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#1 Bill Gregg

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Posted 18 March 2007 - 01:25 PM

I've been using Fireworks for a few months now to do my web design. The decision to migrate to Fireworks wasn't mine, but was made by the workgroup that I belong to. Anyway, I'm not completely in love with Fireworks--in a number of ways it feels cumbersome or unpolished to me. In fact, I've come up with a pretty extensive wishlist.

I realize my needs and expectations may be a little different from most users. First of all, my workgroup doesn't do typical web design. Everything follows strict corporate branding guidelines, there aren't a lot of graphics and most of what you'll need to design a page or web app has already been created and can be found in the Library of the template we use. What we're expected to provide is more like usability design than whiz-bang visual design. Also, we normally don't output any files for actual use on the website. We do what are essentially drawings of interfaces and other people refer to them to build the pages.

Second, most users seem to compare Fireworks with Photoshop. Some of my colleagues have come to Fireworks from Photoshop, but it seems to me Photoshop is about as well-suited to web design as, oh, Microsoft Excel. (I've seen people do page layout in Excel--it can be done after a fashion.) I compare Fireworks with the drawing apps, FreeHand and Illustrator, and especially FreeHand because until recently that's where I did my design work. If you're not slicing anything or providing any files that will ever sit on a web server, it works very well. There's a library for objects, real style sheets that you can set up to match CSS, layers, full control over text and paths, and multiple pages in a single file. A lot of the wishlist is made up of capabilities I had in FreeHand that I find I can't match in Fireworks.

So with that in mind, here's my Fireworks wishlist, which I've also passed along to Adobe. Some of these suggestions may be made obsolete by version 9, and some may reflect my relative ignorance of and inexperience with Fireworks.

1. Please, please, let me turn off the pixels! There should be an option allowing the user to turn off the pixel grid that Fireworks currently makes you view everything through. Sometimes, heck, very often, I need more precision than that view will allow. Granted we're not there yet, but as operating systems become resolution-independent (Mac OS 10.5) and monitors begin to support resolutions much higher than 72 pixels per inch, pixels will gradually become less relevant anyway.

2. Am I the only person getting strange results when using the Align palette? For some reason about 25% of the time it just doesn't align the selected objects properly--it moves them but not into any kind of alignment that I can discern. This is so basic it makes me wonder whether I'm missing something. I have no problems aligning things in Flash, Quark, InDesign, PageMaker, FreeHand or Illustrator. This isn't rocket science--graphics apps have been aligning objects accurately and predictably since Reagan was president. Why can't Fireworks?

[Note: I've played with the alignment panel some more. It seems that the problem has to do with grouped objects, and maybe just grouped text objects. It occurs when I use the subselection tool to select some text boxes within a group and then try to align them. If I ungroup the text boxes completely, they align correctly.]

3. Support for tabbed text. You just can't do bulleted lists right without tabs, and bulleted lists are everywhere in business communication. Inevitably they show up on websites.

4. Graphic style sheets! No reason to go into this again. See my earlier rant in this same forum on this topic.

5. Make selection work more logically when dragging objects. In a drawing app, if a text object is selected and a path is partially selected (some points selected, others not), you can drag the points and the text object will move, or vice versa. For some reason in Fireworks the whole path moves if the text object is dragged and the text object stays where it is if the points are dragged. But if you nudge with the keyboard, both the points and the text object move as I would expect (and prefer)! The inconsistency of this behavior is confusing, inexplicable and just makes life harder. What were they thinking?

6. There should be an autoexpand option for text objects (text boxes) as in FreeHand. I find I spend way too much time in Fireworks adjusting the size of text boxes because I've edited the text and now it doesn't fit the text box and is wrapping onto a second line. Or you'd like to center some text with the cell or field it's supposed to be inside of, but you can't because the text box is oversized. Having the ability to set text boxes to autoexpand (and 'autocontract') would eliminate some of this tedious busywork.

[Note: It's been brought to my attention that this option does exist, at least in part. If you click to create a text box, it becomes an autoexpanding text box, but if you create it by dragging the text tool and defining a rectangle, it becomes a fixed-width text box. But I'd still like it to be a text box property so you could change it after the text box is created.]

7. The ability to align and distribute points comes in handy sometimes, especially when you're trying to get two objects to butt up against each other cleanly. If you can select points, why shouldn't you be able to align them? Perhaps Adobe thinks this would cross the line into drawing app territory. I don't care--I could use it in Fireworks.

8. The Clone command is a great feature, potentially much more useful than the Duplicate command, but its usefulness in Fireworks is compromised. When you clone an object that is part of a group in Fireworks, the cloned object remains part of the group. Normally you're cloning an object so you can use it somewhere else on the page, and you may not even be aware that the object is part of a group since you're using the subselection tool to select it. Later for some reason you have to move the original group and, voila, the cloned object is moving along with it! A great, if minor, example of bad software design.

9. If you're going to include the Clone command, why not make it really useful and have it work in combination with a step-and-repeat feature, as in FreeHand? It's a great time saver for creating an array of objects. Might as well put some of that FreeHand code to good use since they're gonna kill it off anyway.

10. All fill and stroke properties should be in a single location for each (or maybe even one for both?) that's accessible with one button click. I don't care too much whether it's in an old-school dialog, a panel or a pop-up thingy coming from the Properties panel as it currently is. It takes two clicks to get to the advanced stroke properties or to edit gradient colors, and they're in separate pop-up boxes from the other stroke and fill properties. It feels clunky and poorly thought out.

Another problem with the current set-up is that once you're done editing the Advanced Stroke Options and you hit the enter key, you end up with the stroke options pop-up still displayed. My inclination is to hit enter again to try to make it go away, but doing that reopens the Advanced Stroke Options box. If you're going to put controls two-layers deep, at least design them so users can back out of them easily and quickly.

11. AutoKern is buggy. If this is option selected sometimes text will wrap to a size smaller than the bounding box. The box seems unaffected, but the text seems to be wrapping to some imaginary box much smaller than the visible box. Turn AutoKern off and everything's okay. Why have a feature if it doesn't work reliably?

12. In symbol-editing windows, there should be two buttons: "OK" and "Cancel", not just "Done". There may be times when you get distracted and you're not sure what you've done to the symbol and want to start over, or don't want to keep the changes you've made but you've have done too much to undo.

13. You should be able to enter the frame number in the frame number display at the bottom of the document window, hit enter and go to that frame. Maybe pages will work that way in version 9.

14. The Properties window should display the name of the selected symbol as in Flash, not just "Symbol". It strikes me as odd that it displays the number of top-level objects within a group, which seems a little arcane and in my experience isn't that useful. But knowing at a glance which symbol you have selected would be helpful sometimes.

15. I find sometimes I mess up and end up with two symbols with the same name in the Library. I can't think of any reason why allowing two symbols with the same name in the same file would be a good thing.

16. I would love to see better performance when selecting a large number of objects. Drag-select everything on a page with, oh, 200 or 300 vector and text objects on it, a not uncommon situation in our files, and five seconds or more can go by before all the handles show up and the document is editable again. This is on a two-year-old HP laptop that in most other respects, including Photoshop work, feels reasonably zippy. Fireworks 8 is almost unusable on my four-year-old PowerBook for this same reason. I might be inclined to think that this is just the price you pay for working with a large number of objects, but Illustrator and FreeHand handle it much more gracefully.

[Note: I hesitate to make too big a deal out of performance, since so often application performance issues have to do with a particular hardware configuration, the OS it's being run on, preferences selected, etc. But most actions I perform in Fireworks seems a little sluggish to me compared with other graphics applications on this same machine. It makes it a bit frustrating to use.]

17. Why is dragging objects while constraining the movement with the shift key so slow? Drag something with the shift key down and it starts out normally, but then slows to a crawl. (I have the Preview Drag option turned off in Preferences, but it happens with it turned on as well.) Keep dragging and keep depressing the shift key and movement slows almost to a halt. Release the mouse button and the objects will continue to creep along for several seconds more (sometimes 15 or 20 seconds on my machine) before they come to a rest. Is this just a bug on my system?

[Note: I guess that's what I get for not restarting Fireworks for several days. The sluggish constrained dragging went away on restart. I've seen it before, though. It may just be something that happens on my system when Fireworks stays open too long.]

18. Sorry, one more--reaching a little higher on this one. I don't know how typical of users in general this is, but we have to deal with tables day in and day out, and to a lesser extent, charts and graphs. Currently we create all table cells as rectangular paths (or sometimes a combination of long rectangular paths for rows and vertical lines marking columns) with separate little text boxes inside each one. It's workable, but far from ideal.

It would be wonderful to have Fireworks recognize tabular data and charts as special kinds of symbols. They would probably require dedicated symbol-editing windows. The only model that comes to mind at the moment is the chart-editing module in FreeHand, which could be had for cheap. The table editor could a simple little spreadsheetlike window that would incorporate some formatting options and, in a perfect world, accept data pasted from Excel or imported from a tab-delimited text file..

#2 Alan

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 10:14 AM

I've been using Fireworks for a few months now to do my web design. The decision to migrate to Fireworks wasn't mine, but was made by the workgroup that I belong to. Anyway, I'm not completely in love with Fireworks--in a number of ways it feels cumbersome or unpolished to me. In fact, I've come up with a pretty extensive wishlist.

I realize my needs and expectations may be a little different from most users. First of all, my workgroup doesn't do typical web design. Everything follows strict corporate branding guidelines, there aren't a lot of graphics and most of what you'll need to design a page or web app has already created and can be found in the Library of the template we use. What we're expected to provide is more like usability design than whiz-bang visual design. Also, we normally don't output any files for actual use on the website. We do what are essentially drawings of interfaces and other people build the pages.

Second, most users seem to compare Fireworks with Photoshop. Some of my colleagues have come to Fireworks from Photoshop, but it seems to me Photoshop is about as well-suited to web design as, oh, Microsoft Excel. I compare Fireworks with the drawing apps, FreeHand and Illustrator, and especially FreeHand because until recently that's where I did my design work. If you're not slicing anything or providing any files that will ever sit on a web server, it works very well. There's a library for objects, real style sheets that you can set up to match CSS, layers, full control over text and paths, and multiple pages in a single file. A lot of the wishlist is made up of capabilities I had in FreeHand that I find I can't match in Fireworks.

So with that in mind, here's my Fireworks wishlist, which I've also passed along to Adobe. Some of these suggestions may be made obsolete by version 9, and some may reflect my relative ignorance of and inexperience with Fireworks.

1. Please, please, let me turn off the pixels! There should be an option allowing the user to turn off the pixel grid that Fireworks currently makes you view everything through. Sometimes, heck, very often, I need more precision than that view will allow. Granted we're not there yet, but as operating systems become resolution-independent (Mac OS 10.5) and monitors begin to support resolutions much higher than 72 pixels per inch, pixels will gradually become less relevant anyway.

2. Am I the only person getting strange results when using the Align palette? For some reason about 25% of the time it just doesn't align the selected objects properly--it moves them but not into any kind of alignment that I can discern. This is so basic it makes me wonder whether I'm missing something. I have no problems aligning things in Flash, Quark, InDesign, PageMaker, FreeHand or Illustrator. This isn't rocket science--graphic apps have been aligning objects accurately and predicatbly since Reagan was president. Why can't Fireworks?

3. Support for tabbed text. You just can't do bulleted lists right without tabs, and bulleted lists are everywhere in business communication. Inevitably they show up on websites.

4. Graphic style sheets! No reason to go into this again. See my earlier rant in this same forum on this topic.

5. Make selection work more logically when dragging objects. In a drawing app, if a text object is selected and a path is partially selected (some points selected, others not), you can drag the points and the text object will move, or vice versa. For some reason in Fireworks the whole path moves if the text object is dragged and the text object stays where it is if the points are dragged. But if you nudge with the keyboard, both the points and the text object move as I would expect! This behavior is confusing, inexplicable and just makes life harder. What were they thinking?

6. There should be an autoexpand option for text objects (text boxes) as in FreeHand. I find I spend way too much time in Fireworks adjusting the size of text boxes because I've edited the text and now it doesn't fit the text box and is wrapping onto a second line. Or you'd like to center some text with the cell or field it's supposed to be inside of, but you can't because the text box is oversized. Having the ability to set text boxes to autoexpand (and 'autocontract') would eliminate some of this tedious busywork.

7. The ability to align and distribute points comes in handy sometimes, especially when you're trying to get two objects to butt up against each other cleanly. If you can select points, why shouldn't you be able to align them? Perhaps Adobe thinks this would cross the line into drawing app territory. I don't care--I could use it in Fireworks.

8. The Clone command is a great feature, potentially much more useful than the Duplicate command, but its usefulness in Fireworks is compromised. When you clone an object that is part of a group in Fireworks, the cloned object remains part of the group. Normally you're cloning an object so you can use it somewhere else on the page, and you may not even be aware that the object is part of a group since you're using the subselection tool to select it. Later for some reason you have to move the original group and, voila, the cloned object is moving along with it! A great, if minor, example of bad software design.

9. If you're going to include the Clone command, why not make it really useful and have it work in combination with a step-and-repeat feature, as in FreeHand? It's a great time saver for creating an array of objects. Might as well put some of that FreeHand code to good use since they're gonna kill it off anyway.

10. All fill and stroke properties should be in a single location for each (or maybe even one for both?) that's accessible with one button click. I don't care too much whether it's in an old-school dialog, a panel or a pop-up thingy coming from the Properties panel as it currently is. It takes two clicks to get to the advanced stroke properties or to edit gradient colors, and they're in separate pop-up boxes from the other stroke and fill properties. It feels clunky and poorly thought out.

Another problem with the current set-up is that once you're done editing the Advanced Stroke Options and you hit the enter key, you end up with the stroke options pop-up still displayed. My inclination is to hit enter again to try to make it go away, but doing that reopens the Advanced Stroke Options box. If you're going to put controls two-layers deep, at least design them so users can back out of them easily and quickly.

11. AutoKern is buggy. If this option selected sometimes text will wrap to a size smaller than the bounding box. The box seems unaffected, but the text seems to be wrapping to some imaginary box much smaller than the visible box. Turn AutoKern off and everything's okay. Why have a feature if it doesn't work reliably?

12. In symbol-editing windows, there should be two buttons: "OK" and "Cancel", not just "Done". There may be times when you get distracted and you're not sure what you've done to the symbol and want to start over, or don't want to keep the changes you've made but you've have done too much to undo.

13. You should be able to enter the frame number in the frame number display at the bottom of the document window, hit enter and go to that frame. Maybe pages will work that way in version 9.

14. The Properties window should display the name of the selected symbol as in Flash, not just "Symbol". It strikes me as odd that it displays the number of top-level objects within a group, which seems a little arcane and in my experience isn't that useful. But knowing at a glance which symbol you have selected would be helpful sometimes.

15. I find sometimes I mess up and end up with two symbols with the same name in the Library. I can't think of any reason why allowing two symbols with the same name in the same file would be a good thing.

16. I would love to see better performance when selecting a large number of objects. Drag-select everything on a page with, oh, 200 or 300 vector and text objects on it, a not uncommon situation in our files, and five seconds or more can go by before all the handles show up and the document is editable again. This is on a two-year-old HP laptop that in most other respects, including Photoshop work, feels reasonably zippy. Fireworks 8 is almost unusable on my four-year-old PowerBook for this same reason. I might be inclined to think that this is just the price you pay for working with a large number of objects, but Illustrator and FreeHand handle it much more gracefully.


Wow, thanks Bill! This is awesome feedback!

#3 Gordon

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 03:15 PM

Regarding complaint No1 - did you look at View/Grid/Show Grid ? - i havent looked at the others as yet :) ...

#4 Bill Gregg

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 04:06 PM

"Pixel grid" is kind of an odd term, I guess. I was talking about Fireworks' requirement that everything be viewed as pixels, not the background grid that you can turn on and off.

Since we're dealing with vectors anyway, why not allow viewing clean, precise, pixel-free text and paths? The current pixel view could be an option that you turn on and off--off when you want to do precision work, on when you want to immerse yourself in the full 72-pixel-per-inch viewing experience.

#5 Alan

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 10:22 AM

"Pixel grid" is kind of an odd term, I guess. I was talking about Fireworks' requirement that everything be viewed as pixels, not the background grid that you can turn on and off.

Since we're dealing with vectors anyway, why not allow viewing clean, precise, pixel-free text and paths? The current pixel view could be an option that you turn on and off--off when you want to do precision work, on when you want to immerse yourself in the full 72-pixel-per-inch viewing experience.


All valid points Bill and we understand what you mean by previewing pixels vs. vectors. There could be pixel in-accuracies that may occur, but definitely something that should be investigated by the fw team.

#6 Bill Gregg

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 12:04 PM

I have a sinking feeling this might be viewed by Adobe as a key product differentiator that keeps Fireworks from being too much like a drawing app and forces people to buy a copy of Illustrator to go with their Fireworks and Photoshop. I can see a big, spreadsheetlike grid o' features on a wall at Adobe with execs making sure each product has its own distinctive feature set. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at some of these internal discussions.

#7 so1980==MikeTaylor

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 12:43 PM

I have a sinking feeling this might be viewed by Adobe as a key product differentiator that keeps Fireworks from being too much like a drawing app and forces people to buy a copy of Illustrator to go with their Fireworks and Photoshop. I can see a big, spreadsheetlike grid o' features on a wall at Adobe with execs making sure each product has its own distinctive feature set. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at some of these internal discussions.


OK Alan, go put your spy-camera to use and take a snapshot of that spreadsheet! :cop:

#8 Jim Voorhies

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 09:33 AM

I'll add one thing to Bill's list - it's not a Fireworks feature in the software sense of things but it's a "boss whose people use Fireworks" kind of thing.

All Adobe products, except Fireworks, can be purchased under a subscription and maintenance program. I buy a subscription for x number of licenses that covers a two-year period. It costs me somewhere (depending on the product) between $80 and $130 each license. But for those two years in the contract, I know for sure that my people will have each and every upgrade that comes out when it comes out and, if that wasn't enough, I've also gotten two years of software expenses in the budget and completely covered. It's a managers twofer.

After the merger, Fireworks was made a boxed product only - no subscription. That made everyone I work for highly suspicious as to whether Fireworks would continue to be offered or not. Even after I got Danielle to say it would still be around on a conference call, there were holdover concerns. Put it back on subscription, Adobe. When you help your customers plan ahead, you help yourself.

#9 pingdani

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 01:05 PM

Jim -- Although I cannot comment on specific Fireworks configurations until after our announce next Tuesday (27 March) it is safe to say that Fireworks CS3 will be available in all the classic volume and channel scenarios you'd expect of a standard Adobe Creative Suite product.