Flash 4 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide

Overview

Flash 4 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide is a step-by-step guide to creating animated Web graphics using Macromedia Flash 4. This easy, visual approach to learning Flash takes the reader through the basics of vector drawing to the creation of animated multimedia files for the Web. Using this clear guide, professional Web designers, as well as hobbyists, can find out how to add sophisticated multimedia effects to their Web pages, without having to learn ...
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Overview

Flash 4 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide is a step-by-step guide to creating animated Web graphics using Macromedia Flash 4. This easy, visual approach to learning Flash takes the reader through the basics of vector drawing to the creation of animated multimedia files for the Web. Using this clear guide, professional Web designers, as well as hobbyists, can find out how to add sophisticated multimedia effects to their Web pages, without having to learn complicated scripting languages.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201354737
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press
  • Publication date: 9/22/1999
  • Series: Visual QuickStart Guide Series
  • Edition description: 2ND
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 7.05 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author


Katherine Ulrich is a writer and editor specializing in graphics, publishing, and multimedia software. Her career includes a 12-year stint at Macworld magazine. As a developmental editor, Katherine helped to develop and direct Macworld's how-to sections (Media, Publishing, Secrets, and Create).
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Table of Contents

1. The Flash Editor.
Flash Basics. Touring the Flash Editor. About the Timeline. About the Stage. About the Toolbar. Viewing Objects at Various Magnifications. Using Rulers and Grids.

2. Creating Simple Objects.
Touring the Toolbar. Using the Line Tool. Setting Line Attributes. Using the Oval Tool. Using the Rectangle Tool. Using the Pencil Tool with Assistance. Controlling the Amount of Assistance You Get. Using the Pencil Tool Without Assistance. Using the Paint Bucket. Using the Brush Tool in Normal Mode. Using the Text Tool. Setting Type Attributes. Setting Paragraph Attributes.

3. Modifying Simple Objects.
Setting Selection Preferences. Selecting Lines by Clicking. Selecting Fills by Clicking. Using a Selection Rectangle. Using the Lasso Tool. Selecting Partial Elements. Deselecting Elements. Repositioning Objects Manually. Repositioning Objects with the Inspector. Basic Editingā€¹Cut, Copy, Paste. About Paste Special (Windows). Assistance with Existing Elements. Changing Line Segment Length. Reshaping Lines. Reshaping Fills. Changing the Size of Objects. Reorienting Objects. Using the Ink Bottle Tool. Using the Eraser Tool in Normal Mode. Using the Faucet Modifier. Changing Fill Colors. Creating New Solid Colors. Creating New Gradients. Creating Color Sets. Defining Color Attributes from the Color Window. Putting Gradients to Work. Modifying Applied Gradients. Applying Attributes of One Object to Another. Modifying Curves.

4. Complex Objects on a Single Layer.
When Lines Intersect Lines. When Lines and Fills Interact. When Shapes Interact. About Grouping. Working with Grouped Objects. Controlling the Stacking Order. Editing Groups. About Aligning Elements. Using the Complex Paint Modes with the Brush. About Filling Multipart Shapes. Using the Eraser Tool with Multiple Objects.

5. Objects on Multiple Layers.
Touring the Timeline's Layer Features. Creating and Deleting Layers. Controlling Layers via the Dialog Box. Controlling Layers via the Timeline. Working with Objects on Different Layers. Controlling the Stacking Order of Layers. About Guide Layers. About Mask Layers. Cutting and Pasting Objects Between Layers.

6. Saving and Reusing Graphic Objects.
About the Library Window. About Library Window Views. About Library Hierarchy. Converting Graphic Objects to Symbols. Creating New Symbols from Scratch. About Symbol Instances. Modifying Symbol Instances. Swapping One Symbol Instance for Another. Editing Symbols. Converting Symbol Instances to Graphics.

7. Using Non-Flash Graphics.
Importing Non-Flash Graphics. Using the Clipboard to Import Graphics. Turning Bitmaps into Vector Graphics. Using Bitmaps as Fills. Modifying Bitmapped Fills. Using the Magic Wand Tool.

8. Frame-by-Frame Animations.
Using the Timeline. Creating Frames. Manipulating Frames in One Layer. Removing Frames. Making a Simple Frame-by-Frame Animation. Previewing the Action. Smoothing the Animation by Adding Keyframes. Using Onion Skinning. Editing Multiple Frames. About Frame Rate. Varying the Speed of Animations.

9. Animation with Motion Tweening.
Creating a Bouncing Ball with Motion Tweening. Setting the Tween Property. Ending a Motion Tween. Adding Keyframes to Motion Tweens. Animating Color Effects. Animating Objects That Change Size. Rotating and Spinning Objects. Moving Objects in Straight Lines. Moving Objects Along a Path. Orienting Objects to a Motion Path. Changing Tween Speed.

10. Animation with Shape Tweening.
Creating a Bouncing Ball with Shape Tweening. Morphing Simple Lines and Fills. About Shape-Tweening Multiple Objects. Transforming a Simple Shape into a Complex Shape. Creating Shapes That Move as They Change.

11. More Complex Animation Tasks.
About Scenes. Manipulating Frames in Multiple Layers. Animating Multiple Motion Tweens. Animating Shape Tweens in Multiple-Part Objects. Reversing Frames. Combining Tweening with Frame-by-Frame Techniques. Using Animated Masks. Saving Animations as Graphic Symbols. Using Animated Graphic Symbols. Saving Animations as Movie-Clip Symbols. Using Movie-Clip Symbols.

12. Interactivity with Frame Actions.
Organizing Actions. Assigning Actions. Adding Actions to a Frame. Editing the Actions List. Using Frame Labels and Comments. Using Stop and Play Actions. Using Go To Actions. Previewing Actions in Action.

13. Interactivity with Buttons.
Creating a Basic Rollover Button. Previewing Buttons in Movie-Editing Mode. Creating Buttons That Change Shape. Creating a Fully Animated Button. Adding Button Actions. Using On MouseEvent. Creating Buttons That Respond to Mouse Events. Triggering Actions from the Keyboard. Creating an Invisible Button. Creating a Button with Multiple Hot Spots. Previewing Buttons in Test Mode.

14. Adding Sound to Your Movies.
About Sounds in Flash. Importing Sounds. Organizing Sounds in Separate Layers. Adjusting Sound-Layer Height. Adding Sounds to Frames. Adding Sounds to Buttons. Using Event Sounds. Using Start Sounds. Using Streaming Sounds. Stopping Sounds. Looping Sounds. Editing Sounds.

15. Introducing Complex Interactivity.
Using Expressions and Variables. Using Conditional Actions. Loading New Files. Manipulating Movie Clips. Using the Other Actions.

16. Delivering Movies to Your Audience.
Preparing Your Movie for Optimal Playback. Publishing and Exporting. Working with Flash Player Settings. Publishing HTML for Flash Player Files. Controlling Movie Placement in the Browser. Using HTML for Alternative Images. Using Other Publish Settings. Creating Projectors. Setting MIME Types on Your Server. Exporting Flash to Other Formats. Printing from Flash.

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Introduction

Back when the Web was emerging from its academic cocoon and spreading its wings into the consciousness of the wide world, the Internet was drab. Any splash of color, any graphic image, was a refreshing oasis in a vast desert of text against plain gray backgrounds. As the Web grew and its focus shifted, Web sites became vehicles for personal expression, for instruction, for commerce. Web designers longed to expand the graphic content of their sites. Many designers simply forged ahead, adding bitmaps with abandon. Unfortunately, in the process, these designers abandoned their viewers to endless waiting. Although the bitmap formats that are standard for Web graphics-JPEG, GIF, and PNG-all provide compression to make the images as small and fast to download as possible, download times for sites containing lots of images can slow to an audience-losing crawl. Web designers craved a better, more efficient way to send graphics over the Internet. Flash provides that efficiency.

What Makes Flash a Special Web-Design Tool?

Flash answers designers' cravings for more graphics and more control of those graphics by providing a way to deliver vector images over the Web. Vector images keep file sizes down, and they are scaleable, which means that you can maintain control of what a Web site looks like when your viewer resizes the browser window, for example, making the whole thing stay in proportion as the window grows or shrinks. In addition, Flash provides streaming capability. Streaming allows some elements to display immediately upon download while more information continues to come over the Internet.

Animation in Flash is not limited to cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny orThe Simpsons. Flash animations also encompass navigation elements, such as buttons and menus. Neither does Flash limit you to creating animation only for the Web. You can license Flash Player and distribute Flash movies on CD-ROM. You can create stand-alone projectors and pass them out on floppy disks. You can export Flash to other formats, such as QuickTime or Windows.AVI movies. But Web-site creation and enhancement has become Flash's primary focus.

Although this book can't teach you to create a complete user interface for your Web site, what it will teach you about using Flash to create graphics, animation, and interactivity will go a long way toward helping you create an expressive, creative, exciting Web site. Whether you need a banner ad that grabs the viewer's attention, a button for moving around within your site or linking to other URLs, or a fun animated cartoon, this book will get you started quickly, helping you use Flash's tools to add activity and interactivity to your Web site.



About the Flash Player

Early on, the need for viewers of Flash content to use a player was considered to be a drawback to creating Web content with Flash. Designers feared that users would be reluctant to spend time downloading another helper application for their browsers. But Flash has become the de facto standard for vector art and animation on the Web, and Flash Players for Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer is now widely distributed. Flash Players are available with the current versions of the two most popular Web browsers (Netscape and Explorer), for example. Flash Players also come with the latest versions of both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, and Flash Players are built into the applications from service providers America Online and Earthlink. Macromedia estimates that more than 100 million people currently are equipped to view Web sites created with Flash technology.



What Is Streaming?

Most viewers lack the patience to wait for an entire site to download, especially one that has big bitmaps or sounds. Flash streams the content of your Web site over the Internet. Streaming means that once some of the vector art of your site has downloaded, Flash can quickly display it while the rest of your data continues to download. As Flash plays the first frames of your movie, subsequent frames keep coming into your viewer's computer, and Flash feeds them out at the specified frame rate. If you plan your movie right, the frames coming in never catch up to the frames being displayed, and your viewer sees only a continuous flow of images.



Vectors vs. Bitmaps

The data that comes over the Internet to create vector graphics and the data that creates bitmapped graphics are similar, in that they are both mathematical instructions to the computer about where and how to create images on-screen. Bitmaps, however, are lengthier and result in a less versatile graphic; vector graphics are compact and fully scaleable.

Bitmap instructions break a whole graphic into little dots and must tell the computer about each dot; vector instructions describe the graphic mathematically as a series of lines and arcs (Figure i.l). Picture a 1-inch black horizontal line on a field of white. For a bitmap, the instructions would go something like this: Make a white dot, make a white dot, make a black dot, make a black dot, make a black dot, make a black dot, and so on. These instructions would repeat until you'd strung together enough black dots to make a 1-inch line. Then the white-dot instructions would start again and continue until the rest of the screen was filled with white dots. The vector instructions would simply be a mathematical formula for a straight line plus the coordinates that define the line's position on-screen.

About Flash

Flash began life as Future Splash Animator, a nifty little program for creating and animating vector art. In 1997, Macromedia acquired FutureSplash, changed the name to Flash, and promoted the program as a tool for creating graphic content for the World Wide Web. Flash excels as a Web-site-design tool because it includes all the pieces you need in one place: tools for creating graphics; tools for animating those graphics; tools for creating interface elements and interactivity; and tools for creating the HTML necessary to display your graphics, animations, and interface elements as a Web page via browser.

Standard illustration programs, such as Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator, rely on Bezier curves to create vector shapes. Flash's tools let you deal with the vectors in a more immediate way, without manipulating curve handles or special points on a line. Flash's tools have a natural feel that appeals to many artists. (Artists who prefer to use traditional illustration software, however, can import their vector art into Flash and animate it there.) Flash's unique drawing tools also appeal to nonartists-those of us who can't draw a straight line to save our lives.

Flash helps beginners create simple animated graphics, but anyone who is familiar with animation can use Flash's tools to create quite complex animations. The scripting function is also easy enough to use that beginners can add simple interactivity controls, but the capabilities are extensive enough that serious scripters can accomplish more sophisticated interactions.

With each generation, Macromedia has added features and functions that preserve Flash's easy-to-use drawing tools while expanding its capabilities as an animation machine and interactivity creator. Flash 4 offers powerful action scripting and editable text fields that allow Web designers to capture information and interact with users at an even higher level.

How Flash Animates

Flash uses standard animation techniques to create the illusion of movement. You create a series of still images, each slightly different from the next. By displaying the images rapidly, one after another, you simulate a continuous flow of movement. Flash's animation tools help you create, organize, and synchronize the animation of multiple graphic objects and sounds.

Flash Movie Formats

Flash is both an authoring environment, for creating animation and a playback system for making that content viewable on a local computer or in a Web browser. Flash files are referred to as movies, whether they are in the authoring environment or in final playable form. You create animation and interactivity in Flash-format files. In the Windows world, these files have the extension .fla. To create viewable movies, you convert the authoring files to Flash Player format; these files have the extension.swf. Another name for the playable format is SWF (pronounced swif), which stands for Shockwave Flash; Shockwave was a movie-delivery system used in earlier versions of Flash.

How Flash Delivers

Flash includes a publishing feature that creates the necessary HTML code to display your animation in a Web browser. The publishing feature also automates alternative methods of delivering your movie-as animated GIF images, for example, or as a QuickTime movie.

Flash 4: What's New?

Flash 4 sports an updated interface that brings Flash closer in look and feel to other Macromedia products. Some of the most exciting additions to Flash 4 are beyond the scope of this book but may spur you to learn the basics so that you can later soar with the full flexibility of Flash. Among the advanced enhancements are new actions, variables, expressions, and editable text fields. These elements, working together, allow you to create highly interactive Web sites that can actually communicate with and capture information from your viewers. You can also create and save your own color palettes in Flash 4.

The following sections list some new features that beginning and intermediate users of Flash will especially appreciate.

Timeline and Layer Enhancements

The new Timeline's grid layout makes it easier to see and locate individual frames. Controls for hiding, locking, and displaying layers as outlines are now clickable buttons in the Timeline (Figure i.2).

Toolbar Enhancements

The reorganized Toolbar (Figure i.3) makes the oval, rectangle, and line tools available directly from the Toolbar. (In previous versions, these tools were nested within a single pencil tool.) The hand tool is now always available from the Toolbar, whereas before, you had to use a keyboard shortcut to access it.

Library Enhancements

The new Library (Figure i.4) offers hierarchical folders for organizing the elements that make up your Flash movie. The new Library is sortable. It also sports a menu of editing options. The Library can now track how many times each item appears in the movie.

More Inspectors

In addition to the Object Inspector, which was added in Flash 3, Flash 4 offers a Transform Inspector for positioning and resizing objects with numeric precision, a Scene Inspector for organizing scenes, and a Frame Inspector for viewing information about a selected frame.

Animation Enhancements

Flash 4 offers a Create Motion Tween command that helps you create the symbols and settings necessary for animating a selected object.

Easier Delivery

Flash 4's Publish feature helps you create the basic HTML necessary to show your Flash movie in a browser. In the previous version, you had to use a separate utility called AfterShock. The Publish command can also create alternative formats in which your movie can be shown in a browser-as a GIF, animated GIF, PNG, or QuickTime movie, for example. The HTML for these options is included in templates that come with Flash 4, and if you know HTML, you can customize the existing templates or create your own for use with the Publish feature. To help keep file sizes down, Flash 4 adds MP3 compression for sounds.

How to Use This Book

Like all Visual QuickStart Guides, this book seeks to take you out of the passive reading mode and help you get started working in the program. The exercises in the book teach you to use Flash's features. The book is suitable for beginners who are just starting to use Flash and for intermediate-level Flash designers. The initial chapters cover the basics of creating graphic elements by using Flash's unique set of drawing tools. Next, you learn how to turn objects into animations. After that, you learn the basics of using action scripts and sounds to make your movies interactive. Finally, you learn to use Flash's Publish feature to create the HTML that you need to put your Flash movies on the Web.

Cross-Platform Issues

Macromedia designed Flash's authoring environment to have, as much as possible, the same interface on the Macintosh platform that it does on the Windows platform. Still, differences exist where the user interfaces of the two platforms diverge. When these differences are substantial, this book describes the procedures for both platforms. Illustrations of dialog boxes come from both platforms, but generally no special indication is given to indicate which platform is shown. If a given feature differs greatly between the two platforms, both are illustrated. If a feature is available on only one platform, that fact is noted in the text.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most of Flash's menu-based commands have a keyboard equivalent. That equivalent appears in the menu next to the command name. When this book first introduces a command, it also describes the keyboard shortcut. In subsequent mentions of the command, however, the keyboard shortcut usually is omitted. You'll find a complete list of these commands in Appendix A.

Contextual Menus

Both the Macintosh and Windows platforms offer contextual menus. To access one of these contextual menus, Ctrl-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) an element in the Flash movie. You'll see a menu of commands that are appropriate for working with that element. For the most part, these commands duplicate commands in the main menu; therefore, this book does not generally note t hem as alternatives for the commands ale scribed in the book The book does point out when using the contextual menu is particularly handy or when a contextual menu contains a command that is unavailable from the main menu bar.

The Artwork

The Flash graphics in this book are simple and easy to draw. In most cases, the examples are based on simple geometric shapes, which means that you can spend your time seeing the Flash features in action instead of re-creating fancy artwork To make it even easier for you to follow along, Flash files containing the graphic elements that you need for each task are available on the Peachpit Web site http://www.peachpit.com/vqs/flash/.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    Great Flash Beginning

    This book was great for helping me understand the Flash environment. I was able to take the information provided and apply it to my own creation, although I had to use critical thinking to determine how to construct my movie- this book gave me the basic tools that allowed me to go further. Thanks for making this Flash4 easy to understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2000

    Good Beginners Guide to Flash

    I bought this book at a well known bookstore here in California, and I was able to learn Flash within 1 week, I can't leave it by my side reading it. The book is well organized, and you can even visualize how the program works by its illustrations. This book only works for beginners to intermediate though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2000

    You Will Learn Flash

    You will learn the basics of Flash 4 if you read this book, recreate the examples, and then experiment on your own. I am a Senior HTML Programmer who had given up on learning Flash until I read Flash 4 for Windows & Macintosh: Visual Quickstart Guide. The screen shots and illustrations matched the books's text, making it very easy to understand the concepts the author was explaining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2000

    Great book for Flash newbies

    Very easy to follow step by step chapters. Well organized and complete.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2000

    Learn the basics of Flash fast

    This book is for anyone who would like to learn Flash 4 at a comfortable pace. It shows you the basics of Flash to get you on your way. I like all of the Visual QuickStart books and own many titles. They are inexpensive and get to the point. I was disappointed in this book as many of the Flash books go over the same things that the manual has or leaves out important things like preloading or special effects. The manual for Flash is the weakest thing about the program and Macromedia knows this but continues to not update it or put in any useful imformation that most Flash users want to learn. Get this book instead of the other featured Flash books such as the Web animation book by Darrel Plant. Check out the Flash sites such as Flashzone.com or Virtual-fx.net for anything beyond basic Flash authoring.

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