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First Look: Flash MX 2004

New versions boast worthwhile features, identity crisis By Kevin Schmitt
Flash sure has come a long way over the years, from its humble beginnings as a novel Web animation program (that wasn't even a Macromedia product) to today's juggernaut interactive authoring suite. And while it seems like only yesterday that Macromedia released Flash MX, it's time yet again to roll out the red carpet and welcome another version of Flash into the fold. Did I say version? I meant versions, as we now have two, two, two flavors of Flash to collectively deal with.

Flash 5, which came along in the late summer of 2000, was a milestone in terms of Flash's appeal to two separate, but increasingly intermixing, user bases. Designers and artsy-types continued to go for the animation, and developer folk got on board for the sudden maturity of ActionScript. For some, this marriage of the technical and the artistic was akin to the fabled falling of one's chocolate into another's peanut butter, resulting in a new breed of Flash designers that straddled the line between design and programming. With Flash MX, Macromedia unveiled their vision of Flash becoming the (pronounced "thee") tool of choice to develop rich Internet applications, combining the data flexibility of back-end server functions with all the funky-fresh things the Flash plugin was capable of, which, for the first time, included native video functionality.


Despite the advent of the "tweener" type of artist/programmers, Macromedia rightly figured that many Flash users who gravitate towards the design end of the spectrum sometimes don't give much of a hoot about the hardcore programming and data functions that the users on the development end of the spectrum do (and vicey-versey, as they say), and thus, two versions of Flash were born: Flash MX 2004, and Flash MX 2004 Professional.

So what does a split version of Flash really mean? I'll try to make this as simple as possible. Flash MX 2004 Professional is for you if:


  • You need to tap into Flash's back-end hooks and data management.

  • You are part of (or supervise) a team of Flash designers and need project management.

  • You author for wireless devices.

  • You need more and/or better video options than what Flash MX (2002) provides.



For everyone else, regular ol' Flash MX 2004 will probably be more than enough for what you're doing in Flash. Well, enough history and generally unenlightened pontificating. Let's get to some of what's new and improved in the two versions of Flash.

Both versions offer...
Tweaked interface
If you're a Windows user, you'll notice the look and feel changes right off the bat. The interface widgets are different, which is neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned, but there is the nicety of a tabbed document window (fig. 1), which beats the heck out of the way Flash used to handle multiple open documents. Mac users will be happy to know that Macromedia hasn't shoehorned the revised look onto the Mac version; instead, they've kept within Apple's interface guidelines for Aqua applications (fig. 2). Unfortunately, the Windows document tabs aren't present on the Mac. Incidentally, the sound you may hear is not me booing Macromedia over that. I'm yelling "Boo-urns." And so is Hans Moleman.


Fig. 1


Fig. 2


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Related Keywords:Flash MX 2004, macromedia

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