Adobe have made the new Fireworks CS4 beta download available, and the good news is anyone with Fireworks CS3 — either standalone or as part of the web suites — can take it for a spin.
- You’ll need to have an account at Adobe and login.
- You’ll then be directed to the download page. The downloads are 336 MB for the Win version and 633 MB for the Mac.
- Once installed and launched, you’ll be asked for a serial number. Warning: This is NOT your current CS3 serial (which is what I tried originally). You’ll have to go to this page, enter your CS3 serial, and then you’ll be issued with a new Fireworks CS4 serial to enter into the app.
Maybe it’s just me, but when you’re told you’ll need your old serial number, and soon after an ‘Enter your serial here’ screen pops up, it seems perfectly logical to enter your old serial there — which, of course, failed and left me feeling silly.
I backtracked and figured it out, but I bet others are making similar mistakes — and flooding Adobe support. Perhaps issuing the new serial THEN offering the download would be a better process. Once the download has begun, I’d imagine most people would leave the Adobe site — sans serial number.
The first thing you notice on launch is the new interface. Adobe have gone with the monochrome icons on light charcoal. It gives everything a very cohesive look, but I found myself taking longer to locate some tools — for instance, the ‘Crop’ and ‘Export Area’ tools share a button and look very similar without the red and blue of the CS3 icons.
Adobe have also followed the growing trend of ignoring the OS chrome in favor of their own custom application interface. Apart from the fact that I can’t see any advantages to the user in doing this, it’s very much a hit and miss affair in this beta, with OS-styled dropdowns and panels mixing with Adobe tabs and dialogs. Seems more like a ‘good for Adobe’ than a ‘good for user’ decision, but I’d be happy to hear the reasoning behind it.
Anyhoo, I’ve only been poking around in it for a little while, but two really nice new features are apparent.
Improved Type Engine
Firstly, the Adobe Type Engine has been integrated into Fireworks CS4, which gives Fireworks users access to properly designed bold, italics and other font variants when they are available. Up till now, Fireworks has only offered a ‘programmatically generated’ bolding and italicization.
As the example above shows, this is better than nothing, but gives an inferior result every time.
Improved Path Editing
The other new feature I’m really enjoying is the new path editing panel. I’ve used Fireworks as an illustration tool for years because it has such a great balance of vector and pixels, but this new panel really adds some more punch to the vector editing side. Along with the standard punch/crop/unite and scale and rotate functions, the new panel adds stuff like path extrusion, path blending (my wishlist feature — thanks Alan), fisheye, deform to path, invert shape and point selection tools to the toolbox.
Although some of these tools have been available before via extensions, the new panel pulls it all together into a much more coherent working environment.
I’ll write up a more comprehensive run-down when I know more, but things are looking good at this point.