Tutorials, extensions, and source files for ActionScript, Flash, and other Adobe products.


Fireworks: The Things You Might Have Missed

Tween Symbols for Duplication

Another use of symbols is for duplication. Fireworks lets you duplicate copies of symbols between two selected symbols if those symbols are the same symbol. So, for example, if you have a vertical menu of 20 buttons all of which use the same button symbol, all you need to do is have two of those button symbols, one at the top at the position of the first button and one at the bottom at the position of the last. Then select them both and use Modify > Symbol > Tween Instances... to create copies of the symbol for the remaining 18 buttons which will be evenly distributed between the two selected. This also works for Other transformations other than position such as rotation and scale. Rotation, however, is always center-based. You can work around that behavior though.

Rotation with tweening is inherently based on a symbol's absolute visual center. This means that if you tween two instances of symbols that cause the copies to be rotated, rotation will be based on the center of the object as you "see" it on the screen and not the actual registration point or coordinate center of the actual symbol itself. To counter this, though, you can create a simple shape with no fill or stroke (or just any invisible object) which can be used as a type of counter-weight which will allow you to offset the position of rotation as it will be used by Fireworks to determine the center of the symbol for rotation.

Moving While Drawing

Often drawn elements such as shapes and marquees (especially marquees and especially round marquees and especially especially when drawn as an additive or subtractive process) can be drawn but not exactly in the place you had hoped it had been when you had first started drawing it. For example, you may be trying to cut out a wheel with a circular marquee. Judging where to click to start your marquee can be a challenge, and often, you won't know how far off you are until you're done dragging your marquee shape. If you are off, however, you won't need to start again if you use the spacebar to move your marquee to adjust its position as you draw it. This works not only for marquees but other shapes as well (it is basically equivalent to using the hand tool).

Quickly Access System Color Picker

Color selection in Fireworks is weak. When selecting a color with Fireworks's color picker, however, you can quickly access your system's color picker by hitting your spacebar once Fireworks's color picker is opened. This happens because in the Fireworks color picker, the button representing the system color picker is focused by default. Pressing spacebar simply "clicks" that button quickly opening the system color picker for you without needing to click on it with your mouse.

Quickly Zoom 100% or Fit to Screen

To quickly zoom into a document at 100% scale, all you need to do is double-click on the Zoom tool in the toolbar (a key command equivalent is CTRL+1). To zoom into a document to fit the extents of your screen, you can double-click on the Hand tool in the toolbar (a key command equivalent is CTRL+0).

Taking Advantage of Fireworks Libraries

Symbols in Fireworks provide means for quick and easy re-use of like elements (among other wonderful things). These elements can also be shared across files. Those which you use often can be stored for convenient access in a library. Your current libraries are accessible through Edit > Libraries > ... You can create more by creating a file with your commonly used symbols and saving that file in
...\Macromedia\Fireworks MX 2004\Configuration\Libraries\
That file is then a "library" and all its symbols will be accessible when its selected from the files menu.

Paste Attributes

This option is available through Edit > Paste Attributes. What it does is allows you to paste the attributes (line, fill, effects) of whatever it is you have copied to the clipboard to your current Fireworks selection. This is a great and easy way to copy effects among multiple objects at once.

Masking "as inside"

Many of you are probably familiar with pasting inside of things. But did you know that all this is, is a form of masking? In fact, its simply masking with the mask remaining visible. Fireworks even lets you toggle between this kind of masking and normal masking through the property inspector. Just select your mask and if its a path mask, the option Show Fill and Stroke will be available in the property inspector. Toggle it on and off to toggle between a paste inside or normal masking. (Note: This behavior is also for bitmap masks though FW currently doesn't provide that option in the property inspector for them.

Vector Shapes for Bitmap Marquees

Marquees on the whole can be difficult to create and even more difficult to alter once they're made. And saving them for future use? Not an easy or manageable task. However, what you can do is use a vector path to create marquees. Vector paths are easy to create and edit and will exist indefinitely until you delete them. To use a vector path as a marquee, just create your path over your bitmap giving it a solid fill and no line. Then, hide that path and select your bitmap. Next, all you have to do is hold control and select the path in the layers panel and your selection is created. Easily edit and alter your path as needed for future selections.

Path Scrubber Tools

Sadly, these are the only tools completely inaccessible through keyboard shortcuts (for some unknown reason). They exist as sub tools of Firework's freeform tool. What they do is allow you to alter speed and pressure properties of a vector path. What are these you ask? These are properties of a path that you might recognize with an airbrush line drawn with a stylus. With Fireworks, though, you can get the same effects with your mouse. Though mice cant create pressure for lines, path scrubber tools can. Simply select a line and scrub it with the (+) or (-) path scrubber tool to add or remove speed or pressure to parts of that line just as you might get with a stylus/Wacom tablet. Note: Be sure to use a stroke type that supports pressure/speed or go into the advanced options for your current stroke and adjust sensitivity settings for it yourself - advanced stroke options, a place where a lot of useful stroke options may go overlooked. A stroke style that supports the scrubber tools will not have Spacing and Flow rate greyed out in the Advanced stroke settings.

The Text Editor

When creating text in Fireworks, you may find it useful to use the built-in text editor rather than creating the text directly within your document. Access the editor through Text > Editor... It offers all the text options available in the property inspector and more. On top of that (and this is my reason for using it) is that the you can easily thumb through fonts in its font selection pull-down using the arrow keys where the property inspector does not allow this. It can also help when dealing with large amounts of text that cause Fireworks to perform slowly when editing directly within the document. Just edit it within the text editor with the apply check box turned off.

Selective JPEG Quality

JPEG images can have areas which are compressed at different rates than the rest of the image. That means you can have sensitive areas of an image be less compressed than others where quality is not that important. In Fireworks, create these "selective" areas with marquees then go up to Modify > Selective JPEG > Save Selection as JPEG Mask. Now, in your Optimize panel, you can enable selective JPEG compression (if not already) and create a different compression level for that area. This is a great way to maximize compression and quality for your JPEG images.

Single Layer Editing

Dealing with a lot of objects in a Fireworks composition? Having trouble selecting some elements because others get in the way? Do you find yourself spending a lot of time locking and unlocking layers so that you are only selecting objects in the current layer? Lock no more, use single layer editing which makes it so only those objects in the current layer are selectable. To enable this, select it from the Layer panel's panel menu.

Scale Attributes

When you scale objects with effects on them, the effects added scale with object itself. So, if you have a glow on an object and that glow's width setting is 10, if you scale that object down 50%, that glow's new width will be 5. You can enable or disable this behavior by toggling the scale attributes option available from the info panel's panel menu.

Hiding Selection Edges

By default, all selected objects are given an outlining border to show that they are selected (and to represent their shape or bounds in the document). This is a great feature but it can sometimes get in the way, especially for smaller objects and especially when you are trying to keep track of the object being previewed during the application of an effect. You can quickly and easily disable this feature by hitting F9 or using View > Hide Edges.

Reset Fill Handles

Double-click on any fill handle to reset that fill, or re-apply the fill using the fill tool with a double-click (a single click will reposition, the second click will reset).

Repeat Your Actions

If you perform repetitious actions that can be reused, open your history panel (Window > History), find your history steps, select them, and use the save option to save them to a command which then becomes available in your Commands menu. These can also be used in batch operations for altering multiple files in one shot.

HTML Slices

Normally you consider everything Fireworks to eventually be outputted as bitmap or some sort of image. However, don't forget that Fireworks also supports HTML slices. When you have a slice selected, use the property inspector to change its type from Image to HTML and you can specify what HTML will go in that slice upon HTML export. This will replace any image that would have gone there otherwise.

Replace Colors (or Text)

Fireworks has a Find panel (Window > Find) that might not go overlooked if Fireworks was a word processor. Fireworks, however, is used for creating images, so a find feature might seem pretty useless. The Find panel for Fireworks, however, is quite useful. It not only finds and replaces text, but also colors--and not just strokes or fills, colors in effects as well. It can be very useful for quickly and easily changing the entire color scheme of a full Fireworks document.

Subselect and Superselect

When you have objects in Fireworks grouped, you are able to select the objects individually using the subselect tool. The downside of subselect tool is that it selects the bottom-most object within a group. For example, if you have two square's grouped together and then group a circle to that group, the subselect tool will not be able to select the group of squares, only each individual square within it. Subselection, however, is also an operation that is available in the Select Menu using Select > Subselect (CTRL+LEFT). Using subselect in this manner, you can select all items that are directly contained within your currently selected group. That means using Select > Subselect with the group containing the circle and the group of squares will select the circle and the squares' group, not the circle and the squares individually. Use Select > Subselect again and the individual squares will be selected.

The opposite of subselect is superselect. You can access superselect through Select > Superselect (CTRL+RIGHT). Superselect selects the group that the current selection is contained within. This means that if you select a single square using the subselect tool in the group described above, superselect would select the group that contains both squares. Since subselect (the command) selects everything within a group, if you wanted to select just the group of the two squares in the circle-squares group, the easiest way to do that is to select a single square with the subselect tool and superselect into selecting the group it's within. Superselect is really the way to go for selecting any group that's within a group. Just select a single element you know is within the group you want to select (even if nested in other groups) and use CTRL+RIGHT until the group you need is selected.

Moving Selections to Layers in the Layers Panel

Organization can play an important role in using Fireworks. Layers are an important aspect of that organization and the Layers panel lets you organize your layers. You probably already know you can move selected objects to different layers just by dragging them, but what you may not have known is that you can do this without dragging at all and, instead, using a simple, single click. To the left of each layer's name there is a box that shows your selection. If the layer has objects selected within it, this box is filled with a small colored square (usually blue, but based on your preferences highlight color). with whatever selection you have, if you click on an empty selection box of a layer not containing objects within your selection, all objects in your selection will move to that layer, just as they would if you dragged them there. This not only saves you from dragging anything, it also makes layer changes convenient when your layers are collapsed, something which can be invaluable when your document may contain many objects in many layers.

Document Double

When working on fine details of an image at a large scale, it may be helpful to see a full size of the image to get a perspective on the edits being made. You can get this easily using Window > Duplicate Window in Fireworks. This creates a clone of your current document. Editing either will show changes in the other immediately. You can use these to preview your document at 2 different sizes at once or even to have an always present export preview of your document visible at all times.