Why we need a new file format for Fireworks
With this post I’m going to open up a can of worms that’s been going from way back in Fireworks conception. If you’re familiar with Fireworks you know it has a native file format of .PNG for a source Fireworks document. Over the years many have discussed the merits of changing this to something specific to Fireworks.
The current options for saving a source file comes in two flavors, the native .PNG file format or using a prefix method of .fw.png. This prefix method is a bit of a compromise and more a workaround than a real solution. So in this post I’m going to try and put a case together to why I think the file format should be changed.
A little background to the current file format
To understand the discussion lets go back to the beginning of Fireworks, when the spec was created the file extension needed to be as interoperable as possible, that is to say it should be compatible with as many other graphics programs as possible. To achieve this Fireworks adopted the PNG format or more specifically the APNG format that is allowed by the PNG spec to carry ancillary data. This allowed Fireworks source files to be opened up in other graphics programs without relying on extra functionality.
What’s wrong with the PNG format
The oldest problem is the complicated process of having a source file format that can also be a destination (exported PNG) file. As users of Fireworks we will always have to make sure we never overwrite a source file with a flat exported PNG file. Lets be honest we have all done it at some point, granted using the .fw.png prefix makes the process of separating the source and export possible but its still not ideal.
As the prefix method is not a standardized method, working with unfamiliar files we still need to test to see if the file is a PNG source or not. So without a standard unique file format its impossible to be 100% accurate about the contents of a potential Fireworks source file.
CS4 introduced Pages
Ever since the introduction of ‘pages’ in version Fireworks CS4, the effectiveness of the interoperability of the PNG format became compromised. The goal of using the PNG format with Fireworks was to enable other programs to be able open a PNG file and manipulate the contents, even in the simplest fashion. With pages this idea became impossible as any Fireworks document that has more than one page makes those pages inaccessible to an external graphics editor.
Can you send me the PSD
How often after working on something have you heard the phrase ‘Can you send me the PSD’ from a college. This phrase is painful if you’re a Fireworks devotee like me but it’s a good example of how we associate functionality and brand to file formats.
Fireworks has been suffering from this lack of association. If you took a survey of what designers and developers associated with the PNG format, you might find people that associate it with supporting alpha transparency or IE6 didn’t support this transparency, you may find a few people that know its the source file format for Fireworks. The problem is that the brand and functional association to a source PNG file is messy at best and non existent at worst.
I don’t know what Adobe has planned for Fireworks in the future but I hope they can see the merit of changing the file format to something unique. Lets see how Fireworks popularity performs if we give it that unique identity that it deserves now that the old reason for keeping the PNG format are no longer true.
My personal preference is change the file format to .fwd because is an acronym of Fireworks Document and it is short form for ‘Forward’, but this is my own opinion so let me know in the poll below what your favorite file format would be.