Macromedia Studio MX 2004

Macromedia MX 2004 Macromedia has dominated HTML Web development arena with Macromedia Studio and its linchpin product Dreamweaver. the MX update gave Macromedia a not only a common GUI interface but also uniform macro and configuration capabilities.

MX line had Dreamweaver in a starring role with its revamped interface, extensive server-side behaviours, and expanded site management features among dozens of new capabilities. Flash, also went through extensive interface changes plus enhanced ActionScripting and new components suggested something greater - a full Web client/server development environ as Flash moved firmly from being a primarily graphic designer to rich media developer product. But clearly Flash played second fiddle to Dreamweaver in the MX Studio.

Not this time. The star of MX Studio 2004 is Flash. Look at the numbers and size of improvements and the emergence of a Pro-edition of Flash:
1)Wizards for timeline effects simplify setting up 8 types of animation sequences;
2)CSS support to help establish Flash page or site wide look and feel;
3)Strong PDF and EPS file support with direct mappings into Flash page components;
4)Improved video import with more encoding settings. Also easier video control to manipulate, scale, rotate, skew, mask, and animate video objects,add interactivity using scripting.
5)New Start page and templates for common Flash project types;
6)Improved help system plus spellcheck, find/replace streamlined;
7)Extensibilty of Flash opened to 3rd parties/end users using History Panel & JavaScript API;
8)New graphics capabilities with PolyStar tool, text aliasing control, and bitmap trace features;
9)ActionScript 2 and V2 components draws closer to ECMAScipt standard and industry defaults;
10)2x to 10x speed improvements in ActionScript compiles and Flash 7 player runtimes;
To this Flash Pro edition adds a distinctive visual programming interface:
11)New forms and slide based development added to timeline(see screenshot above);
12)More V2 components using database-aware controls with server-side wizard connections;
13)Project panel and source control for large-shop development;
14)Professional video with 3rd party integration, 3 new media components + greater finishing;
15)Mobile and PDA device development emulators and deployment wizards

Macromedia is working vigourously to maintain control of its Flash franchise as third parties such as eHelp's RoboHelp and RoboDemo or Qarbon's Viewlet Builder offer Flash output with greater ease of animation and demo development. But Macromedia is offering 3rd party integration options which vendors such as Swish, Swift 3D, and others are taking advantage of. Clearly Macromedia is capitalizing on the void created by Microsoft - not going cross platform with its products and interface wizardy other than a half-hearted effort in Mac space plus limited mobile and PDA forays and no no no .. nothing Linux. Having sabotaged Java and DHTML, there is crying need for a cross platform, GUI/rich media client+server interface. And there are many pretenders: XML's SVG+SMIL+XForms+MathML+++, ViewPoint's Metastream, Microsoft's MediaPlayer, Sun's Java. But clearly the leader, Macromedia Flash, has once again enhanced its position with Flash MX 2004.

A Double Not a Home Run

However, the same cannot be said for the remainder of the MX2004 Suite and for that reason we call MX2004 a double not a home run. For example, when Fireworks 2004 touts ever tighter integration, faster speed, red-eye removal and Unicode support as 4 of the top ten reasons to upgrade, developers have to wonder. Maybe 3rd parties like Adobe, Jasc, Ulead will plugin their vastly more improved graphics editors into the MX2004 bus and steal some thunder from Fireworks. Just duplicate and ditto these remarks for Freehand 2004. Meanwhile Cold Fusion Developer edition has gone through a 6.1 version update that makes broad speed, reliability, and runtime performance fixes and upgrades. As well there are a number of lower level coding, component and functionality improvements.

So the bottom line is if you are a Flash developer this is must-have territory, Dreamweaver users wait for our detailed assessment. This one is borderline because of the MIAs - no well-integrated Javascript or PHP debugger, no XML enhancements comparable to the CSS improvements. For Freehand, Fireworks, and Cold Fusion users - you may want to skip this upgrade.

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