Ever since the days of Macromedia I have always used Fireworks for my web design and Photoshop for photo manipulation. Lots of people swear by Photoshop for web design too, yet every time I have tried it I have ended up swearing AT Photoshop instead.
I have compiled some thoughts on both these products, good and bad. These are just my views and experiences but I would like to get your thoughts on it too, as I feel that considering the amount of people using Photoshop for the layout and design of websites I must be missing something somewhere.
As a photo manipulation package you cannot beat Photoshop. I love it, I love working with it, and I actually like the fact that it hasn’t drastically changed version to version. It feels comfortable.
When I turn to web design though, the story changes. I am so used to grabbing hold of my objects on the canvas and dragging them into place, like I was playing with objects on a desk. With Photoshop this task seems to be a bit more complicated. I have to look for my object on the layers toolbar, click on it, then I can drag it. If I want to drag another object out of the way I need to locate that too? There may be a shortcut to this, but I don’t know it.
If you are an organised designer you will name your layers as you go along. This makes Photoshop a LOT more manageable and saved scrolling through pages and pages of the layers lists all called layer1, layer2, layer3 etc.
Photoshop does win in certain web design areas though, such as text. Things like bullet lists can be mocked up quickly and easily. This is not possible in fireworks without an awful lot of messing.
I feel like I am a little biased in that I have been working with Fireworks ever since it was released, and I know it upside down and back to front. I live the way I can drag things around, work with objects as vector entities and knock together a site in half an hour. I don’t use it for generating code, I do that by hand, but as a web graphics tool I love it.
I love the slice tool in Fireworks. It is so easy to use and you have total control over the individual slice. This is not a deal breaker for me, but it works well.
Fireworks has some really useful vector tools. It also has a symbols panel. This is great if you use objects over and over again. Simply convert it into a symbol and add it to the panel. For UI design this is a real time saver and a definite advantage over Photoshop.
Fireworks is not without it’s faults though. On the Mac it seems to decide with the roll of a dice which fonts it is going to use. With Photoshop I activate and deactivate fonts and Photoshop picks that up (upon reload), but in Fireworks it seems to misplace certain fonts and I don’t know why.
After comparing the two I am left with the same view that I had at the beginning. Photoshop seems better for photo manipulation and Fireworks seems better for web design. Why then do so many people swear by Photoshop for web projects? I guess the answer lies in the fact that there are a lot of web designers who have come from a general design background and grown up with Photoshop. If you have taken years to master a tool, why bother to learn another?
I really would like to use Photoshop for web design projects but at the moment I feel it slows me down too much. That may be partly due to the product, but mainly because I am a lot more familiar with Fireworks. The purpose of this post was not to choose one over the other, but just to see why people use what they use and what strengths and weaknesses each product has.
I have only touched the surface with this post. There are a pleathora of options out there, Photoshop, Fireworks, GIMP, Coreldraw, Painshop Pro. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses.
What do you use for your web designs, and why?