Macromedia Studio 8.
The release of Studio 8 certainly doesn't represent a major change to the look and feel of the suite, as was the case with the release of Studio MX several years ago, but some products have been moved into the suite that had previously been sold separately, and at least one product has been removed. Overall, there are lots of incremental changes that add up to value. You will need to base your upgrade decision on several factors including the last time you upgraded and whether you want to wait and see where the chips fall in the merger. One thing you can be sure of is that Macromedia's final release of Studio still offers the same quality Web development products it offered before being absorbed by Adobe.
WHAT'S IN THE STUDIO?
Studio has some changes in this year's model. In addition to veterans Dreamweaver 8, Flash Professional 8, and Fireworks 8, Macromedia made the wise move of including Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2. This provides a more complete workflow for your staff because Contribute provides a way for non-technical end users to update their Web sites without altering the underlying design, while freeing up the valuable Web development team from undertaking minor edits and changes better suited to the content contributors. FlashPaper, meanwhile, provides a way to embed documents, such as Microsoft Office documents, into Web pages, which load faster than Adobe PDFs. (FlashPaper seems like a likely target for the chopping block, though, because it so clearly is a direct competitor to Acrobat.)
Freehand has been cut from the package, a logical candidate for omission, having never even been given the MX makeover that began in 2002 with the release of Studio MX.
GET INTO THE SUITE
Studio 8 comes with a Windows and Mac dual install disc, providing the team with the ability to develop across the two platforms without having to purchase two different packages. As you would expect in a package with this many programs, it takes up a lot of space, so you shouldn't be surprised that a full install takes an impressive 1.8GB of hard drive space. The package also includes HomeSite 5.5 and ColdFusion MX Developer Edition on a separate disk.
Surprisingly, Adobe has gone back to providing a paper manual, yet does not include a PDF (or FlashPaper) version of the document on the install disks or from the Help menu--a seeming no-brainer--nor does it provide any training videos to get new users oriented, or more experienced users familiar with new functionality. To its credit, the suite install disk includes a series of links to documentation and other resources on the Adobe Web site, and the Help menu in each program includes a detailed list of Help resources with links to some online resources. However, Adobe should have supplied more documentation and training resources with the package on disk, especially for software as expensive and sophisticated as that found in Studio.
You are given the choice of loading Flash or Flash Professional, but in most enterprise environments that use Flash as an application development environment, staff will request the professional version, which provides an avenue to add video in Studio 8. Professional also allows users to develop rich Internet applications and other applications, as well as content across a variety of platforms, including the growing cell phone and PDA content markets. Changes in the latest version include enhanced video support and a more advanced Flash video codec.
Dreamweaver remains the favorite tool for professional developers, and this version adds some new features designed to make more advanced development tasks easier. Adobe has added a fully integrated CSS panel, a move that makes sense; developers don't have to hunt and peck for various elements, making it a more streamlined process. In addition, there is full support for visual XML development that makes it easy to add XML such as RSS feeds to a Web page, and there are also new XML help resources available from well-respected O'Reilly Media, Inc. In addition, technical users will appreciate the enhanced support for WebDAV, which provides a secure way to check files in and out and ensure two staff members are not working on the same piece at the same time. Dreamweaver 8 also provides improved accessibility with support for the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium, building on the accessibility tools that were added in earlier versions of the program.
The addition of Contribute 3 to the Studio 8 package provides a way to have a more complete workflow between the content contributors and the Web site developers. After a design is finalized, Contribute allows content contributors to create content in their tool of choice such as Microsoft Word, then drag and drop it into the site where it is formatted automatically. You can also take advantage of security features to assign flexible privileges such as allowing some users to alter only content, while giving others permission to alter content and graphics. Contribute includes check-in and check-out capabilities and the ability to publish directly to a site or build in an editing workflow where new material is approved before publication.
No one can predict what will happen to the products in the Macromedia and Adobe stables now that the two companies have combined. It only makes sense to assume that, where there are duplicates or direct competitors, a choice will have to be made by corporate powers regarding what to keep and what to toss. This uncertain future creates an uneasy atmosphere for potential consumers and long-time users alike. On the other hand, it seems likely that some powerful future bundles or co-mingled product offerings will emerge through this melding of Adobe and Macromedia. I think it's safe to say that, regardless of what happens, Adobe will continue to support Macromedia products for some time, but until there is an official announcement, it's all speculation. For now, you can rest assured that Adobe's Macromedia Studio 8 (that sounds so strange) still offers some of the top tools in the industry and that the addition of Contribute will enhance its stature and its place in the enterprise Web development workflow.
Create and maintain professional Web sites; update Web sites; build Web site applications, rich internet applications, and vector graphics; embed files into Web pages; create and edit graphics; update Web site content; and much more.
$999 New, $399 Upgrade
Adobe now owns Macromedia and, with it, the venerable Studio software suite. That fact is bound to leave consumers uneasy while trying to figure out which products will survive the merger. For now, know that Macromedia is making a graceful transformation with some sound enhancements to cornerstone programs Dreamweaver 8 and Flash Professional 8. The suite now also includes Contribute 3, a move that makes perfect sense for enterprise users who need a more complete workflow between content contributors and Web site developers.
KEY FEATURES AT A GLANCE
VIDEO SUPPORT IN FLASH
New video encoder provides an easy way to turn video into Flash (.flv) video format.
NOW INCLUDES CONTRIBUTE
With Contribute, you can now have a more complete workflow between content contributors and Web site designers and developers.
VISUAL XML IN DREAMWEAVER
New tools make it easy to integrate XML content such as RSS feeds into a page.
ONE STOP CSS IN DREAMWEAVER
New integrated CSS panel streamlines cascading style sheet design and use.
IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY IN DREAMWEAVER
Supports W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, the latest set of guidelines.
Adobe purchased Macromedia in April, 2005 and finalized the merger in December. Macromedia, a software maker since 1992, claims that more than 80% of Web development professionals use Dreamweaver and that the Flash player is on 98% of computers worldwide. Adobe Systems Incorporated began in 1982 as a desktop publishing company and now boasts some of the industry's most popular digital design tools including PhotoShop, Illustrator, Premiere, AfterEffects, FrameMaker, and Acrobat.
RON MILLER (RONSMILLER@RONSMILLER.COM) IS A FREELANCE TECHNOLOGY WRITER BASED IN MASSACHUSETTS.
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