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Flash MX 2004

Multiple versions, multiple user types, multiple verdicts By Kevin Schmitt
Now that Flash MX 2004 has been out for a while, it's time to revisit the juggernaut web animation/multimedia authoring/rich internet application development/whatever else Macromedia's marketing department wants it to be this week package to see how it's holding up after a bit of the ol' scrutiny. And, as is quickly becoming the norm with a mature product such as Flash, it's not an automatic slam-dunk to come up with a single recommendation as to whether it may be right for you.

There are a couple of reasons my approach to this review will be different from that of any other product I've reviewed. The first (and more important) reason is that Flash has evolved into a program that appeals to an insane number of user types, and with that being the case, Flash MX 2004 may vary in value according to how you have used Flash in the past. The second reason for a different approach is that I've already gone over a whole bunch of what both flavors of Flash MX 2004 offer in a first look article that ran a little while back, so if you need what amounts to a feature list of the different versions of Flash MX 2004 (along with lots of pretty screenshots), be my guest and take a look at that article.

Now, I've had a chance to put Flash MX 2004 (hereafter, FMX04) through a pretty rigorous workout on both the Mac and Windows platforms since it shipped, and one thing that became abundantly clear from the giddy-up was that for all the "breakthrough" features Macromedia claims it packed into FMX04 and FMX04 Pro, it may not be a worthwhile upgrade for some users, while being a no-brainer upgrade for others. With that in mind, I've tried to create a few sweeping barroom generalizations about the types of users Flash is apt to appeal to and assign a rating to each type based on what I came across while working with FMX04.

User type: New to Flash
Version likely to purchase: FMX04
Rating: Strong Buy

Yes, Virginia, as hard as it may be to believe, there are still some folks out there who are new Flash users. For those of you who are, I only have the following to say: What took you so long? No matter--what's important is that you're about to be one of us now. Mwaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Sorry. It's so easy to get caught up in my maniacal supervillainous ways. Now, this is as good a place as any to put the following disclaimer: some of the things you're about to read might give the impression that I'm down on Flash. Not true. Flash is an unbelievable program, one which I've found useful in ever-increasing ways over time. And taken as a whole, FMX04, whether the "regular" or Pro version, is an outstanding product, hence the Strong Buy rating for the new user segment. I'm just a little unimpressed with parts of FMX04 as a product upgrade, which happens a lot once any software product reaches a certain level of maturity, Flash included.

Anyway, if you've thus far resisted being assimilated into the Flash user collective for this long, you'll be pleased to find an extensive feature set and, more importantly for new users, a huge, entrenched community of generally helpful Flash developers, not to mention virtually assured playback on the vast majority of computers in existence. Now, go ahead and read the First Look article like I told you to earlier to get the lowdown on what's what, order your copy, and you can call it a day.

User type: Designer
Version likely to purchase: FMX04
Rating: Neutral

I'm not going to gloss over the next few arbitrary user types like I did to poor ol' Mr. or Ms. New to Flash, since I'm (rightfully or not) assuming that most of you are wondering whether or not to upgrade the version of Flash you currently own. Anyway, a lot of "us" started out as Flash designers, eager to add some sizzle to all them technologified Interweb pages with this here newfangled web animation format known as Flash. Of course, that was sometime around 1997, and while Flash is capable of so much more these days than it used to be, suffice it to say that the numbers of Flash users that still use it pretty much solely as a drawing and animation tool are legion. And for good reason. Flash MX brought sanity to an otherwise insane interface, finally making Flash a relative joy to work with for drawing and animation purposes when compared to previous versions. Unfortunately, while there are a few helpful tweaks present in FMX04 for designers, I'd have to say that overall it's pretty much a tossup as to whether FMX04 is a worthwhile upgrade for you. While I do have four pretty decent reasons why you should upgrade if you're a designer, I'd go so far as to say that a good rule of thumb is that if FMX02 is working for you right now and you have no real complaints or wants, you might be better off sticking it out with FMX02 for the time being. Regardless, here are the four big reasons designers might want to upgrade:

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Related Keywords:Flash MX 2004, design, animation, web, interactive


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