May 8, 2013

Well, it’s not quite dead yet, but Adobe has effectively removed all life support from Fireworks, according to this recent press release.

As they transition to an exclusively cloud-based system for Creative Suite, Fireworks CS6 will be included but they “are not planning any further feature development.” All of our copies of Fireworks will continue to work, of course, but at some point down the road we’ll all have to move on to the next piece of software.

At Chapter Three we use Fireworks almost exclusively for design because it’s the only tool in the Creative Suite that was engineered specifically for web design. Multiple pages? Symbols? Text and object styles? An integrated blend of vector and raster? Yep, Fireworks can do it, and there are at least 50 reasons why Fireworks is a better tool than Photoshop for these things.

Fireworks isn’t without its faults, of course. It’s often buggy and can be especially temperamental if you don’t have enough available memory. Over the years it’s become a strange amalgam of Illustrator, Flash, InDesign and Photoshop but still, nobody does it like Fireworks does. It’s gained almost cult-like status among designers, spawning a Meetup group of about 1,400 users in the Bay Area alone.

So what’s next? Some users are lobbying for Adobe to release Fireworks as an open source project (there’s already a petition for this), Adobe is suggesting in vague terms that their Edge Tools will be a solution, and new software is being developed.

Sketch is currently the strongest competitor and has a team of developers actively working to improve it and integrate features that Fireworks offers (like symbols and EPS importing). They’ve posted a direct response to Adobe’s announcement outlining their goals and outlining some of their key features. It’s also on sale for a mere $24 (cheap!) until tomorrow, and they offer a 14-day trial if you’re curious.

I’ve only spent a few minutes with Sketch but I’m excited by its potential. The way it handles vector shapes and bezier curves appears to be much more sophisticated than Fireworks, and the program itself is incredibly lightweight and speedy (the application itself is under 12 MB).

It’s still very young, and there are more features that I need before I can completely make the switch, but their team appears to have a genuine interest in making a great tool for web designers, and that’s an exciting thing.

For now, I’ll continue to use Fireworks, and I’ll start to try Sketch on smaller projects, and keep an eye out for other alternatives. Long live Fireworks!