SWF/Flash Overview

Motivation: Bring simple but useful examples of SWF/Flash and ActionScript to developers
Credit: Imagenation

Developers these days have to be masters of several disciplines - HTML, XML, JavaScript, SQL, and one or two programming languages just to hope to develop Web applications. And to add to the challenge those applications are smeared over many servers and devices in n-tier fashion making building of apps and tracking their bugs and errors that much more difficult.

Layer on top of these complex environs incompatibilities and proprietary software and vestiges of the browser wars and you have coding problems. Even if the developer is working in an advanced scripting or IDE environ likeBEAWeb Logic Workshop, IBM Websphere Studio, Microsoft Visual Studio, Oracle Developer; there are still interfacing and support tasks that take users to heterogeneous databases, Web Services or GUI interfaces that demand even more skills.

So it is no wonder that Flash has captured developers attention for a number of reasons:

1)Flash compresses and transmits the rich media that web developers want to use with much higher efficiency than any other product on the market;
2)Flash animations run in most browsers or as a standalone player on all the popular client OS including Windows 9x, NT, 2000 and XP; Linux in its X86 variants; Mac OS 9.x and 10.x; Win CE, Palm OS, Symbian and a number of mobile/handheld device oriented OS. Again, this is client OS coverage unmatched by any other media savvy software;
3)Flash provides ActionScript, an ECMAScript/JavaScript subset as its pervasive scripting language for animations, user interactions, and database/system interfaces. Actionscript is both client and server capable and follows the ECMA standards;
4)Flash provides reusable object-based components, similar to Visual Basic's ActiveX or Java's JavaBeans that can be easily customized and re-used via drag and drop IDE in many apps;
5)Flash .SWF storage format has published API interfaces and is currently supported by most of the major 2D, 3D and animation graphic vendors;
6)Flash ActionScript OO programming is remarkably easy to learn and easy to program in; and checkout the number of freebie components that are already available;
7)Flash provides both client-side and server-side engines so that operations can be optimized for best performance.

As a result of the above Macromedia's Flash has experienced a phenomenal growth in popularity over the past five years. This is because the Flash plugin has become a default install in the Internet Explorer browser (giving it presence on 80-90% of all desktops worldwide) and because its IDE makes putting together sophisticated multimedia animations much easier than any other rival technology including Macromedia's own Director/Shockwave and Authorware tools, Java's applets, Microsoft's new Window's Media 9, and XML/SVG. The dramatic uptake of Flash in standalone and web based software demo and training applications is indicative of the switch to Flash for smart media packaging.

So the examples in the Flash tutorials are designed to highlight areas where Flash and ActionScript can be helpful in design presentation and even systems applications. Flash has been primarily used on the web and in standalone CD/DVD based promotional and kiosk applications. But with its ActionScript base, Flash becomes like PHP, VB.NET or Java applets - it can be connected and used as a media savvy UI-user interface in just about any setting. In addition, the examples are designed to help users doing Flash SWF work with nifty design ideas. They are simple and hopefully self explanatory.
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