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Macromedia Flash 8 Professional

The best (and pretty much only) keeps getting better By Kevin Schmitt

In many ways, Flash is like Photoshop. Neither has any real competition, and when new versions are released, there are the inevitable gasps of amazement from users and reviewers alike, shocked that neither program has decided to roll over and wallow in its own bloat for lack of contemporaries. Flash 8 Professional continues this trend, delivering what is the most significant update in five years (if not ever) and adding a whole new category of potential users to already crowded and varied list of user types.

You didn't ask for it, but here's some perspective anyway

Flash has traveled a mighty distance from its humble beginnings as a primarily web-based vector animation tool. With Macromedia's latest update (likely the last under the Macromedia banner), Flash 8 returns to its roots in more ways than one, and the results are pretty spectacular. First, it's important to note that the MX moniker is now toast, as Macromedia has gone back to traditional number-based versioning for Flash 8. While this probably seems like a small point, and I may be reading too much into things, dropping MX signals to me that the engineers have kicked the marketers out of the driver's seat, a philosophy that is pretty evident throughout Flash 8 Professional (at least to me). It's not a flashy (pun intended) upgrade, with questionable features slickly packaged and polished (a trend which is all-too-common, especially in more mature applications, as sadly was the case with new features in Flash MX 2004). Flash 8 Pro, plain and simple, delivers the goods. The mantra of Flash MX 2004 was all about the RIA (Rich Internet Application), an acronym that reeked of base corporatespeak and seemingly geared towards the buzzword-spewing suits of the world alone. And while Macromedia still uses "rich internet application" liberally, they're really pushing the "Flash Platform" as their dog food du jour. Positioning Flash as an entire platform seems a little more in line with what today's Flash designers and developers want to do with Flash, and represents almost a top-down push to evangelize Flash by having actual Flash users talk it up rather than rely on a cute acronym or empty buzzword that doesn't really mean anything to customers. The Flash Platform isn't really even about the Flash authoring environment; it's about using the Flash Player as the portal to view content built with an ever-growing suite of products that produce Flash-based content (Flex, Breeze, RoboHelp, non-Macromedia products, and so on). And with Microsoft's Expression suite right around the corner (which may or may not be gunning for a piece of Flash, depending on who you talk to), the Flash Platform is probably the right way to position Flash for future growth and acceptance. But as far as actually making Flash content is concerned, the big gun in the Flash Platform arsenal is still the Flash authoring environment itself, so it better be able to offer something to all the different types of users Flash has become attractive to. Fortunately, Flash 8 Pro doesn't disappoint. Enough analysis, such as it is. Since I'm probably a couple hundred pounds of wrong anyway, let's just get to the goods.

First, a word about Flash 8 Basic

Don't. There, that's the word. Want a little more? Oh, alright. Whereas before Macromedia offered Flash MX 2004 in Standard and Pro flavors, Flash 8 also has a "crippled" version, dubbed Flash 8 Basic. Pretty much everything you'd want Flash 8 Professional for is missing in Flash 8 Basic. While we'll discuss many of these features in just a bit, for now just know that Basic offers no filters, no blends, no easing controls, no mobile authoring, no video, and no upgrade path to the Pro version. That's a steaming helping of "no," so unless you just need the absolute basics (hence the name), I'd find a way to come up with the extra green to go Pro.

New features

Since product upgrades in mature programs like Flash are all about the new, let's get to it. And lest this already long and rambling piece get any longer and, well, rambly-er, I direct your attention to the four-part series that ran in this space before Flash 8 was launched. Most of Flash 8 Professional's major new features are discussed in-depth throughout those articles, and if you're looking for a little more meat than I'm about to provide, feel free to peruse the following links:

Now, for those who want to take a slightly shorter route to the good stuff Flash 8 Professional has in store, here are just a few of the "big kahuna" features:

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Related Keywords:flash, flash 8 basic, flash 8 professional, studio 8

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