Macromedia began a redesign of its entire product line today
with the latest version of its Flash animation authoring software.
Flash authors are the first to get Macromedia's new user interface, which
the company is in the process of revamping with both new users and
professionals used to traditional authoring software in mind.
"Flash 5 is the flagship product for the new Macromedia UI," said Eric
Wittman, director of product management for Flash. "We have an internal
group that has representatives from each product team that has been working
on an interface that is familiar to those who have been using our software
and more approachable to those who are more familiar with other products in
Dreamweaver and Fireworks are next in line for the overhaul. Wittman would not
say when their next versions are due.
With the new Flash version, authors will use what's known as a paneled UI, in
which changes are made to a selected object through a constantly active,
open window rather than a pop-up dialogue box. Authors will be able to
customize their keyboard shortcuts. For example, someone familiar with
keyboard shortcuts in Director can now import them to Flash.
Tools for the interface have been rearranged, and the menu structure is
being standardized across all products.
Apart from the user interface, Flash 5 comes with a variety of other new features. These include a new scripting language, ActionScript, which is modeled on
Flash 5 also includes support for Extensible Markup Language (XML), a standard for tagging documents with industry- or task-specific
markup tags. XML support will mean that Flash documents can exchange
XML-formatted data with back-end database and server applications.
For authors accustomed to print authoring software, such as Macromedia's
Freehand and Adobe Systems' Illustrator, Macromedia has added a Bezier drawing
tool for creating vector graphics. A Bezier tool displays a set of points
that describes an object and lets the author manipulate those points.
For animation authors used to Macromedia Director or Adobe After Effects,
Macromedia has given Flash an object-oriented animation timeline. Rather
than filling in, or "tweening," between key frames, the object-oriented
timeline deals with the entire animation as a unit. Flash still supports
its traditional key-frame method.
Movie Explorer is a tool new with Flash 5, analogous to the Windows
Explorer or Macintosh Finder, for organizing and searching through files
within a movie.
Flash 5 also offers Smart Clips, programming shortcuts or animation
fragments converted into reusable components.
Available for download,
Flash 5 costs $399 or can be bought with Flash 5 FreeHand 9 Studio, which
costs $599. Upgrades cost $149 for Flash 5 and $249 for the Studio. The
Flash 5 Generator 2 Pro Developer Upgrade sells for $649 through December