Macromedia Studio 8 gets productivity boost

Suite of programs promises faster, smoother Web development

Perhaps the most dramatic change in the latest version of Macromedia Studio is the addition of “Adobe” in front of the name. But beyond that, Studio 8 offers incremental changes to the suite’s programs, better workflow and several new features for developers.

Those changes might not have employees clamoring to buy Studio 8 — except, perhaps, for the new video support in Flash. But the suite’s contribution to increased productivity should encourage managers to take a closer look.

If you have not upgraded since Macromedia did a major redesign back in 2002 with Studio MX, it is high time you did. If you have updated your Studio version in the past few years, you will need to decide if the new features are worth the cost.

A little old, a little new

Studio 8 is a suite of programs that lets users design and develop interactive media, Web sites and applications. It includes the 8th version of the mainstays Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. In addition, the latest Studio release includes Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2 for the first time.

Contribute provides a way for nontechnical employees to update Web pages without affecting the underlying design, and FlashPaper is a tool for embedding documents into a Web site. It is high time they were added to the suite. Developers are not likely to miss Freehand, which is no long offered.

The suite comes with a CD of additional content that includes HomeSite 5.5 and ColdFusion MX Developer Edition. It also comes with a paper manual, which I had hoped to find in electronic form on the CD. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there.

Adobe Systems also could have used the CD to provide some training videos and other collateral materials. To be fair, the company offers some of those resources online, but including them with the software would have been helpful.

Studio 8 runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP, or Apple Computer Mac OS 10.3 or higher. The new version requires 1.8G of available disk space. Adobe claims you can get by on 256M of RAM but not if you intend to run more than one Studio program at a time.

What’s new?

Dreamweaver remains the king of Web development, and Adobe has added some nice touches that will continue to endear it to Web developers. Dreamweaver now fully supports Extensible Markup Language development and includes resources from O’Reilly Media to help your employees understand and use XML more effectively.

Government agencies will appreciate the integrated accessibility features, which allow employees to develop content that adheres to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative.

Other small but significant changes include the capability for developers to view or hide different parts of the code they’re developing or editing, an integrated Cascading Style Sheets panel, and a tool that provides a quick way to add video and Flash content to Web sites.

In updating the Studio suite, Adobe put the bulk of its energy into Flash. Developers use the software, which has grown from a vector graphics tool into a full-blown user interface development program, to create interfaces for everything from Web sites to wireless phones.

What’s more, Adobe has developed a technology for compressing and decompressing video data, called a codec, and an integrated toolset for video configuration. The company has also brought back Script Assistant to help people who script in Flash do so with a graphical front end to ensure correct syntax. In addition, developers can have multiple libraries open at the same time, something that wasn’t possible in previous versions and a feature that will surely speed development.

Miller is a freelance writer based in Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at rsmiller@techdochelp.com.

Macromedia Studio 8Adobe Systems
(800) 833-6687
www.adobe.com

Ease of use: ***

Workgroup features: **

Application integration: ***

Price: **

Price: Macromedia Studio 8 costs $999.

Pros: The suite now includes Macromedia Contribute, better accessibility integration and support for Extensible Markup Language in Dreamweaver. It also features new video integration and compression in Flash along with a host of smaller changes to streamline Web development.

Cons: The product might not have enough new features to justify the cost of upgrading. We’d prefer more training and documentation included with the package rather than having to go online to retrieve the bulk of the information.

Test bed: We tested Studio 8 on a Dell Dimension 4600 3 GHz PC with 512M RAM running Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2.

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