Enterprise Application Software: For Web development projects, Studio MX is the stuff of dreams

Macromedia Studio MX 2004

L??ss= "story">Company: Macromedia Inc., San Francisco, www.macromedia.com.

Nutshell: Latest edition of Studio MX includes new versions of Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and FreeHand MX, along with other enhanced features.

Price: Studio MX 2004 is $809 for new users, $359 for upgrades from Studio MX and $449 for up-grades from other eligible products. With Flash Professional, the prices are, respectively, $899, $449 and $539.

Why it won: Integrated toolset makes Web development and site upgrades easier for any user, regardless of expertise.

Whether you're new to Web development or an old pro, Macromedia Studio MX 2004 can give you what you need.

The latest version of Studio MX from Macromedia Inc. is among the most extensive Web development platforms available; any integrator working on a site redesign could benefit from this integrated toolset. It supports all major Web standards and accelerates development of interactive sites and Web applications.

The product boasts some big advances in user and third-party application interfaces.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement from Studio MX 2002 is in the HTML editor application, Dreamweaver MX 2004. For starters, the Insert bar now takes up less space and includes a Favorites category, which you can use to customize objects you use the most.

Likewise, a Save Desktop option let's you reopen the last document you were working on automatically when you restart Dreamweaver.

A well laid-out start page lets users easily create a new file, access used data or go into Dreamweaver options.

When uploading data from a Microsoft Excel or Word document a developer can copy and paste directly into Dreamweaver, which generates the HTML code while preserving the original format.
Dreamweaver 2004 also has a visual feedback option for table editing, which saves time when you're restructuring columns.

With security becoming a more dominant factor, even in Web development, a new secure File Transfer Protocol option lets developers encrypt all file transfers while preventing unauthorized access to the password, files, user names or data during a remote FTP connection.

For the more advanced user, Dreamweaver 2004 comes with a code-view context menu, so you can make quick changes and edits to selected code.

Studio MX 2004 makes laying out cascading style sheets (CCS) easier with a visualization tool. These style sheets are devices for adjusting a document's color, spacing or font size. A Dreamweaver user can select content blocks from the Design view and modify CSS properties.

Dreamweaver now automatically checks the current document a developer is working on for cross-browser compatibility. Once the user specifies the browsers, Dream-weaver checks for CSS or tag conflicts.

Dreamweaver is one of five main applications, which includes a Macromedia version of ColdFusion to create a fast server scripting environment. It comes with an image-editing toolbar, which uses similar technologies, such as Fireworks MX 2004, Studio MX 2004's interactive graphical creating, exporting and editing tool. You can quickly crop, resize, color or resample an image without having to open another application.

In Flash MX 2004, Macromedia focused on increasing productivity by simplifying tasks.
For example, you can now add timeline effects, such as fade-ins, blurs and spins, to any object on the stage.

Hot-key help

Likewise, Flash MX finally supports hot-keys, which eliminate mouse dependency in order to make the interface more accessible to people with limited range of motion.

FreeHand MX, a drawing application for vector graphics, can be scaled and printed at any resolution and often is used to transfer custom logos or images to a Web page.

As a whole, the improvement of Studio MX 2004 from the 2002 version is well worth the $809 to $899 price. The price varies based on professional Flash or standard Flash capabilities.

Upgrades also are an option and well worth the advantages you receive with the newer versions of Studio components.

For government Web designers, not only will you get a lot of powerful tools, you'll also score points for simplicity.

About the Authors

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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