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Macromedia MX 2004 Unleashed

Macromedia launched its updated Studio MX 2004 to the Web developer world Wednesday, promising customizable controls and tighter cross-product integration with MX components.

The new software suite was announced last month and ties together Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, Flash MX Professional and Fireworks MX. The company also rolled out the latest Flash Player, version 7, on their Web site; officials say it's twice as fast as the previous version.

"As a designer ... we need to get as much bang for the buck out of our development software while constantly pushing the envelope of delivering great experiences for our clients," said Justin Schier, co-founder of Sonik Newmedia. "We have seen the future of the Internet, and it is Macromedia. We use the products in Studio to design and develop every aspect of huge projects, from site design to animation to database connectivity."

The future of MX started last year, when Macromedia first rolled out its integrated suite to the public in April, 2002, following the March merger with server-based application provider Allaire. Macromedia, primarily a client-side authoring tool provider, needed Allaire's expertise to take its applications into the server environment and integrate its functions corporation-wide.

The match has led to critical support for the software suite, and has only gotten louder with the integration upgrades found in MX 2004. Dreamweaver MX 2004, Fireworks MX 2004, and Macromedia Flash MX 2004 have already been picked as a CNET Editors' Choice, and Studio MX 2004 was selected as a "Hot Pick" at this week's Seybold trade show in San Francisco.

Dreamweaver MX 2004, Macromedia's OS-agnostic Web authoring tool, has been super-sized with built-in graphics editing, integration with Microsoft Word and Excel, a validation tool for different types of browsers, and more support for ASP .NET, PHP and ColdFusion server technologies. Officials say they have built a solid foundation for the widespread adoption of cascading style sheets (CSS ), a technology that lets developers and end users make site-wide changes without visiting every page, a process that consumes a lot of bandwidth.

New for Macromedia Flash authors is a spell-checker and global "search and replace" feature for content quality, as well as new CSS support for sites running both Flash and HTML. To give more control to developers, Macromedia has included an extensibility API feature. With it, developers can add 3D effects, animate text, add close-captioning to video and other effects. Once installed, they are always available in the Flash MX Professional 2004 user interface.

"Flash developers have been able to share components and other code snippets in the past, but this new extensibility architecture really opens the doors to many interesting possibilities," said Norm Meyrowitz, Macromedia president of products.

Flash MX Professional 2004 is a new product that officials say provides a "form-based metaphor" to design similar to Visual Basic. It includes encoding tools and lets developers work with a number of video editing product like Avid Xpress, Pinnacle, Apple Final Cut Pro and Anystream Agility. Emulators are also included in the software package to test content on mobile phones and PDAs.

Macromedia bolstered its Fireworks MX 2004 with new tools for effects (motion blur, contour gradients, dashed lines), with increased performance gains of nearly 85 percent in some cases. A new anti-aliasing tool makes it easier to deliver text over different platforms, with Unicode support to create double-btye graphical and alt-text.

Pricing is as follows:

  • Studio MX 2004 - $899 for new users, $399 for an upgrade and $199 for educational customers.
  • DreamWeaver MX 2004 - $399 for new users, $199 for an upgrade and $99 for educational customers.
  • Flash MX 2004 - $499 for new users, $199 for an upgrade and $99 for educational customers.
  • Flash MX Professional 2004 - $699 for new users, $299 for an upgrade and $149 for educational customers.
  • Fireworks MX 2004 - $299 for new users, $149 for an upgrade and $99 for educational customers.