Designers, especially ones with little or no experience with Fireworks, often ask, “Why should I use Fireworks for UI design and screen graphics? Why not use Photoshop (as most visual designers do), combined with Illustrator? Or why not some other tool?”
Many features make Fireworks an excellent (and even indispensable) tool for screen design. We’ll quickly list a few below.
Focus on Screen Design
Fireworks is a tool to design for screens; thus, it is focused. It has features that help the UI designer work quickly and accurately, and clutter is kept to a minimum (for example, it has no print or 3-D features). It is also intuitive to use and has wireframing and prototyping capabilities. Fireworks is like a Swiss Army knife for UI design.
Powerful Vector Tools
Fireworks has powerful vector tools, too. In this regard, you could easily compare it to Adobe Illustrator — yet Fireworks’ tools are easier to master. You can go from the simplest of wireframes to the most complex of screen graphics, illustrations, icons, and full-page designs and comps, and then export the entire page or just selections as optimized bitmaps or SVG, without ever needing to switch to another app!
Good Bitmap Editing Tools
Fireworks also has full bitmap editing tools, so you don’t need to jump from Fireworks to another app when you want to modify bitmaps (for example, when you have to make a quick color correction on an imported photo, crop an image, apply a vector mask, etc.).
Create Live Prototypes
Create live (i.e. HTML) without ever leaving Fireworks? Yes, that’s possible. We’ve covered this in the past. Fireworks is also invaluable for other types of live prototypes; for example, you could quickly create a prototype of a music player?
Create Live iOS Prototypes
Fireworks can also create iOS prototypes. From wireframes to an iOS prototype to the final polished design — all of these steps can be done without leaving this one design tool!
The topic of iOS live prototyping with Fireworks and TAP was covered in great detail in the three-part article by Shlomo Goltz, “iOS Prototyping With Adobe Fireworks and TAP” (part 1, part 2, part 3).
The (Smart) Fireworks PNG File Format
Fireworks saves to a special editable PNG format, which offers many advantages: small file size (multi-page Fireworks PNG files are usually less than 10 MB in size, while a single PSD file can easily reach a few hundred MB, even for a one-page design!), the ability to embed custom meta data (such as annotations, notes and comments) within the source file itself, the ability to preview files in Finder and Explorer, the ability to make special libraries of symbols (which can be indexed and searched, as in the example of the Evernote and Fireworks workflow) and, last but not least, the ability to view a live preview of a single-page Fireworks PNG in any browser or device.
Excellent Exporting, Opening, Importing and Saving Options
Fireworks can export to the following formats, with excellent compression and quality: PNG32 (i.e. PNG24 + alpha transparency), PNG24 (with no transparency), PNG8, PNG8 + index or alpha transparency, JPG and JPG progressive, selective JPG, GIF and GIF animated, SVG, and ICO (for favicons).
In addition to all of these “flat” file formats (and, obviously, the editable file-name.fw-opt.png), Fireworks can open most Photoshop (PSD) and Illustrator (AI) files, Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files and most SVG files.
Fireworks saves to the editable Fw PNG (file-name.fw-opt.png) format by default, but it can also save to PSD (file-name.psd) and AI (file-name.ai) formats.
(Note: Support for PSD and AI files has some limitations, especially as the features of Photoshop and Illustrator continue to change.)
Pages and Master Page, Layers, States (and Objects)
Nearly all websites and mobile apps have more than one page or screen, and many pages and even many states (or variations) of those pages have to be designed. One of the most powerful features of Fireworks is its ability to contain many pages in a single file, as well as contain many states for both pages and individual objects in a design
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