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First Look: Adobe Flash CS3 Professional

We're not in Macromedia anymore, Toto By Kevin Schmitt

Flash is one of those rare programs that doesn't really have any equivalent, so there was very little doubt as to what would happen to Flash once Adobe swallowed up Macromedia (read: it was sticking around). What was in question, however, is just what the newly-christened Adobe Flash would look and feel like, and with the announcement of Adobe Flash CS3 Professional, we finally have some answers. Let's take a trip around the block to see what Flash CS3 has in store.

I am Adobe

At first glance, you may not think that the Flash CS3 interface is too terribly different from its predecessors, and for the most part, it isn't (fig. 1). There's still the familiar Stage, Timeline, Actions panel, Library, and everything else long-time Flash users are intimately acquainted with by now.

Figure 1

However, what you'll soon see is the most evident change in Flash CS3: the adoption of the now-familiar CS3 interface Adobe first showed everyone in the Photoshop CS3 Public Beta (fig. 2).

Figure 2

"Real" tabbed panels finally make an appearance, along with the new docking paradigm, as well as the good, old-fashioned floating palettes. You can, of course, mix and match as you see fit, just like in the Photoshop CS3 Beta. In other words, Flash CS3 now feels more like an Adobe product than a Macromedia one.


Meet your new siblings

Speaking of Adobe products, Flash historically hasn't played as well as it could have with Photoshop and Illustrator, but now that all three are under the same roof, the situation today is very different. Check out what happens when you import a Photoshop document (fig. 3):

Figure 3

In case it's not evident from the image, there are now a ton of options available when importing native PSD files:

  • Photoshop text can be converted to editable text
  • Any layer or layer group can be turned into a named movie clip
  • You can set image export quality options on a layer-by-layer basis
  • Multiple layers can be selected and merged
  • Layers can be imported as either Flash layers or keyframes
  • You can choose to have the Stage automatically resize to the size of the Photoshop document's canvas

So Photoshop import is a pretty big deal right off the bat, right along with the tight integration with Illustrator. Again, let's look at what happens when you go to import an Illustrator file (fig. 4):

Figure 4

We've got more of the same: editable text options, Movie Clip designation, etc. But there's more?Flash CS3 solves a slew of problems previously present when working with Illustrator documents:

  • Colors will be less likely to display the famous "Flash shift" when bringing in an Illustrator image
  • Live effects (drop shadow, blurs, etc.) and blending modes are not only preserved, but converted to Flash's internal equivalents
  • Clipping masks are respected
  • Pattern strokes and fills make the journey intact
  • The Illustrator layer hierarchy translates into Flash layers and folders

Basically, what you see in Illustrator will (more or less) be what you see in Flash. Finally, it's also worth noting that Flash's internal vector drawing tools now more closely resemble those found in Illustrator, complete with identical cursors, keyboard shortcuts, and modifier keys. All this, combined with Illustrator's support of Flash-like Symbols for organization, means that Flash and Illustrator work together especially well in the CS3 suite.

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