With the first update to its Web design and development tools, Macromedia Inc. delved deeper into its MX line on Monday, announcing new versions of Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks all packaged into Studio MX 2004.
“Studio MX 2004 is about taking our MX family of tools for designers and developers to the next level,” said Jeff Whatcott, senior director of product marketing for Macromedia in Newton, Mass. “It’s everything you need to build great experiences on the Web.”
After Macromedia launched the Macromedia MX in 2002, the company looked to add new capabilities to its tools, Whatcott said, which resulted in Studio MX 2004 with added integrated workflow for designing and developing Web sites and Internet applications.
For developers, the most significant change to the MX line is that “we’ve brought all of the leading tools for creating online experiences together in one package…it’s all the best-of-breed tools in one,” he said. “Web applications are becoming the way that people deliver experiences to their customers. The digital world is starting to permeate every part of our lives.”
The Web site and application builder – Dreamweaver MX 2004 – now has added support for cascading style sheets. This technology allows Web developers to maintain consistency of design across thousands of pages through a centralized file called a cascading style sheet.
“If you have thousands of pages and you want to change the background colour globally, you use the cascading style sheets,” Whatcott said, adding that Dreamweaver is the first tool to embed cascading style sheets into the tool itself.
Benefits to end users include saving bandwidth and time saving for developers, he explained.
Macromedia will offer two versions of the Flash developer tools built around Flash Player, including Flash MX 2004 and Flash MX Professional 2004.
Whatcott said Flash has evolved in recent years and is now identified as an application development environment.
“It can create full applications that run in your browser or in your devices and connect back to server data,” he added.
Flash MX 2004 features TimeLine Effects, which allows designers to add common transitions such as blurs and drop shadows without scripting. It also has a wizard-style interface.
“It improves productivity so a developer can come up to speed quickly,” Whatcott said.
Not only is the interface more user friendly, but Flash MX now has tighter integration with Dreamweaver. Both programs can share product profiles, Whatcott explained.
“You can define a project in Dreamweaver and as part of the project there can be Flash assets. They can be built into the site that you defined in Dreamweaver,” he said.
Basically, Flash developers can be working on Flash assets, while Dreamweaver developers can be working on Dreamweaver assets, and they can all be centrally managed in a source code control system. Developers can switch between creating content in HTML to Flash, and still work collaboratively, Whatcott said.
Alternatively, Flash MX Professional 2004 adds more powerful application development capabilities and also offers forms-based development for Flash users, making development easier for programmers familiar with Microsoft Corp.’s Visual Basic.
“It’s more powerful,” Whatcott said. “In the past [developers have] been able to develop applications in MX but had to use a timeline metaphor. With the new version they can use the more familiar form space metaphor, which is how developers build applications with Visual Basic…a developer can come in as a Visual Basic developer and the environment will feel more comfortable.”
There will also be integration with video and encoding tools to enhance the workflow for deploying video to the Internet, and there can be connections to Web services.
Macromedia also offers updated Fireworks MX 2004, a tool for designing and optimizing Web graphics and also launched Flash 7, a new version of the company’s free animation player which is in beta testing right now.
The new products are expected to ship in September in Windows and Mac versions. Prices vary for each individual upgraded tool being offered, while the entire Studio MX 2004 will sell for US$899. The package including Flash MX Professional will be about US$999. Macromedia can also provide prices for upgrades. There is also an academic version available.
Macromedia is online at www.macromedia.com. The company also launched a new Web site in conjunction with Monday’s announcements.