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A note to Web designers with heart conditions attending the January Macworld Expo: you can probably leave your medication at home.

Macworld Expo looks to be a pretty sedate affair for the Web graphics and authoring industry. Many of the top players in the Web development industry either just announced new versions of their Web tools or are deep in the development stage for upcoming releases. In fact, most of the truly exciting action is likely to occur in the multimedia field. Of course this doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of first looks and cool additions to already stellar programs down on the show floor for curious Web designers to occupy themselves with.

You can bet that Macromedia ( ) will be showing off the newest versions of its Web authoring and Web graphics tools, Dreamweaver 3 and Fireworks 3, which began shipping earlier this month. If you haven't already taken a peek at these updates, they're definitely worth the stop. Macromedia has focused its energy on integrating the two tools, automating redundant tasks, and allowing designers the freedom to customize almost every aspect of the programs.

But don't expect Macromedia to sit tight until they're ready to release version 4. With the frantic pace of development in the Web industry, fresh news is a hot commodity. But what do you do while you're waiting for your programmers to get off their hamster wheels and produce a shiny new upgrade? Why, you develop extensions, of course. In what looks to be a growing industry trend, Macromedia says it plans to regularly release new third-party extensions to Dreamweaver 3 and Fireworks 3. Already they have announced several partnerships, including ones with Nokia to develop Web pages for Nokia wireless telephones, and with Liberate Technologies for interactive TV.

Adobe Systems, one of Macromedia's top competitors, is also spicing up it development lull by releasing new modules for its Web authoring tool, GoLive 4.0. Announced in early December, GoLive Dynamic Link is designed to simplify the creation of dynamically generated pages and the integration of databases. Adobe says the new module is part of a larger product strategy to give designers more control over their pages without needing extensive programming skills.

There is no news yet as to when Adobe might be ready to announce a new version of GoLive. But it is likely that future developments will include better integration between Adobe's Web authoring and Web graphics tools -- after all, GoLive 4.0 is essentially the same product Adobe inherited when it bought GoLive Systems and turned GoLive Cyberstudio into GoLive 4.0. "Integration is one of our largest priorities," says Adobe representative Stephanie Krueger.

Adobe has already made some steps in this direction with its release of Photoshop 5.5, which came bundled with ImageReady 2.0, Adobe's Web animation and graphics tool.

Those wandering the convention floor searching out free goodies and promotional t-shirts should be sure to wander by the booth for BeatWare, makers of ePicture (see Macworld's

3.5 mice
review of ePicture ). BeatWare, a relatively small player in a Web graphics field dominated by giants, is hoping to give Macromedia's Fireworks a run for its money; and you can be sure it won't be resting on its laurels from ePicture 1.0, which received a Best of Show award at July's Macworld Expo in New York. Whether you already own a graphics program or are looking for a less expensive option, you'll be interested to see what BeatWare has planned for the future.

One company you won't be seeing at Macworld this year is NetObjects. On December 7 the company finally confirmed rumors that it would not continue development for the Mac version of its Web authoring tool, NetObjects Fusion. The once ground-breaking program had not been updated for the Mac since July 1998. (For more details check out the full story as reported by MacWEEK.) To add insult to injury, NetObjects is offering to provide its Mac users with free copies of NetObjects Fusion 4.0 for Windows.

Gee, thanks.

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