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Add Flash to Your .NET WinForms to Create Skinable UIs

One of the most powerful uses of Flash today is to create more power user interfaces for conventional software, such as client-server applications. This article is a great introduction to Flash for .NET developers who want to take their WinForm designs to the next level.

ithin the last few years, Macromedia's Flash has become a leading development environment for online vector animation, Web site production, and rich Internet applications—as well as for offline presentations, small games, and more. Flash MX 2004 focuses more on user interface development than any of its earlier versions.

Perhaps the most unexpected—and potentially most important—use of Flash is in designing more powerful user interfaces for conventional software. In this article, we'll teach you to do exactly that: use Flash to create a highly graphical user interface for a traditional Windows Form application. While previous experience with Flash is helpful, it is not required, as we'll begin with the basics of creating a Flash movie. (To download or purchase Flash MX 2004, follow the links in the left column.)

Flash uses an ECMA-compatible scripting language called ActionScript, which is very similar to JavaScript, making it easy to learn. Scripting? Isn't that exposing my source code? Well, yes and no. When creating and working with Flash movies, you are always working with *.fla files. For deploying your movie or application, you export everything to *.swf, which cannot be edited. While there are various disassembly and reverse-engineering tools available for inspecting SWF files, you needn't worry, as the SWF will only contain code specific to the user interface.

What You Need
You should have a basic understanding of ActiveX controls, Windows Forms, scripting, and .NET programming in general. Some basic knowledge of Macromedia Flash, including ActionScript, would be very helpful too.

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