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Macromedia Flash 5
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25:aug//2K - macromedia flash 5


Everybody loves Flash, or so it would seem - surely over 220 million installed Flash players worldwide can't be wrong? It makes the web fun, providing an interactive experience instead of static HTML pages and JPEG images, while still keeping download times away from broadband- like file sizes.

Thing is Flash can get a bit over done, some people use it as an excuse to look good but say nothing. Infact, perhaps it is becoming a little overused, it does look cool but information, in my opinion, is still king - something which in Flash sites is a little scarce.

Anyway, getting back to the point of this feature - Flash 5 - those of you that have used any of the previous versions of the Flash authoring program will know how good it is. There is practically nothing you can't do in Flash, be it animation, games, forms, chat clients or anything else that takes your fancy.

To begin with it can be a little complex, but after reading through the very helpful tutorial files (or the manual...) most people get the hang of the basic features of the program. However, that is barely scratching the surface, there is so much else there for those that take the time to figure it out (truth be told, I'm only just starting to look at the more advanced features myself). The learning curve to get to grips with the entire program is actually quite steep and it will take a long time before you are producing anything that comes close to some of the stuff that you can see today.

Flash 5 really isn't that different from Flash 4 (at least at first glance) - Macromedia go on about the "redesigned user interface" but really it looks much the same and if you are familiar with version 4 then it will all be instantly recognisable. Certainly it is nowhere near as big a change as Flash 4 was to previous versions (I had a nightmare moving from Flash 2), maybe a little slicker but thats about it.

The big changes have taken place in the ActionScript commands - these kinda form a Flash programming language (if only I'd known about them during my CSYS project...), which allows you to do complex things and form games and so on. I can't say I'm particularly hot with ActionScript having only recently started to take a look at it ( I just don't have the time) but there are so many more options than before.

In fact it has kinda become a full blown language in itself, it is quite close to JavaScript in syntax and now you can even write code in an external editor and import it into Flash. In fact it is probably so different from the ActionScript in version 4 that if you aren't familar with JavaScript then you'll probablty have to relearn everything again, which is a bit of an pain the neck really (especially since I just bought a book on Flash 4 ActionScript).

Aside from that everything is much the same, but with annoying little problems having been removed - instead of having to decipher crypic little icons to change between dynamic and static text you now just choose between options in a drop down menu which is written in plain English - much better!

There are Photoshop style floating meus with colour mixers and text options in them, which make carrying out simple tasks just that little bit more intutive. A pen tool has been added, which is a big plus, meaning you no longer have to import complex curves etc. from Photoshop.

Is it a worthwhile upgrade? Definately, if you use or intead to use Flash for most of your web design in future. If you just use it to create simple animations, then probably not. But as a package I don't see where Flash can go from here, it is almost prefect and if it goes any further it chances becoming over complex, which would be a sad day indeed.

//agi. [agi@fsmail.net]