Apr 27 2009
Studio MX 2004 First Look
By: Jon Gales
There aren’t many prodcuts I use every day, but Macromedia Studio MX is one
of them. So when Macromedia let me know that MX 2004 was on the home stretch,
I couldn’t have been happier. Here’s a quick run-down of each application.
Be warned that the software I have been using is all still in beta… Stuff could still
change. I’ll post real reviews once the golden master ships (it’s not fair
to review beta software).
Studio MX 2004 in general
This release features a new look and feel. It’s called Halo, and it has been
used throughout the product. Incidently, its also been adapted for use on
Macromedia.com. The cool part of Halo (technically called MX Elements) is that
you can use the standard elements yourself in the Studio products. I haven’t
quite figured this out in Dreamweaver, but it’s easy enough in Flash and Fireworks.
I’ve been promised it is in Dreamweaver though.
Across the board, the 2004 release is focusing on a few things:
- Standards – Full unicode, CSS, XHTML support across product line.
- Integration – You can edit images in Dreamweaver, make HTML in Fireworks,
and author sites in Flash. This isn’t “toss the file back and forth” integration.
- Accessibility – Flash has much better accessibility features,
and Dreamweaver makes the ones it had a lot more apparent. If you work for
the government, or a major company, this is a must.
The pricing is the same, but if you want Flash MX Pro instead of the normal
Flash, you’ll have to cough up an extra $100. Not a bad deal though since Flash
MX Pro retails for $699 (Studio sells for $899).
Note, Freehand MX has not been updatedÃ³it typically does not follow
the same release schedule as other MX products.
At first look, it didn’t seem like much changed. However, after digging in
a while I found some gems:
- Expanded Tables Mode – hit F6 and your tables get real big (sort of like ExposÃˆ
in reverse). This is killer when you have one of those situations where there
are lots of tiny little cells that you can’t seem to select. Hit F6 again and
the tables are back to normal.
- SFTP – FTP is so insecure that it is amazing we’re still
using it. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. I think this makes
Dreamweaver the only WYSIWYG
to support SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocal).
- MS Office Support – I know this is weird for a Mac guy
like me to like, but I’ve gotten site copy (hell, even design) in a .doc
many many times. Since they buy my dinner, I can’t really complain too
much. You can copy/paste Word and Excel documents and preserve
formatting. Dreamweaver converts Microsoft’s stuff into standards based CSS on
the fly. I think I wet myself after trying it the first time.
- Cross Browser support – Ever wonder if there is a problem with your code
executing in WhateverBrowser 2.6? Dreamweaver MX 2004 will tell you with built
in validation for every major browser (yes, including Safari). Use those
newly freed brain cells for other more important tasks.
- CSS - Past versions of Dreamweaver had great support for
styling text with CSS. You could use it to make a tableless site,
but only if you lacked things to do and a family that loves you. It’s almost
fun with this version.
There’s a lot more, but that will have to wait until the review. If you’ve
got any questions about this product, head over to the forums and ask away.
I haven’t been a real Fireworks user, but mostly because the bulk of my work
is PHP coding. I leave the graphics up the graphics guy. However, I have done
a few design gigs lately. I’ll have to give it another look. Here’s what I liked
- Integration – Remember when I said Studio MX 2004 focused
on integration? Well it shows. If your team uses the “check-in/check-out” feature
of Dreamweaver (basically a dumbed down, “for the people”, CVS), you’ll be
happy that you can check in/out files right in Fireworks!
- Speed - Macromedia boasts that Fireworks is up to 85%
faster at certain operations. After further questioning it came out that
one of those features that has really gotten a speed boost.
- UI – The user interface [screen shot] has
gotten cleaned up a bit. Take a look at the screen shot.
- Commands – You can change around all the commands [screen
shot]. Under the Application menu just select “Keyboard Shortcuts”. If that’s
check out the pull-down
menu that lets you select standard command sets. Like Adobe’s commands.
Make it so. Almost no effort.
- Unicode – Since it now supports Unicode fully, you can
author images in any language that your computer supports. This was a slow-down
before, because images are often
used for languages that are commonly not accessible on the average user’s
computer (international prodcut/comapny names for instance). If you did a
regular install of OS X, you should have about any language worth its weight
already installed. Start studying.
Word on the street is that there are some neat extensions coming out for Fireworks
in the near future. Some of the coolest stuff Dreamweaver does is done through
its exentions, so this sounds like good stuff. Since I haven’t seen them yet,
I can’t comment. If you’ve
got any questions about this product, head over to the forums and
ask away. Expect a full review once the golden master ships.
One could argue quite well that this is the product that saw the most change.
That’s probably because it’s the only one to actually get a pro version. The
codebase is exactly the same for the two versions (Flash MX and Flash MX Pro),
but you enter diffferent serial numbers based on what you pay for.
One of the best things about this release is that it is fully international.
You can finally code a multilingual site in Flash. Like Fireworks lacking Unicode
support, this was a slowdown and in many cases a deal breaker.
So here’s the run down:
- ActionScript 2.0 – As you know, ActionScript is the programming
language that Flash uses to do the “cool stuff”. Version 2 is a
major step forward. For programming-types, it supports Object Oriented design
(just like Cocoa). Even though it’s the
latest and greatest, it can still be compiled down to ActionScript 1.0, meaning
it won’t break anything you’ve already written.
- CSS – No, I wasn’t kidding about Studio MX 2004 focusing
on standards. Flash can now handle standards-based CSS.
- Spell Check – Not too cutting edge, but for non-English
types like myself this is a great feature. Macromedia said it was one of
- Accessible components – Another positive aspect of using
Macromedia’s components in your Flash movies is that you gain all their accessibility.
- PDF + EPS support – OS X has had great support for PDF’s
for a while, but now Flash is getting in on the game. Also added is EPS.
Makes work go faster
if your graphics departments likes to use either of the common standards.
If you want to talk Flash MX 2004, head over to the forums.
That’s all for now, look for more detailed coverage in the weeks to come.