• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL



With the release of Flash 5, Macromedia has positioned Flash as a tool not just for creating interactive and engaging animated Web sites, but also for high-end Web applications. Add to that the integration of Flash and Generator and you can dramatically extend the power of your applications.

The high penetration of Flash into the browser market means that, as designers and developers, we finally have a viable alternative to the standard HTML/DHTML site.

From its June 2001 survey, Macromedia reports that 97 percent of all users browsing the Web now have a version of the Flash player installed. A breakdown based on player version shows the percentage of users who can view the content of the different player versions as this:

  • Flash 2: 96–98 percent

  • Flash 3: 93–96 percent

  • Flash 4: 88–93 percent

  • Flash 5: 55–67 percent

The next survey is scheduled for September 2001. To check the current statistics, visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/.

Who Is This Book For?

This book is aimed at two very different audiences: artists and programmers. We know we can’t turn the artists into hard-core programmers or the programmers into gifted artists, but we hope we can bring about a meeting of the minds. The more each group understands how the other thinks, the better chance each has of leveraging the true power of Flash 5. Development in Flash has truly become a collaborative effort, more so in Flash 5 than ever before.

Organization of the Book

The book is divided into four sections of increasing complexity.

Part I: “Getting Started with Flash 5” (Chapters 1–4) is introductory in nature. It’s designed to bring new users up to speed fairly quickly in the basics of Flash. If you’re familiar with Flash, but new to Flash 5, you might want to skim these chapters for tips on how to set up your work environment and use some of the new tools in Flash 5. If you’ve never worked with the Generator templates in Flash 5, Chapter 4, “Flash and Generator,” gives you a quick look at the power of Generator.

Part II: “Building Blocks/Animation and Sound” (Chapters 5–13) is primarily focused on using graphics, sound, and animation techniques in Flash. And yes, there is a sprinkling of ActionScript in there—even before you get to the coding section of the book. The more time you spend working in Flash, the more you’ll realize that knowing at least a little bit of ActionScript is indispensable.

Part III: “Building Blocks/Introducing ActionScript and Interactivity” (Chapters 14–23) is aimed at programmers and artists who want to develop a better command of ActionScript. This section relies heavily on ActionScript to control the behavior of objects in Flash. You’ll get an introduction to object-oriented programming and most of the new Flash objects. Toss in a dash of physics and a little XML, and you’ll really be on your way.

Part IV: “Pulling It All Together: Implementing Flash in the Real World” (Chapters 24–28) addresses some of the issues not explicitly covered in the other sections and is really aimed at issues that both artists and programmers have to deal with on a regular basis. Ranging from storyboarding to dealing with browser and platform idiosyncrasies to working with middleware, this section helps to tie up some of the loose ends you find in Flash development.

What’s on the CD

The CD that comes with this book has all the asset files you’ll need to complete the exercises in each chapter. You’ll also find trial software from some of the vendors mentioned in the book that you can use in conjunction with Flash to speed up your development process. Additionally, you’ll find a few extra goodies tucked in (such as sounds) that you can use in your own files.

System and Setup Considerations

The minimum system requirements for authoring Flash files, as posted on the Macromedia site, are shown in the accompanying table.

Minimum System Requirements

  Windows Macintosh
System software 133 MHz Intel Pentium Processor Microsoft Windows 95, 98, Me, NT4, 2000 Professional, or later System 8.1 or later
Available RAM 32MB 32MB
Available disk space 40MB 40MB
Resolution 800×600; 256-color 800×600; 256-color

Yes, you can get away with the minimum requirements, but you really want more power than that. Personally, I wouldn’t even consider working on a machine with less than 128MB of RAM. With computer and memory prices coming down, this is a good time to beef up your system.

That being said, I keep my old 133MHz, 32MB system around just to keep me honest. Flash files can become very CPU intensive if you’re not careful; remember that you’re depending on your user’s computer to perform the calculations to play back your file. Although it would be nice if everyone had a spiffy 750MHz system with 1GB of RAM and a 21-inch monitor on which to play our creations, that just isn’t how things work in the real world.

People often ask what kind of a setup we use here at Fig Leaf for development. It varies from person to person, but all the programmers work off Windows laptops—some with attached monitors, some not. We’re all currently running 450–600MHz and 192MB of RAM.

The artists are split; some use Macintosh computers, some use Windows. And yes, we all rib each other about that. The Macintosh desktops are all running with 512MB of RAM.

Personally, I really like having a 21-inch monitor with the resolution set at 1600×1200 pixels when I work in Flash. I get positively claustrophobic on anything else; it’s all those palettes. Because I do a lot of scripting, I like to have my Actions panel open and expanded at all times. In fact, my Actions panel and the Flash work area are usually side-by-side and opened up to about the same size.

If you’re lucky enough to be set up for dual monitors, even better. I’m not, but if it were an option, that’s the route I’d take. Palettes on one monitor—the Stage and time-line on another.

A graphics tablet is great to work with, and I also use a wireless mouse and keyboard. Flash FLA files can be on the large size, especially if you’re working with sound, so having a Zip drive also is useful. The Iomega 250 Zip drive is our choice.

Going Forward

So where do you go after you’ve finished the book? The best thing to do is practice, practice, and more practice. Come up with a problem and see if you can solve it. One of the things we’ve learned at Fig Leaf is that just because it hasn’t been documented doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, we break the rules every day—that’s half the fun.

There are a lot of tutorial and resource sites available to you on the Web. You’ll find a number of these listed in Appendix C, “Flash Resources.” Most of them have tutorials and downloadable FLA files. Download them. Pick them apart. That’s how you’ll learn.

Another good thing to do is to find the closest Macromedia Users Group (MMUG) and start attending their meetings. That way, you can share ideas and network with other designers and developers. If you happen to be in the Washington DC area on the second Tuesday of the month, come visit the Washington Area Macromedia User’s Group (WAMMO); we’d love to see you. If Washington is too far away for you, you can find the nearest MMUG by visiting Macromedia’s Web site at http://www.macromedia.com/support/programs/usergroups/worldwide.html.

There are a number of mailing lists to which you can subscribe for additional support. At Fig Leaf, we run three different mailing lists: Flashnewbie for new Flash 5 users, Flashcoders for Flash 5 programming (high volume), and Powerhouse for Generator users. To sign up for any or all these mailing lists, point your browser toward http://chattyfig.figleaf.com/.

Pick the list you want, and follow the directions; lots of good folks from all over the world will help you answer your questions.

If you’re willing to spend the time to really learn Flash, you’ll discover that it is an incredibly powerful addition to your tool chest. In fact, when clients are asking you for solutions to complex problems, you might frequently find yourself saying, “Well, I could do that in Flash.”

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint