Adobe Fireworks CS3, my new favorite prototyping tool

I think the actual release of Adobe CS3 is still a couple weeks away [actually, just received an email from Adobe that it’s shipping now], but I’m already reading up on every last tidbit about this great new application framework. As a UX designer, one of my main focuses has been on Fireworks CS3, which has added at least two features that I think will make it a very popular rapid prototyping tool.

First, they’ve added multiple pages and master pages. That was one the biggest let-downs with previous versions – even if you did a quick design mockup of a single page, propagating that across multiple pages was a pain in the #@*$! (and one of many reasons I chose to not use FW for prototyping.) Now you can quickly create a mini-site with common elements on one page.

The other great new feature is smart symbols, which use something called 9-piece slices (?), which basically means that you can resize them without distorting them. This is a critical feature when working with UI widgets, since you often want to, say, make a text field wider. And better yet, the app allows for creating your own custom symbols with these properties. This really sets FW CS3 apart from a lot of other prototyping tools, who often have a fixed library of UI widgets. I think there was a time when UI widgets were reasonably stable – as in, you basically had Windows, Mac, and *nix widgets, but all that has changed with the Web itself becoming a platform. Take for example the reply feature in Gmail…

Gmail reply feature

This isn’t exactly a standard widget. Sure, you could probably re-create the functionality represented here with a vanilla drop-down, but it would just not have the same elegant feel. With FW CS3, you could basically draw whatever kind of element you want and then turn it into a Smart Symbol, i.e. a widget in the UXD world.

Btw, I think it’s starting to sound like a traveling salesman for Adobe (but wait, there’s more!) – I’m not – it’s just that I’ve been waiting so long for something like this and all the other tools that seem to do what FW CS3 claims to do have turned out to be duds. Of course, this app could be a dud as well, but I have a good feeling that it won’t be – keeping my fingers crossed…

Fullerscreen turns the browser into a real desktop (sort of)

I just added the Fullerscreen extension to FireFox and was immediately hooked by the true full-screen view it allows for. Here is a sample of how Gmail appears on my monitor (with my actual email blurred out of course.)

How fuller screen looks like on my desktop

In a small way, it makes the Web 2.0 idea of the web as platform a bit more manifest, if nothing else just visually. If I were to show the screen to someone who was not familiar with Gmail, they may think they’re looking at a desktop app. I think a natural next step in the browser-as-platform evolution would be for this form of desktop-like view to become more of a default and more integrated into the actual desktop. Right now, if you want to get back to the desktop, you have to first escape out of Fullerscreen. It would be great if, for example, the Dock/Taskbar would appear when hovering over the hot zone, just as if you were viewing an actual desktop app. Nonetheless, I definitely recommend adding Fullerscreen to Firefox .