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INTRODUCTION > Flash MX: What’s New?

Flash MX: What’s New?

Flash MX sports an updated interface that brings Flash closer in look and feel to other Macromedia products. The addition of a context-sensitive Property Inspector streamlines Flash’s panel set. New frame-selection options make it easier to manipulate frames in the Timeline. Exciting new features include the ability to embed video clips within a movie for playback in Flash Player, the ability to use ActionScript to make movie clips behave like buttons, the ability to customize the ActionScript editor, and more. The following section lists some new features that will be of particular interest to beginning and intermediate users of Flash.

Interface Enhancements

The addition of a context-sensistive Property Inspector means fewer Flash panels overall, reducing the number of items you need to keep open on the desktop (Figure i.2). The panels you do have open come out from behind their Flash 5 tabs, and can dock together, expanding and collapsing within a single panel window. The Timeline offers more predictable span-based or frame-based selection styles. The category folders in the Actions Toolbox (in the Actions panel) have been reorganized and divided into subfolders to group actions logically. The new Reference panel puts the ActionScript dictionary right on your desktop. Color-creation and selection functions are now consolidated in the Color Mixer and Color Swatches panels.

Figure i.2. The new context-sensitive Property Inspector displays different information according to which element or tool you have selected.

Library Enchancements

Flash MX lets you import assets directly to a library and drag and drop library folders between documents while preserving the folder structure. As you bring assets into a movie, Flash MX warns about assset conflicts for items that have the same name but different content, letting you decide whether or not to replace the existing assets. Dragging a graphic element from the Stage to the Library window now opens the dialog box for converting the graphic to a symbol.

Free-Transform Tool

Previously associated with the arrow tool, the Scale and Rotate modifiers have moved to the new free-transform tool, which also offers two new modifers: Distort, for creating perspective effects, and Envelope, for manipulating the Bézier handles and anchor points of a group of selected graphics or text elements (Figure i.3)

Figure i.3. The free-transform tool’s Envelope modify gives you the ability to modify a group of selected graphics using Bézier curves.

Document Templates

The new template-document feature lets you capture reusable work in .fla files that are accessible from a single template location (Figure i.4). Flash MX comes with numerous templates, that you can use, for example, in creating ads, presentations, slideshows, and quizzes.

Figure i.4. Flash MX comes with numerous template documents to streamline your work on common projects, such as ads or presentations. You can also set up your own templates.

Distribute to Layers

The Distribute to Layers command makes quick work of placing graphics on separate layers for motion tweening. Combined with the Break Apart command’s new ability to turn selected text into a series of single-character text boxes, the Distribute to Layers command makes it easy to animate editable type.

Editable Vertical Text

To better support foreign languages, Flash MX allows you to create vertical text boxes with live, editable text. You can also control whether text reads left to right or right to left. Text in Flash Player 6 files is now encoded in both UTF-8 and UTF-16 format to better support foreign-language fonts.

Embedded Video Clips

Macromedia has licensed and incorporated Sorenson Media’s Spark codec into Flash. Spark lets you import video clips and embed them in Flash, for playback within Flash Player 6 (Figure i.5). You can control video clips with ActionScript, just as you would other Flash objects.

Figure i.5. Sorenson Media’s Spark codec helps you make the most of imported video clips’quality while keeping their size down. Embedded video runs directly in Flash Player 6.


Built-in user-interface elements, such as scrolling text or image boxes and radio buttons, come in their own panel (Figure i.6). For anyone familiar with Flash 5, these are a new generation of SmartClips.

Figure i.6. Built-in components help you create common user-interface elements for your Flash sites.

Movie-Delivery Enhancements

For the first time, Flash gives you the ability to save .fla files as a previous version: Flash 5. As always, you can create .swf files for playback in any of the Flash Player versions (1 through 6). A new HTML setting creates .swf files that won’t scale in the browser window, even if viewers resize the window. Flash’s Accessibility panel enables you to create descriptions of movie elements for use with screen-reader technology to make Web sites more useful for people with vision impairments.

New OS Support

Flash MX runs natively under Macintosh OS X and Windows XP.

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