At the rate Macromedia is going, they may have to rename the next version of Flash "Substance."
Their brand-new Flash MX is chock full of really deep stuff, much of it aimed at designers and developers who want to build entire applications and sites with Flash, not just "movies" (or those dreaded "Intros" of yore). Even if your ambitions lie elsewhere, there's plenty of new stuff here for you. Flash files can now embed standard Quicktime, MPEG, DV, MOV, and AVI video files (though your viewers will need Flash Player 6 with the new Sorenson Spark codec.)
There are gobs of new graphic design tools, including Free Transform and the Pixel-Level Snapping Control, which give designers more of what they crave: control. And, if you're running on Mac OS X you'll love the native support (not to mention the improved player performance).
You probably know what we're going to tell you next (because it seems to happen every time there's a new Flash).
Macromedia has thoroughly revamped the interface. Again.
Tabbed panels are out (wasn't there an Adobe lawsuit related to U.S. Patent #5,546,528 on such matters)? Collapsing panels are in (and we like the change). Several panels are gone completely (for example, the Instance Panel and many of its compadres migrate to a new Property Inspector, similar to Dreamweaver's). Others, notably the Actions Panel, are thoroughly overhauled. Macromedia even undid a few of the confusing changes they made in Flash 5 (for example, frame selection).
So, if you're planning to upgrade to Flash MX (and there are plenty of reasons to do so), set aside some learning time. Set aside even more if you're new to Flash altogether: the more features Flash gets, the more you need to know. Curl up by your computer with a copy of Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash MX in 24 Hours, and get comfy. Kerman's taught Flash in locations from Iceland to Oklahoma to Australia -- and you're next.
Kerman begins where many projects start: with assembling the graphics you'll incorporate into your Flash movie or application. He demonstrates Flash MX's new and improved features for drawing and painting original art, including several advanced drawing techniques. You'll learn how to import vector and bitmapped graphics into Flash, why imported graphics often degrade performance, and how to minimize the impact on your projects. There's also a full chapter on using the Library to organize your images for maximum productivity.
Next, you'll walk through the fundamentals of animating with Flash FX -- including detailed lessons on using motion tween, shape tween, sound, and layers. There's also a full chapter on animation that utilizes movie clips, as well as Flash graphic symbols -- which you can reuse to your heart's content without ballooning your file sizes.
Part III focuses on adding interactivity and more sophisticated animations to your Flash content. This is one place where Flash MX adds all sorts of value. Kerman spends a chapter on creating buttons for your users to click, and introduces new "prefabricated" user interface components which threaten to bring a semblance of consistency and clarity to the notoriously diverse user interfaces associated with Flash content. By the way, Flash MX components are the successor to Flash 5 Smart Clips, which Kerman has lectured on at Flashkit and other major Flash developer events. When it comes to this topic, he's a natural.
You'll learn how to use advanced animation techniques such as anticipation and overkill, and how to simulate depth and perspective. There's a full chapter on designing modular web sites that take full advantage of Flash content; another on optimizing Flash sites; and another on working on large Flash projects in team environments -- a topic that's becoming increasingly important as Flash and its developers "grow up".
Macromedia alleges that 414 million people can now view Flash content. Flash MX is the best tool yet for delivering it to them -- and Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash MX in 24 Hours is a super way to master it. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jerseybased marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.