RSS Feed
Download our iPhone app
Browse DevX
Sign up for e-mail newsletters from DevX


8-Ball to Win: Great New Features Abound in Flash 8 : Page 6

Flash 8 may have just been announced but you don't have to rummage endlessly for the juicy details. This extensive review gives you a preview of all the great new features—for designers and coders alike—plus Studio pricing and more, all in one place.

Although I've peppered many of the discussions about the IDE enhancements with ActionScript equivalents, there are many ActionScript additions that I haven't yet written about. Realistically, I can't discuss them in any serious depth in this article (I'll save that for future articles), but I'd like to gloss over four really cool items.

  1. The new ExternalInterface class. There are probably very few ActionScripters who haven't wanted to interface more reliably with an HTML hosting page. This class is designed for that purpose. It improves player-JavaScript communication through callbacks.

  2. The flash.net package. It's FileReference and FileReferenceList classes make it possible to upload files to, and download files from, a server. It has its own events and security protocol, and can accommodate files up to 100 MB each.

  3. Support for loading additional graphical asset types. Flash 8 can also now dynamically import GIF, PNG, and progressive JPEG files. Previously, only standard JPEG files could be loaded dynamically if not enclosed in a SWF.

  4. Nine-slice scaling. Just like many components scale, you can now set MovieClips to scale based on nine discreet slices. In Figure 18, starting with the bordered clip on the left (initially disregard the lines and numbers), scaling the clip horizontally will distort the border at the corners resulting in a clip similar to the frame in the upper right corner of the figure.

    However, nine-slice scaling tells Flash 8 to scale the clip in nine different pieces. Looking at the lines and numbers now, corners one through four won't scale, slices five and six will only scale horizontally, slices seven and eight will only scale vertically, and slice 9 will scale normally. The result is the frame that can be seen at the bottom of Figure 18. Rock!

    Figure 18. Nine-slice Scaling: Nine-slice scaling allows a MovieClip to scale without distortion like many components do.

    Winding Down with a Few Remaining Goodies
    I'd like to close with a few features that didn’t quite fit into any of the major categories that I've already mentioned. First, Flash 8 offers an optional document-level undo (as in previous versions of Flash), or a new object-level undo which provides a separate undo table for each main object in your document.

    Second, the Document Properties dialog now allows you to enter metadata that is automatically exposed to search engines for better indexing. Not too shabby, eh?

    Also, ActionScript beginners will be happy to hear that the Actions panel's "Normal" mode is back. Now more descriptively called "Script Assist," this context-sensitive wizard helps guide you through scripting by prompting you with syntax and parameters.

    Last but definitely not least, Flash 8 Professional features the FlashLite development platform for mobile devices. Templates, scripting references, and examples make it easy for existing developers to expand their reach to this quickly growing market. There's even an emulator that lets you test your work using preset profiles for every device that supports FlashLite. You can filter the supported device list to determine which phones, PDAs, etc., support screen savers, wallpapers, in-browser content, and standalone player content. This makes it possible to rapidly develop applicable content for a wide variety of devices.

    Stepping Up
    For many years, Flash has been sold primarily as a bundle in a suite called Studio, and this version is no different. Figuring out what version you need to buy and getting the best bang for the buck is going to be half the battle. Therefore, there are two very important sidebars to this article: Sidebar 1, " Beyond Flash: A Look at the Whole of Studio 8," will give you a rundown of some of the basic improvements in the other parts of the Studio 8 suite. Sidebar 2, "The Studio Feature Matrix," shows you the various combinations and what you'll get at different price points.

    As is usually true with a big upgrade, you have to decide for yourself if you think the new version is a must, and if so, when you should take the plunge. For my money, this is one of the most impressive Flash upgrades in a long time.

    For many users, particularly designers, the new video codec, runtime filters, and blend modes will be enough incentive. Scripters will appreciate the new ActionScript for increased performance, image manipulation, file transfers, JavaScript communication, and lots of other little changes beyond the scope of this article.

    But I cannot overlook the fact that Macromedia took the comments of many users into consideration when they added so many existing feature enhancements and user interface improvements. Simple things like line caps and joins will drive me nuts no more, and the new panel manageability features will make using a tool with the depth and breadth of Flash much more enjoyable.

    When you should step up depends a lot on how conservative you are. There's a lot to be said about introducing a new rev into a busy work environment before you're sure all the kinks have been ironed out. When it comes to creative applications, I'm typically an early adopter. I can't wait to dig in. Either way, when you make the decision to upgrade, I hope you enjoy Flash 8 as much as I have so far.

Rich Shupe is president of FMA, a full-service multimedia development and training facility based in New York. He is a regular Flash columnist for DevX and coauthor of the upcoming "Flash 8: Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity" and the upcoming "Learning ActionScript 3.0," (both published by O'Reilly). FMA develops web and disc-based products for clients including McGraw-Hill, Phillips, 20th Century Fox, and Nickelodeon, and trains digital media professionals in Flash, ActionScript, HTML, JavaScript, and more.
Email AuthorEmail Author
Close Icon
Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date