Unicode support, and localization tools designed to allow visually-impaired users and international audiences to access Flash content. Other new features include spell-checking and global search and replace.
Flash MX Professional 2004 includes all of the features of Flash MX 2004 and adds advanced capabilities for visual development of rich Internet applications, Morrow said. The new capabilities include a new forms-based development environment as an alternative to the traditional timeline metaphor; a component library; and simplified data-binding to Web services and XML. The product also offers video capabilities and streamlined development for mobile devices.
"Flash MX Professional 2004 is for the top 10-20 percent of Flash developers, those who do advanced work and deal with video," Morrow said.
Regarding its video capabilities, Flash MX Professional 2004 can deliver high-quality video with interactivity and custom interfaces, according to Morrow. Video quality is "significantly improved" through performance optimizations in Flash Player 7 that allow full frame rate, full size video and progressive downloads, she added.
Pre-built video components help users build custom, interactive interfaces to convey brand image, compositing video and audio with animated graphics, images, and text. Flash MX Professional's streamlined development workflow offers integration with such video editing and encoding tools as Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Xpress, and Discreet Cleaner.
Flash MX Professional 2004 also offers connectivity to server data with scriptable data-binding that supports Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Web services, XML, and Macromedia Flash Remoting.
Macromedia Flash MX 2004 is available for Mac OS (10.2.6 and higher) and Windows; the cost is $499. Upgrades from Macromedia Flash 5 or Macromedia Flash MX are $199. Introductory pricing for Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 is $699. Upgrades from Flash 5 or Flash MX are $299. Localized versions of Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004 will be available in English in September, with Simplified and Traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish expected to ship soon afterward.
Fireworks MX 2004
The focus of Fireworks MX 2004 -- the new version of the solution for designing, optimizing and integrating Web graphics -- was on "performance, performance, performance," Morrow said. With some functions, it's purportedly 85 percent faster than previous versions.
To increase team development productivity, Fireworks MX 2004 was built to support a cross-product workflow across Macromedia and third-party tools. It provides the same check-in/check-out functionality as Dreamweaver. The product's roundtrip editing support now handles server-side code, as well as nested tables. Built-in FTP can transfer files to and from remote servers from within Fireworks -- or the product can automatically compress and e-mail files to team members with a single click.
New drawing tools provide control over bitmap and vector images. Auto Shapes respond intelligently to offer image manipulation options beyond drag, rotate and resize. Contour Gradients let Fireworks users create multicolor gradients that follow a shape's outline path. Motion Blur effects create the illusion of movement, and photo tools enable quick touch-ups and red eye removal. New anti-aliasing options deliver more readable text, while Unicode support lets you create double-byte graphical and alternative text for localized sites.
Fireworks MX 2004 also includes tighter integration with Flash MX 2004 and Dreamweaver MX 2004. What's more, it has a fully accessible application programming interface (API), as does Flash, so developers can customize the functionality of the products.
"We see a lot of exciting things happening in regards to Flash extensions," Morrow said.
Fireworks MX 2004, available for Mac OS X (10.2.6 and higher) and Windows. Pricing is $299 for new users, $149 for upgrades from Fireworks MX and Fireworks 4, and $99 for education customers.
Flash Player 7
Flash Player 7, the latest rev of the Internet client, offers faster performance, user-controllable update notification and new development capabilities.
Optimizations in Flash Player 7 double the performance for many operations (especially on Mac OS X), with selected areas performing up to eight times faster. While the original focus of Flash Player was graphics rendering, this version focuses on the performance of business application functions such as filling arrays, sorting arrays and optimized connections with back-end servers.
The new user-controllable update notification capability lets you keep up to date with the latest version. CSS support enables developers to blend HTML and Flash with consistent formatting.
Flash Player 7 also supports ActionScript 2.0, the new scripting language introduced with Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004. New support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Web services connectivity lets developers create Internet application user interfaces that handle enterprise data in a service-oriented architecture.
Macromedia Flash Player 7 will be available as a free download from Macromedia's Web site and will ship simultaneously in both English and localized versions.
Elements and Halo
The MX 2004 family will also include new building blocks called MX Elements for Flash and MX Elements for HTML, along with a unique look and feel for Internet applications called Halo.
"Halo is sort of what Apple does with Aqua, but which we do for things within our tools," Morrow said. "It's a set of guidelines for how things should look. MX Elements are components that ship with the MX products. They're not really products, but something we're introducing at the same time."
MX Elements offer a series of interface building blocks with embedded, interactive design patterns. These HTML and Flash elements are built to make it faster for customers to build effective interfaces by bringing together a range of technologies including components, templates, CSS style sheets and behaviors.
"MX Elements and Halo really go toward Macromedia's vision of being a company that provides an experience layer for the digital world," Morrow said.