In Flash MX For Dummies®, Gurdy Leete and Ellen Finkelstein manage to do something Macromedia hasn’t done in six tries: make Flash easy. OK, this isn’t the book to learn advanced ActionScript coding. But if you’re just getting started with Flash, or if you’re not quite a rank beginner but no expert, this is the patient, welcoming introduction you’ve been searching for.
You’ll start with the absolute basics: what Flash MX can do (and still can’t do well); and how each element of the Flash MX interface works. And, if you’re into immediate gratification, there’s an actual project in Chapter 1.
As you animate a simple logo, you’ll walk through a stripped-down version of the typical Flash project lifecycle: conceive your project, import your files, turn your objects into symbols; split the components of your graphics into layers; use a series of layers to animate your graphics; then, finally, publish your animation and incorporate it into an HTML document. Again, we’re not talking rocket science, but that’s the point: to get you past the fear factor that’s all too often associated with learning Flash.
Next, it’s back to the fundamentals: setting the stage, by making decisions about the structure of your movie; taking stock of your graphics resources and managing them in Flash MX’s Library; and printing your movie frame-by-frame.
You’ll also learn how to use Flash MX’s handy new built-in templates for ads, broadcasts, menus, quizzes, even delivery to mobile devices. Experienced Flash users may sniff at these, but more than just any other new Flash MX feature, templates will help beginners actually get results in a hurry. Surprisingly, these templates don’t just offer static frameworks for your movies: they include code to make things move (for example, to move among images in a slide show).
Leete and Finkelstein next turn to graphics. While you’ll still create many graphics elsewhere, Flash MX now provides a rich environment for building graphic content. There are new Free Transform tools. There’s the new Pixel-Level Snapping Control, which gives you far more control over your images. But before you can master these tools, you need a firm grasp on the basics. From the Pencil to lines and curves, Ink Bottle to paint bucket, it’s covered here -- along with essential techniques like importing color palettes and working with gradients.
You met objects in Chapter 1; now you revisit them in depth, learning how to select, manage, scale, rotate, skew and flip them; smooth their curves, soften their edges, break them apart; even copy their carefully crafted properties to other objects. There’s a basic introduction to working with type, followed by a closer look at layers (essential for organizing your movie) and symbols (essential for getting the biggest bang for the fewest bytes).
In the following chapters, you leverage your skills to do more of the stuff that real Flash designers do. Leete and Finkelstein walk you through creating Flash buttons and rollovers; building more sophisticated animations using keyframes and motion tweening; adding interactivity with actions; and then adorning your projects with audio and video. (Well, actually, it shouldn’t be an “adornment,” but rather a fully-integrated element of your movie, there to solve a specific problem...but you knew that.)
By now, you’ve done it all: now you have to assemble it, publish it, deliver it. Flash MX For Dummies® shows you how -- and, along the way, covers essential skills like testing for the Flash Player and creating alternative sites; optimizing movies for speed; and publishing to other formats, like GIFs and QuickTime.
The accompanying CD-ROM is full of trialware (including Dreamewaver, Fireworks, FreeHand, and Photoshop, plus a demo of SWiSH, a superb tool for creating simple Flash movies without Flash.
Flash MX For Dummies® is thoroughly cross-platform (Gurdy Leete loves Macs, coauthor Ellen Finkelstein swears by PCs). These authors know their stuff; Leete, for example, has more than 15 years experience with computer graphics, and has run university-level digital media programs. Best of all, as you'd expect from a For Dummies® book, this is about as non-intimidating as a Flash guide can get. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.