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Getting Acquainted with Flash 5

Flash offers a powerful system for creating animation on the Web. Here's an overview of what you can do with the system:

  • Create a Flash movie by creating graphics and animating them over the duration of the movie.
  • Use the Publish command within Flash to publish the movie into a Flash player file. At the same time, Flash creates HTML code that you need for your Web page.
  • Insert HTML code into your HTML document that creates the Web page to reference the Flash player file. It's similar to adding a graphic to a Web page. Alternatively, you can use the HTML code alone as a new Web page.
  • Upload the new or edited HTML document and the Flash player file to the location where you keep other files for your Web pages.
  • Open your browser, navigate to your Web page, and presto! There's your cool animation on your Web page.

You need a Flash viewer to see the effects that Flash creates. These days, Flash viewers come installed in most computer systems and browsers so most people can view Flash-driven Web sites immediately without any special download or preparation. When you display a Web site that contains Flash effects, your system uses the Flash viewer to play the animation. Users who don't have a Flash viewer can download it free from Macromedia.

Web sites are becoming increasingly sophisticated. By using animation and special effects, you can distinguish your Web site from the also-rans. Using animation isn't hard, and you don't have to be a professional graphic artist, either. Anyone can create simple animations to enhance a Web site; it just takes a little time.

Knowing what you can create with Flash 5

You can use Flash 5 to create simple animation to add to your Web page. You also can create an entire Web page or site and incorporate text, graphics, interactive buttons, and animation.

The following list describes some of the ways you can manipulate text, graphics, and sound by using Flash 5:

  • Create simple or fancy text that remains still or appears animated on your Web page. You can choose to stop the animation after a few seconds or repeat it while your viewers view the page.
  • Use Flash tools to create your own graphics for your Web page, or import graphics. You can lay out a Web page graphically or add graphics to only a part of a Web page.
  • Animate graphics and make objects appear and disappear by using the transparency feature. Objects can move, get bigger or smaller, or rotate. Flash also enables you to morph — that is, transform — shapes into new shapes.
  • Fill shapes and text with gradients, which are colors that gradually change into new colors. You can even fill shapes and text with bitmap images that you import into Flash. For example, you can fill the letters of your name with dozens of flowers.
  • Create Web page buttons that not only lead your viewers wherever you want them to go but change shape or color at the same time. You can make buttons change as you pass your mouse over them. People who view your page can click a button to display a movie (animation). In other words, your viewers can decide which movies they want to see.
  • Add sounds or music to your movie. You can control how long the sound or music plays and whether it loops to play continuously.
  • Create pop-up menus that viewers can use to navigate your site.

Determining when not to use Flash 5

If Flash 5 is so wonderful, why doesn't every Web site designer use it? Why aren't most Web sites created completely with Flash?

Here's the other side of the story.

Although the vector graphics and animation of Flash load quickly, they don't load as quickly as plain text and simple graphics. Adding a movie to your Web page creates some overhead. There's no point in using Flash if you want simple pages consisting of mostly text and a few graphics that you want to stay put and not move.

You can create certain graphic effects much more easily by using bitmap graphics. Painted brushstroke and textured effects are examples. Graphic artists create these types of graphics by using graphic editing software, and the results are bitmaps. Similarly, to add photographs to your Web page, you need to scan the photographs as bitmaps. Flash creates vector graphics (defined mathematically), which are different from bitmap graphics (defined by lots of dots).

If you want simple animation, such as a few blinking dots or a marquee effect, animated GIFs (the animated bitmap graphics you often see on the Web) are smaller than Flash movies, so they load faster. You can create animated GIFs by using animated GIF editing software.

Flash provides little in the way of 3-D graphics or animation. For those, you need to go to more sophisticated software such as Poser or 3D Studio Max.

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