Macromedia Flash has become ubiquitous on the Internet, with uses ranging from streaming video and games to presentations and Web site navigation. The improvements in Macromedia's latest release, Studio 8, which includes Flash, ensure that Macromedia Studio will remain the enterprise's best bet for Flash technology development.
Thanks to Macromedia's increasing focus on the enterprise developer, Studio 8 has undergone a major reconfiguration. It comprises updated versions of Dreamweaver 8, Fireworks 8, Flash Professional 8 and two newcomers to the suite, Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2. Contribute 3 enhances collaborative capabilities; FlashPaper 2 lets organizations quickly incorporate the PDF format into Web sites (for more on these, see "Extras" ).
I tested Beta 2 of Macromedia Studio 8 at Network Computing's Green Bay, Wis., Real-World Labs®. The most exciting changes I found were within Dreamweaver and Flash. The explosion of streaming video has led to the inclusion of a wealth of graphical effects in Flash Player 8 (code-named Maelstrom) that you can use at runtime while reducing the footprint of published Flash media and improving performance.
It was simple to create a basic animation, and I used the new capabilities of Flash 8 to dynamically control the animation frame rates at runtime. Blend modes and shadowing were also easily applied at runtime, and I could flick them on or off at will. Previous versions had made such graphical manipulations available only through an external image-manipulation program such as Fireworks.
Macromedia has developed a new video codec, and the company is moving aggressively to support video within Flash.
Strong combination of components for a collaborative environment
Support for video and graphical effects moved into Flash Player 8, improving performance
New pricing still over most hobbyists' heads, making it difficult to gain more converts and capture next generation of developers and designers
Studio 8, $999 new, $399 to upgrade from any previous version. Macromedia, (415) 832-2000.
Dreamweaver 8 integrates smoothly with the most widely used technologies, such as PHP5, ColdFusion and video, but it also has advanced CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) support that is far beyond anything I've seen in an HTML editor to date--no more developing CSS in vi for me.
The ability to visualize and edit CSS within Dreamweaver 8 astounded me. I could build a page from scratch and edit specific elements, such as a single DIV. When I dragged and dropped a DIV, Dreamweaver automatically updated the associated style for me.
Dreamweaver offers a setting that visually separates CSS elements in the designer using color. This makes it a no-brainer to see where specific elements would appear in the resulting page.
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Through Dreamweaver's Visual Studio-like metaphor for editing CSS, I could add properties as well as modify attributes of an existing style. With the click of a button, I chose the new attribute I wanted--borders, positioning or size--then edited the values right in Dreamweaver.
Overall, I welcome the changes to Studio. My only real beef is cost. Even after modifying its pricing, Macromedia is selling Studio 8 for a hefty $999 new--though you can upgrade to Studio 8 from any point product, not just prior versions of Studio.
Macromedia hasn't learned from the competition. Even Microsoft has bowed to pressure and understands you can't capture mind share if amateurs can't afford your product. Macromedia says it's aggressively pursuing just that market, but Dreamweaver and Flash products remain priced for the professional.
Lori MacVittie is a Network Computing senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.