he time has come, at last, for a major update of FlashMacromedia's flagship animation and interactive development tool. Expected in early September, Flash 8 (Macromedia has officially dropped the useless "MX" from the new product monikers), is an exciting upgrade that should pique the interest of even the crustiest upgrade curmudgeons.
If the buzz in the Flash community is any indication, the prevailing objective consensus will almost certainly be that this upgrade packs a wallop. There are both inspiring new features and much needed improvements. In fact, many of the changes in Flash 8 are in areas where the development community wanted them most: performance, text legibility, video, and interface enhancements.
I'll confine this article to an overview of the changes in Flash 8. Future articles will delve more deeply into individual features. For example, I'll focus a bit more on IDE changes this month, with a greater emphasis on ActionScript next month and beyond. Those of you who need a scripting fix early can check out the Additional Resources. For weeks, since the Flash 8 Player went into public beta, adventurous developers around the world have been experimenting with any code snippet they can pull out of the player. Links to many of these experimentslovingly collected by Franto, LuminicBox, 5-1/2, and many other generous blogging developershave been included.
Finally, there are many differences between Flash 8 Basic and Flash 8 Professional. Rather than discussing those differences repeatedly as I address each topic, I'll summarize the features for each version in a matrix available as a sidebar (see "The Studio Feature Matrix"). Also, be sure to read my brief summary of the improvements to the rest of the Studio 8 product family in the sidebar " Beyond Flash: A Look at the Whole of Studio 8." Without further delay, I'll dig right in.