Review of Flash Tool, SwishMax
 

Swishzone SwishMax

Swishzone has been laboring down under for at least 2 years retooling the popular Swish 2 into SwishMax and in the process have proved they understand aspects of animation better than their Macromedian mentors - Flash is more than data processing - its roots are rich media and animation.

With Swish users have been able to create nothing short of fabulous animations and effects. Its like being in the Photoshop plugins candy store or the JavaBeans express line. Does Swish have animation effects ? Can you say Surfin Pistons, Jump for Joy or Flag Waving Flag ? And 200 plus equally graphically-named animation effects. And the ability for users to customize and save their own Swish special effects for reuse.. And the ability to can special effects as Sprites. And to apply multiple effects to the same object in several ways. In short, the Swish team has had three versions to get the packaging and componentizing of animation effects right. And it shows

Macromedia Plays Catchup in its own Backyard

Macromedia is now forced to play catch up in its own backyard of animating rich media. Only in the recent Flash MX 2004 has Macromedia caught the whiff of what Swish can do by having MX 2004 package the Motion Tween and Shape Tween capabilities into commands. But hands down it is much easier to develop from simple to serious text, sprite, shape or groups of shape animations in SwishMax than Flash. This is the same phenomena that has


Right click to replay Flash Movie

happened with Java. Others are filling in the details faster than the inventors. Swift 3D is an example in the 3D world and ToonBoom in the area of animation and cell drawing.

And to its credit, Macromedia has recognized that it has not and cannot do all the innovation around Flash. Thus, with its corps of extensions it has made it more practical for 3rd parties like Swishzone to plugin add-ons into the Macromedia Flash developer tool directly. Swish PowerFx allows Flash MX2004 users to apply over 50 basic but very customizable animation effects to static text directly within Flash.

But those same effects plus over 150 more can be applied to not just text but also images, shapes, sprites(subset of Flash's MovieClips)and all the other objects within Swish. Notable for their absence are video and 3D objects which Swish does not support But as one can see from the top screenshot, Swish has a full bodied development environ to animate in.

The Swish IDE

Now that SwishMax supports scripting, the IDE resembles Flash pretty closely. The drawing tools and options are similar. The timeline also looks familiar although Swish does not have nesting of layers but does have sophisticated grouping of objects. This reviewer like the standard layout with the Outline panel showing all scenes and objects/resources in them. On the right side of the screen is a super-properties panel with many tabbed property panels including This has all the bustle and clutter of say Borland JBuilder or Microsoft Visual Studio - and so the learning curve for Swish, like Flash is relatively high.

But the the Swish team have done a superb job of making animation effects easy to apply, test and change. Just point to/select an object, right click, choose Effects and then pick from the over 200 available and it is automatically added to the timeline (and starting at the particular frame if you choose it). Swish has prerecorded settings for each effect. But right click on the effect name in the timeline, select properties and a whole gamut of effect options are available for user customization. In addition it is dead simple to move, shorten or lengthen an effect or replace an animation effect by drag and drop motions. This is the basic animation interface that Swish has and Flash needs.

SwishMax adds two more ingredients to the IDE, a much more bug free core and scripting. Lest Flash designers run amuck(curses, scripting ruined Flash), the scripting does not overwhelm Swish as its Team has worked overtime to make scripting and its event programming understandable and approachable. Check the tutorials accessible from the Help system for a good introduction to scripting. Realize though that SwishScript is a direct subset of ActionScript - it has to be in order for Swish to work in the Flash Player. So Flashers will not find all the latest and greatest scripting command. methods, and object that are familiar with from MX. But that may be a good thing because the coding and programming demand (including rapid changes) has left Flash developers a bit winded.

Whither Swish ?

Swish,like Flash 4, is on the brink of the Siren lure - programming versus designing features. The current SwishScript does allow users to integrate and co-ordinate sound, sprites/movieclips, and other animation objects more effectively. But the key to Swish success has been the fact that baseline animation has been fastidiously preserved as a deep design option. Macromedia started to get at this with Flash components; but the early emphasis on components has been towards data processing - tree structures, database grids, pull down list as much as buttons and shapes. The new ActionScript 2 almost requires that much of that code be re-written. Will Swish follow suit and become more a programmer than a designers tool ? Nonetheless, at $80, SwishMax is truly a very, very useful addition to your Flash toolbox.

We were so impresed with SwishMax we have created a demo - go here for SwishMax demo.

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