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In Fireworks CS5 Essential Training, author Jim Babbage gives a detailed overview of Fireworks CS5, Adobe's software for creating and optimizing web graphics and interactive prototypes. This course includes a detailed tour of the interface, the enhanced PNG format, and the image editing toolset in Fireworks. Critical concepts, such as prototyping for HTML applications and working with symbols, the heart of an efficient workflow in Fireworks, are covered in detail. Exercise files are included with this course.
Many times, you may find yourself in more of a production mode rather than a creative one. For example, you may have a bunch of images that need to be optimized for use on the Web. But how do you decide what file format, what acceptable quality is going to be? Let's walk through the basics of exporting different single image files for use on the Web. So we've got a couple of files open up here. We've got our cyclists resting by the seashore, and we've also got our logo. Now these are two completely different types of file formats. This is all Vector-based, our logo, and our photo is a standard bitmap JPG file.
As a result, they both require different optimization settings. Let's start with the logo. The logo is all solid colors. There are no photographic elements in here. We're not dealing with any gradients or anything like that. So this is the good candidate for exporting out as a GIF or a PNG-8 format. Let's take a look at this process. Fireworks incorporate the optimization control right in the main interface. We've got our Optimize panel over here, over on the right-hand side. Just above the Document window and below the tab for the file name, you'll see these four buttons: Original, Preview, 2-Up and 4-Up, and these give you the ability to preview live inside the application, different optimization settings for a graphic.
So I'm going to switch this to 4-Up right away. So we have four versions of our file available, and you can see we got four different panes. Now, sometimes when Fireworks loads the 4-Up view, you don't see the entire 4-Up view right away. So I'm just going to collapse my Properties panel. I'm going to re-expand it. So now I see my information in all four windows. So that's something we might want to watch for. Over in the upper-left corner, we've got our Original file. I've got these three other windows that I can experiment with for optimization. So I'm going to start here in the upper-right corner.
Now the best formats for exporting solid color graphics tend to be GIF, as I mentioned, and also PNG 8. Both of these are limited color formats, and they do a good job of handling solid color quite efficiently. What we're going to do here is we're going to experiment with these three windows to see how much we can crunch this file down and still retain the quality needed to make this a suitable image. So on the of top-right corner here, it's already set up as a GIF format, and I'm just going to hold down my Spacebar, scroll around a bit, so we can see the image.
And if I compare, for example, the text areas or the cyclist to the Original file, things look pretty good. This is set to have a maximum of 256 Colors. That's the most you can get out of a GIF or a PNG-8 file. You have a limitation of 256 different Colors. But sometimes we can actually reduce that number and still retain a good quality image, but also have a much smaller file size. So what I'm going to do here is I'm going to change it from 256 Colors in my Optimize panel down to 64 Colors.
If you take a real careful look, you'll see what happened inside of our little Document window here is that our file size changed significantly. We went from just over 10 kilobytes down to just under 8 kilobytes. So we've shaved off just about 3 kilobytes in file size. We can continue on experimenting with those numbers of Colors, but before I go there, I just wanted to make some changes to the other two panes. So we have some different references here. So down at the bottom right corner, I'm going to change this from the GIF format completely to PNG 8. I don't need any transparency on this.
So I'm going to make sure there is No Transparency. So there is nothing going to become invisible in our image. At PNG 8 with 256 Colors, I'm already down to 8 and a half kilobytes. So the PNG format, it's actually doing a slightly better job of compressing the file. Now I'm going to match up the number of Colors between the GIF and the PNG format. I'll switch it to 64. At 64 Colors, we now have a six and a half kilobyte file. So we've dropped in file size by about 4 kilobytes, which is, in the grand scheme of things, for one image maybe not a lot.
But keep in mind, most Web pages have way more than one graphic on a page. If we can reduce the overall weight of each image by a few kilobytes, then we are saving a lot of bandwidth in the long run. So it's 64 Colors between the GIF and the PNG. It looks like the PNG is currently winning. I also want to give you an example of why you wouldn't want to save this as a JPEG file. We don't want to optimize this as a JPEG file. So we're going to go over to our bottom left image. Now JPEGs tend to be a much better choice for photographic images. They handle continuous color much better.
They support a much wider color range, 24-bit color, or basically 16 million different possible Colors as opposed to PNG 8 and GIF, which only support up to 256 Colors. So this all sounds great. Wow, I can get all these Colors. I've a lot more flexibility there. However, the problem with JPEGs is that they don't handle solid color very well. So we're going to switch this bottom left option over to JPEG. At a JPEG file of 80 Quality, we can go up to 100%. We'll see that in the Optimize panel. Here we're at 80.
Now the Quality setting of 80%, the file is almost three times or double the size of my PNG or GIF files and if you take a really close look, you compare even to JPEG to the PNG or the JPEG to the Original file, you'll notice that things are little bit fuzzy. I'm going to hold down my Spacebar, and we'll scroll around a little bit. You can see inside the text, especially, the text is not nearly as crisp. Not only do we have a slightly blurrier image, we also a bigger file size.
So in order for me to reduce this down further, to get a file size that's comparable to either of our GIF or PNG formats, I'm going to have to change my Quality setting. So I'm going to drag it down to about 70. At 70 Quality, we're still not even there. We're still over the Original file size of the first GIF file we looked at. So I've to bring it down to maybe 60 Quality. We're still not getting there. If I go down to 50, okay, now we are down under 10 kilobytes, but take a look at what's happened to the image.
The Quality is significantly lower than either the PNG file or the GIF file. It's still the bigger of all three files. Now this isn't to say JPEG is not a good format. It's just not designed to handle solid color very efficiently. So it just gives you an example of why you wouldn't want to go ahead and export a solid color logo like this as a JPEG file. I point this out, because a lot of times I'll get files like this from a client. They'll send me their logo as a JPEG file, not knowing any different. If you can advice your clients in advance, make sure you get the right file formats.
But also, when you're planning to export out the files yourselves, you'll see that there are some definite differences between the different format options in the Optimize panel. Now we'll just take a quick look at our cycling image here. We'll walk through the same process again. It's a little bit repetitive, but this is one of those key skills that you want to really work on as a Web design professional. So I'm going to go ahead again and choose 4-Up view for my cyclist. I'll just hold down my Spacebar, so that we can see most of the body of one of our cyclist. My upper-right corner image is set as a JPEG file at 86 Quality, and gives us a 267 K file.
Now it's a pretty big file. Now this is also fairly big image. It's 1200 pixels wide. So I'm going to reduce this Quality down to about 70. That cut the file practically in half, in terms of the file size. So we'll leave that where it is for the time being. I'm going to go down to my bottom right image here. I'm going to turn this into a GIF file. Remember, we can only have up to 256 Colors in a GIF image. Even with this image, that doesn't have a huge range of different colors.
There are some noticeable problems with the image when we convert it to a GIF file. I'm just going to collapse my Properties panel and bring it back up again. There we go. First of all, the file is huge. It's 400 kilobytes. Second of all, if you look quite closely at the jersey on the cyclist, you'll notice that we have all these sort of blotches of color, where in the JPEG file everything kind of nicely blends in. Color shadings and stuff blends together quite nicely. On the GIF file, we end up with these blotches of color. Take a look at the cyclist face. We have these pale patches in certain areas.
The other cyclist down here sitting on the log, you're noticing some significant changes in colorization, it's not very attractive. It might be interesting as an illustration, but as a photographic image, it doesn't have a lot going for it. We've got some weird color shifting, and we also have very large file. So in a case like this with a photographic image, it becomes pretty obvious that your main choice for the Web is going to be a JPEG file. JPEG files do a pretty good job of compressing. But you may be wondering, well what about this other format, the PNG 24 format, that is basically supporting at least as many Colors as JPEG.
Well, let's go ahead and choose this one in our bottom left corner. Let's set this to PNG 24. Now PNG 24 supports 24-bit color. So we're getting the kind of color rendition we get from our JPEG file. The problem with PNG 24, in terms of a Web format, is that it does not do very much compression. So while we get a really good quality file, we also get a really big file. Now again, keep in mind this is a fairly large image in dimensions anyway. But this file is 1298 kilobytes in size. It looks fine.
It looks basically like the original, but we have a really huge file. So from the standpoint of working in the image for the Web, even as a large file as this maybe, the JPEG is certain coming out as the winner. It's a significantly smaller file size. So as you can see, it's important to select the correct optimization format. Not only it is optimizing a file save you bandwidth, but it's also important for maintaining suitable quality in the final exported file.
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