Photoshop 5.5 vs. Fireworks 2
I  N  T  E  R  A  C  T  I  V  E    D  E  S  I  G  N    F  O  R  U  M 
Issue 4    |   October 1999 

[June 2000 update: Fireworks is now in version 3, and by many reports is much improved over version 2 reviewed here. Also, my comments deal primarily with the image-optimization functions of Fireworks vs. Photoshop. New web-design capabilities in Fireworks 3 may be more important to you. That said, this review may still be of interest.]

Better, smaller, faster
Which software does the best job?

OK, let me make this clear from the get-go: this is not a comprehensive, full-feature review of either Photoshop 5.5 from Adobe, or Fireworks 2 from Macromedia. To be fair to both, you ought to read real reviews in the computer magazines and online. Try:

CNET   [Photoshop]   [Fireworks]
ZDNet  [Photoshop]   [Fireworks (v.1 only)]

Now that you understand that, I can tell you that after using Fireworks to prepare graphics for an earlier issue of Interactive Design Forum and then switching to Photoshop 5.5 for this issue, I doubt that I'll ever open Fireworks again.

Macromedia calls Fireworks: "The premier production tool for creating web graphics, [with] features that can save hours by simplifying the web-graphic production workflow."

Until Adobe released Photoshop 5.5 that may have been true, but I think you'll find that if you compare them today, PS has matched or bested the features that gave FW its earlier claim to fame.

The main thing I'm looking for is to be able to create GIF or JPEG graphic files for the web that look good and are as small as possible. Both PS and FW do this in a similar way, allowing you to preview 1, 2 or 4 versions of the graphic saved in different formats & settings. Each has an interface that allows you to see and/or adjust all the important factors: format, color depth, file size, download time, etc.

I prefer the PS interface mostly for its larger previews, but there are subtle differences that make it easier to work with. Maybe it's because I use PS so much already, that I prefer that work environment. You'll notice the differences on these screen shots:

[Photoshop Save for Web screen] (21k)
[Fireworks Export screen] (22k)  

I tried saving 3 or 4 different source images using both PS and FW. In general, the quality of the resulting files was similar overall with GIFs. File sizes were nearly identical.

With JPEGs, PS seems to give better quality at lower settings, yielding smaller files. To match the visual quality of most PS JPEGs I had to set the quality higher in FW, making the files noticeably larger (10-20% or more).

In the end, though, I realize that there's not a huge edge in quality for PS, though there is a definite difference. The real advantage comes in staying in the same program from initial scan to final output. Although FW has some image creation features, they are nowhere near those of PS.

Adobe has countered the web-specific features of FW (image slicing, rollover creation, etc.), by including ImageReady with PS. You access it by clicking on an icon on the PS toolbar and you can switch back and forth (if you have enough RAM to run both simultaneously) to accomplish what FW offers and more.

To sum up, if you already use Photoshop to create images, the v5.5 upgrade is all you need, in my book. If you use some other image processing software (does anyone?) and you want help in creating images specifically for the web, Fireworks will do fine.

And if you do much web work and you're still using Photoshop's Export as GIF89a or Save As JPEG commands, run right out and buy either one of these, for crying out loud! You're wasting lots of time and getting poorer results to boot.

But why believe me...see for yourself.

Macromedia offers a great 30-day fully-functional demo. Adobe offers a save-disabled version of PS5.5.


[Top]  |  [Back to start]  |  [About this site]  |  [Email]



visits since Oct.10, 1999