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Flash MX Is a Big Step Forward

Macromedia plans to change the face of Web development with Flash MX. Find out how this major new release changes Web clients for the better and get early information on upcoming products in the MX line.


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acromedia just announced the sixth version of the Flash IDE and player, Flash MX, which positions Flash as the vanguard of an entirely new project strategy, called Macromedia MX. Flash MX offers what Macromedia calls a rich client, a highly experiential, integrated thin-client environment for content, communications—and applications. Until now, Flash has provided only the ability to integrate multimedia elements into existing Web pages, but the new version radically extends Flash's capabilities, making it possible to create an entire dynamic site in Flash, from content display, to database connectivity, to video to debugging. The result is unprecedented; Flash's integrated multimedia authoring power comes close to making standard websites obsolete.Flash MX is the first product release in the new MX product line.

Those of us who used Flash 1.0 or its predecessor, FutureSplash Animator, know that its flexible keyframe animation, tweening, and vector art support breathed new life into Internet image delivery, and provided a robust alternative to simple GIF animations. Since then, Flash has evolved from a rudimentary animation tool to a complete multimedia authoring environment.New Interface, New Workflow
While current Flash developers will feel right at home in the IDE, the interface has undergone modifications that reflect the maturity of the platform. Most notably, Flash MX offers two authoring modes, one for designers and one for developers, a change that reflects the increasingly compartmentalized roles of professional Flash developers—some who work heavily in ActionScript code and others who design primarily from a graphical perspective.

The workspaces are really just view sets of individual panels such as Actions and Properties, but the new views and new features allow better isolation of Flash workflow in general. Developers in particular will appreciate improvements in the Actions panel, especially the new contextual code hints and ActionScript references within the IDE (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).Flash MX also introduces Shared Library Assets. Users can share objects both in design-time and runtime, making common component management easier, and streamlining the movies themselves. To help further facilitate development in highly managed production environments, Flash MX integrates directly with SiteSpring, Macromedia's workflow management server. SiteSpring users can check content in and out, update status, and communicate with their teams without leaving the IDE.



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