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Product: Flash 5.0
Company: Macromedia
Estimated Street Price: $399.00
Review By: Julien JAY


Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Features
3: Advanced Features

4: Conclusion

Macromedia Flash 5 includes many new features like the direct support of MP3 files so you can easily import them. The Zoom list bar lets you change the zoom level of the scene directly from the taskbar to speed up your work. In a constant concern about ergonomy, Flash 5 contains in the status bar a series of icons that users can click to display or hide the numerous palette tools. The new Movie Explorer palette enables users to browse films by searching items for their names so you can edit their properties. In this Movie Explorer you can directly see objectsí arrangement, their position on the layers or on pictures, their properties attributes (graphic, button, clip), affected actions. Best of all you can choose to display or hide specific category of items like images, etc. in the Movie Explorer. Flash 5 has always been weak in terms of drawing features: this new release corrects the defect by adding a Beziers tracing curve tool (a bit painful to use since youíll have to add many anchor points to draw correct curve) as well as an anchorage selector. This release also includes an improved color selector and sound controller. Note that the selector tool is very interesting to use: indeed what you select is really selected: that is to say if you select part of a frame only the part you selected will be erased if you choose to erase it by example. Creating sophisticated and interactive events can be done without scripting requirements make Flash 5 an easy to use solution that adapts itself to all skill levels. Flash 5 now supports XML processes so you will be able to create online shops, forms, and much more using the flash technology. Flash 5 supports all the tags & instructions of the HTML 1.0 language: creating hypertext links from variables in text labels is now easier than before (weíll review that in detail later in the review). In terms of graphic support, Flash 5 directly supports more than 22 types of files like FreeHand documents, PhotoShop (it keeps the layers!), TIFF, TGA, Illustrator (EPS & AI), GIF, JPEG, PNG and much more. When your animation is ready you can save it as a flash animation (98% of users will choose this) that requires the free Flash 5 plugin to be viewed (if usersí browsers donít have this installed itíll offer users to download it for free in many localized languages). New to Flash 5 is the ability to export animations using the RealPlayer format: indeed flash can brings to RealVideo films interactivity touch. So you can easily support SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language). But you can also export to the animated GIF format and various other formats. Integrating your Flash 5 animation into your webpage is fast and doesnít require tons of programming as a simple HTML line will be enough to handle both the display of the animation and the eventual need to download the Flash Player. Note that Flash 5 includes a Publish feature that automatically export necessary HTML, graphics, and Flash Player files in the folder of your choice so youíre ready to upload your new animation on a web server. Like in printed applications you can preview your flash animation directly in the application using the format of your choice like Flash, QuickTime, etc. However this requires the opening of another window and isnít as convenient as it is with Adobe LiveMotion. Flash 5 uses vector graphics that are significantly smaller than bitmap ones so web page downloads decreases.

Flash 5 Movie Explorer Window (click to enlarge)

Creating your first animation

Creating an animation is easy with Flash 5. The main concept of the software youíll have to control turns around the timeline editor. An animation project is divided in scenes with key events. Key events are a time moment in the timeline where a specific object gets animated the way you want. When you create an animation you have first to draw what you want using the vector drawing tools on the main scene: you can also import existing pictures and add text. When you add text the text palette shows the list of fonts you can use and a small window will preview the result youíll get by choosing this font instead of another. Once youíve added all the objects you want to use in your animation you can start animating it by defining choreography effects using the timeline editor. To do so you have first to define the length of your animation. Now you can add key pictures to the timeline: this property will define the moment where the object will be animated. Between keyframes youíll define Motion tween to animate an object. To do so youíve got several options: rotating, moving, resizing and much more. Thatís it! Changing the timing of events is fully visual as you just have to drag time tags in the timeline editor. Your first basic animation is now ready and you can publish it. Advanced users will always add action to objects (for example a click on a button will load this webpage) and theyíll surely use several layers. Obviously Macromedia Flash 5 comes with a huge userís guidebook along with several e-tutorials that will train to Flash 5 and its animation techniques. Note that you can lock your animation files by protecting them with a password so all your Internet viewers wonít be able to edit it. As the use Flash 5 is very pleasant even if itís a bit harder to understand than Adobe LiveMotion. We also regret that if a multi level undo feature is present thereís no toolbar buttons to access it quickly (each time you want to undo something you have to go in the edit menu or to use its shortcut).

Flash 5 TimeLine Editor (click to enlarge)

 <-- Introduction  Advanced Features -->


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