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What you'll learn …

What's in the chapters of this book

How to use the book

Over the years, Macromedia Flash has developed into a tool that far exceeds its designers' original vision. What started, in 1996, as a program for creating interactive, animated GIFs has evolved into a full-scale Web development tool. Today, in addition to Web site design, developers are using Flash to create everything from product demos to e-commerce front ends to CD-ROM-based presentations—and the list continues to grow.

While Macromedia Flash has improved and evolved with each update, the latest version is more revolutionary than evolutionary. By far the most ambitious update yet, Flash 5 represents a mature platform for creating sophisticated interactive applications for the Web and CDs. If, as a Web developer, you only have time to learn one program, Flash is your ticket: As a drawing, animation, and interactivity powerhouse, Flash can take care of all your needs, and then some.

Like most things worth doing, though, Flash takes some study and practice to master. That's where we enter the picture. Drawing on our years of experience teaching and working with Flash, our goal with this new book is to help you maximize the program's potential while avoiding the pitfalls that can beset new users.

If you're familiar with the last edition, you'll notice we've made some changes—most of which are based on your feedback. The book is now divided into sections that break down the development process into its various parts. And we've added chapters on Flash's new Movie Explorer and ActionScripting engine. One thing that hasn't changed, however, are the QuickTime tutorials: They still form the heart of this book—though there are now more of them, and they've all been updated. In these tutorials, we'll teach you some tricks and techniques, as well as introduce you to the new user interface. Best of all, by watching us use the program, you'll be able to see how you can make it all come together to create your own movies and presentations.

The Parts

Before you begin, we should explain some terminology. First, the terms movie, presentation, content, and project all refer to basically the same thing: the Flash file you create to show to the world. Animation in this context means any kind of onscreen movement you intentionally create. Interactivity refers to anything you create in Flash that reacts to viewer input—via keyboard or mouse. Finally, multimedia is where all of these things, including sound, come together.

Now take a look at the following list of chapters to see what's in store:

Chapter 1 — Why Flash? As if you had to ask. Here you'll find out why Flash 5 is the tool of choice for creating high-impact Web sites and multimedia presentations.

Chapter 2 — Getting Started. If you want to find out what's new in Flash 5 as well as familiarize yourself with the redesigned authoring environment and its enhancements, this is the place to go.

Chapter 3 — Graphics. Although some people find Flash's drawing tools limited, we believe just the opposite to be true. Here we'll show you why as well as provide an in-depth discussion of the program's powerful tool set, including Flash 5's newly designed interface for drawing and color tools and the powerful new Pen tool. If you work with FreeHand and Fireworks, this is where you can learn how to import files that you create with those programs directly into Flash.

Chapter 4 — Text. Although text is far from the most exciting part of a movie, it doesn't have to be boring. In this chapter, we'll show you how to use text to receive user input and liven up your presentation. You'll also learn about Flash 5's new support for HTML tags as well as font symbols.

Chapter 5 — Sound. Visual effects are great, but their impact is even greater if you use them in conjunction with sound. Here we show you how to harness the power of audio.

Chapter 6 — Bitmaps. When you add bitmap elements (or photos) to your Flash presentations, there's no limit to the visual effects you can achieve. Here, we'll show you how, and then detail some great uses for bitmaps.

Chapter 7 — Symbols. These "do all" elements represents the heart of Flash's Web multimedia capabilities. If you can master the use of symbols, you're halfway to hardling most of what you'll encounter in Flash.

Chapter 8 — Working with Elements on the Stage. Learn how to move, align, flip, skew, and transorm your movie elements in almost every way imaginable. In this chapter, you'll find out how to create new movie elements and edit existing ones on Flash's stage.

Chapter 9 — Using Layers to Separate Content and Functionality. Learning how to use layers is the first step in creating an interactive presentation. Here we'll show you how to use them to separate the content and functionality within your movie, and how they help give it dimension and depth.

Chapter10 — Using Animation to Build Movement. Bring your movie to life with frame-by-frame and tweened animation. In this chapter, we'll describe techniques, as well as teach you how to create flowing transitions and deal with processor issues that may hinder the playback of your movie.

Chapter 11 — Basic Actions for Building Interactivity. Learn how to engage your viewer by creating dynamic, interactive presentations.

Chapter 12 — Using ActionScript for Advanced Interactivity. Want to take your presentations to the next level? With an understanding of Flash 5's new professional scripting capabilities, you'll be able to create complete Web applications, printable movies, games, and more.

Chapter 13 — Using the Library to Manage Your Assets. A movie contains many elements; Flash's library is where you keep track of them all. In this chapter we'll show you how to organize your movie assets in the library as well as describe Flash 5's new shared libraries—the answer to easy updates to your content, as well as revision control issues that can arise from working on group authoring projects on multiple machines.

Chapter14 — Using Movie Explorer to Manage Structure. If you want a blueprint of your movie project, this is your tool. In this chapter we'll show you how to use Flash 5's new Movie Explorer to analyse and manage your project.

Chapter 15 — Testing. With so many things to consider when creating a Flash movie, things can sometimes slip through the cracks. Here, we'll show you how to use Flash's testing tools to create compact, smooth-running, error-free movies.

Chapter 16 — Publishing. All your hard work is for naught if you're unable to share the final product. Here we'll familiarize you with the many formats in which Flash allows you to present your work, and describe the potential and appropriate uses of each. You'll also learn about how to place a Flash movie on an HTML page and how to deal with plug-ins.

How to Use This Book

We've tried to organize this book so that it echoes a Flash presentation's stages of development, first discussing the elements that make up a movie, then proceeding on to discuss movie management, movie production, and movie distribution. Although we recommend that you go though this book from front to back, sections are organized so that you can easily reference them in the future. The book also includes plenty of tips, tricks, warnings, and other learning aids to keep you on track. And the CD-ROM contains the QuickTime video tutorials that accompany most chapters (as well as a QuickTime installer so that you can view the movies). The CD also contains the tutorials' associated source files, which you can open in Flash to see what makes them tick.

With this revision, we've worked hard to make this book as easy, enjoyable, and informative as possible. Now it's up to you to take the information and run with it. We'd love to hear of your successes as well as view what you've created. Contact us at flash5@derekfranklin.com or flash5@crazyraven.com. Although we may not be able to respond to all of your emails, we'll certainly do our best. Tell us what you think of the book and what you'd like to see in future editions. We'll be listening.

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