Flash MX

flashmx-thumb.gif
  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent
  • $499.00

Pros

  • Major enhancements to functionality including streaming video support, improved scripting, better workflow, accessibility options.

Cons

  • Workspace can become cluttered with panels
  • the program's breadth and complexity could make it hard for new users to learn.

It took Macromedia some time to recognise the potential of Flash -- its Web-based animation and interaction tool -- as more than just a toy for designers. For a long time it was just viewed as a novelty item, good for pointless eye-candy but little else. It wasn't until Flash 5 that the application really began to mature and with this latest revision -- effectively Flash 6 -- the company is firmly stating its desire to see Flash adopted as a credible tool for developing fully-fledged online applications.

The panel-based user interface from the last version has mutated slightly (possibly as a result of patent wranglings with arch-rival Adobe), but retains much of the same functionality. You can still group panels in whatever way works best for you, and detach or dock them as you prefer. The workspace can become cramped as there are a lot of panels to fit in, but this is understandable given the range and complexity of the options available.

At its heart Flash is an animation program, but recent additions mean that it is capable of considerably more. The adoption of a JavaScript-like scripting language (based on the ECMA standard) in the last version was a major step forward in allowing developers to realise more ambitious projects. Further improvements in this release -- such as a more fully fleshed-out object model, the addition of case and switch syntax, enhancements to event handling -- all contribute to the impression that Flash is finally coming of age.

There are a few notable additions to the core functionality of Flash, too, including video import and streaming capabilities, improved handling of sound, the ability to import MP3 and JPEG files dynamically, a scriptable drawing model, dynamic masking and font substitution. Macromedia has clearly been listening to the developer community during the development of Flash MX.

To facilitate the development of larger-scale applications, Macromedia has put some effort into providing tools for the sharing of standard components and libraries. The debugger -- a welcome arrival in Flash 5, even if it was rather flaky -- has been beefed up and the built-in script editor is now considerably smarter, with code hinting and built-in syntax reference. A particularly thoughtful addition comes in the form of new accessibility options -- descriptive text can be added to objects and Flash now co-operates with Microsoft Active Accessibility to provide support for technology for disabled users.

There's no doubt that Flash MX is a considerable advance on previous versions. And aside from Adobe's LiveMotion 2 (which is some way behind in terms of functionality), Flash has no credible rivals in its field. The main question when considering whether to buy or upgrade to the MX version is simply, is it too soon? It will take some months for the new version of the Flash player (which clients will need to view MX content) to gain a useful level of penetration. Developers might well consider using that time to get to grips with all the new functionality.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Localization English
Category creativity application
Subcategory creativity - web design / publishing
Package Type retail
Distribution Media CD-ROM
Software
Subcategory creativity - web design / publishing
Category creativity application
License Type box pack
Min Supported Color Depth 16-bit (64K colors)
License Category shrinkwrap
System Requirements
Min RAM Size 64 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 85 MB
OS Required Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Windows XP
OS Family Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM, SVGA monitor
Min Processor Speed 200 MHz
Min Processor Type Intel Pentium
Header
Brand Macromedia
Product Line Flash
Model MX
Localization English
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC

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