Why we need a new file format for Fireworks

Posted in Resources > Culture by Firetuts

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.

Future

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.

What file format would you like for the future of Fireworks

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There're 16 comments for this post.
  1. I think fw.png is fine for telling the difference between source files. The “Send me a PSD” thing is never going to go away sadly.

    .png must stay though, so Windows Explorer can show preview thumbs. Quite handy.

  2. gejoreni on said:

    ^^^ the math is killing me

    I think the .png makes fireworks unique in a way that no other graphics application is – the source file can be viewed by anyone on any machine. Furthermore, I like the idea of other prototyping applications using fireworks files and using live update. I wouldn’t even mind a new extension if the file type was still the same – if I wanted, I could change .fwd to png and voila!

    • Firetuts on said:

      Sorry, its for the comment spam. It used to be the cast anyone could view on any machine but with pages an extra process needs to happen for those applications to see the content.

  3. .fw.png is fine, in my opinion.

    It’s great that OS X Finder and Windows Explorer can show preview of any Fireworks PNG file (unlike with .psd or .ai or other “closed” formats).

    Also, a Fw PNG (at least, the first page in it, if it’s a multi-page file) can be also showed directly in the browser, which is great too. And any image editor or viewer can show a Fw PNG too, you don’t need a copy of Fireworks to be able to see a preview.

    Many reasons why we should stick with .fw.png!

    On a related note, Adobe probably plans to stop developing Fireworks soon, which is sad, but hopefully a small innovative company will invent one day something better than Fireworks! :-)

  4. Firetuts on said:

    IIRC there are workarounds for Windows to show live preview of a graphic file and OSX has native for live preview in folders.

    How do you know Fireworks is being sunset ??

  5. @Firetuts:

    I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this strongly.

    Mainly because there are no news about Fireworks. Also, try finding the Adobe Fireworks Project Manager at Adobe — you won’t be able to. Not sure if there is a Fw PM currently.

    Or, try to contact someone @Adobe and see if you get any reply. I tried a few times and got zero success.

    And, finally — all CS6 apps got minor updates during the last year. Fireworks didn’t update, not once.

    So… lack of news? Very bad news. :-(

    • Firetuts on said:

      @Michel

      Good points, but I think they put a team together when needed.

      Both PS and FW dominate the top two places in terms of web design, I just can’t see them leaving 2nd place wide open like that.

  6. gejoreni on said:

    What if the new PNG Format was presented pages in APNG animation – where programs could show the different states, and (like importing a Agif) previews would animate through. just brain storming here – no bad ideas :p

  7. Ps, Ai and Fw dominate the web design world, but Adobe have no interest to develop Fireworks.

    Fireworks competes directly with Ps/Ai, which are more popular, more expensive, and much harder to use. Because of that, it’s likely Adobe will drop development of Fireworks and will continue to push Ps/Ai combo to web designers…

    Luckily, there is also Sketch, which is a new app, I hear many good things about it. But it’s Mac-only, unfortunately…

    • Adobe seems to have a secret roadmap for future app stuff. Indesign is pretty much in the same situation, nobody knows wth is going on.

  8. ewok on said:

    at least a working version of fireworks would be nice! instead of discussing file formats!

  9. Jeff on said:

    Fireworks is not going anywhere! Ps & Ai are image editors and vector graphics creators. They can be used to make a single web page, but Fireworks is far superior in web design with multiple pages and hover states. Anyone who uses Fireworks will instantly recognize this! Just because Michel (above) has failed to adopt Fireworks or Adobe did not update a program that needs no update, does not mean it is going away! Hey Michel, what “you” do does not reflect what the rest of are doing. Fireworks is not going to disappear just because you do not use it!

  10. Hey Jeff,

    Perhaps you are slightly wrong. :-)

    I *did* adopt Fireworks in all my workflows — I am using Fireworks every day, since Macromedia Fireworks MX, till today (Adobe Fireworks CS6).

    I am not only using it every day, but I am also a strong (and passionate) advocate for Fireworks. So passionate that I also happen to be the editor for the Fireworks section over at Smashing Magazine:

    http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/

    With other authors, who are using (and loving) Fireworks, we are working on articles that promote the app and the powerful (yet easy to learn) workflows that it offers!

    So you see, it’s not me. I am a strong believer in Fireworks! But, I am afraid that Adobe do not realize the full potential of Fireworks and might decide to “kill” it soon, no matter how passionate is the Fireworks community. That’s bad… :(

  11. I sad but we wont need anymore new file format because adobe decided to kill Fireworks and keep ONLY Photoshop.
    RIP Fireworks