By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-10-17 Print this article Print

Flash Professional 8 continues the progression of the Web application development tool from a complex script-oriented environment to a tool that both developers and graphically oriented authors can use with equal comfort.

In general, most of the new features in Flash Professional 8 are geared toward increasing usability. In our Opinion, Flash Professional 8 does well at this, removing or easing tasks that could prove tedious in previous versions. We especially liked the expanded stage work area, which let us store objects on the stage even if they wouldnt show graphically in the application.

In addition, we could draw objects directly on the stage without affecting other objects in the same layer. Flash now includes the ability to perform undos on an object level, and we could view all our Flash files in a single library panel.

Our one criticism as far as usability goes is how the Help window works in Flash. Rather than being a separate window, as in Dreamweaver, the Help window is part of the Flash environment, meaning that when accessing help or tutorials, we had to continually minimize or move the Help window rather than just tabbing back and forth.

From a quality standpoint, Flash Professional 8 has greatly enhanced Flashs ability to deal with images, colors and text. More anti-aliasing controls made it possible to have much clearer text in our applications, and bit maps now appear smoother in Flash. Improved gradients and blending controls gave us more options when applying colors and integrating objects in Flash.

New easing controls made it possible to generate a variety of animation motions using a curve-based tool, giving us detailed control over how objects moved in the animation. New filters also made it possible to add a wide variety of effects to objects and animations.

For those building Flash applications for mobile devices, Flash Professional 8 includes one of the most extensive emulators weve ever seen.

Using the emulator, we could test how our application worked on pretty much every Flash-enabled device and cell phone available .

Other new features in Flash Professional 8 include an assist mode to help those unfamiliar with Flashs ActionScript apply scripts without needing detailed knowledge of it and a new video codec .

The new video codec for Flash, called On2 VP6, is designed to provide greater picture quality at smaller sizes and greater interactivity in Web applications. Using the Flash codec, it is possible to encode in both this format—to support users with the new Flash 8 Player—and in the Sorenson Spark format for those with older Flash players.

Probably the least enhanced component of Studio 8 is the Fireworks Web graphics application. To us, probably the biggest and most welcome new feature in Fireworks 8 is simply the ability to save a file directly as a JPEG (along with other common image formats) rather than having to go through the more tedious task of exporting the image. Fireworks now works much better with Flash and supports CSS for creating interactive menus.

In addition, improved workflow features made it easier to reuse fonts, objects and preferences.

Along with Contribute 3, Studio 8 also includes FlashPaper 2, the utility for adding interactive PDF files to Web pages without requiring users to launch Adobes Acrobat Reader.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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