Director Keeps Its Place at Top

Macromedia's multimedia developer gains better interface, integration.

Although much of the focus has switched to Java, Flash and other newer technologies, Macromedia Inc.s venerable Director is still one of the top platforms for developing interactive multimedia applications. eWeek Labs found its latest incarnation, Director MX, to be an excellent upgrade, with increased usability, capability and integration options.

Director MX, released last month, shares much of the same user interface as the companys Flash and Dreamweaver products. And the similarities dont stop there: Director MX also includes extensive integration capabilities that make it easy for developers to include Flash applications with their Director projects.

Director MX is priced at $1,199 ($399 for users updating from 8.x versions). The product also runs on Mac OS X as well as Windows systems, although Director MX does not support older versions of Mac OS.

When we fired up Director MX, we were immediately gratified to see the new interface. Developers who are used to Flash, Fireworks and Dreamweaver will instantly be at home, but even those who arent familiar with these applications will appreciate the usable interface.

However, those accustomed to previous versions of Director will have to find where things are done in the new interface. For example, settings once handled in Watcher are now configured in Object Inspector.

The new Object Inspector also provides greater debugging options and makes it easier to manage and access Lingo and other scripts.

Director MX includes Lingo commands that make it possible to create applications that meet accessibility requirements, a must in the education and government realms, where Director figures prominently. Unlike most Web applications, which use third-party applications to enable accessibility, Director leverages its own rich media capabilities to make it possible for those with vision or hearing disabilities to view the same content. We could easily add features such as captioning or text to speech to our Director applications.

In addition to being able to easily import and edit Flash applications into Director, we could leverage the strengths of both within our projects. It is now possible to apply Lingo scripts to control the actions of Flash applications. And, conversely, Director can take advantage of Flash Communication Server for collaborative applications and can use the data integration features now in Flash, although both require Flash to be used in some way in the Director application.

Director MX works well with third-party applications, allowing us to do in-place editing of images and multimedia using non-Macromedia applications such as Adobe Systems Inc.s Photoshop.

The main differences between the Windows and Mac versions are aesthetic, with the Mac version taking advantage of OS Xs Aqua interface. Unfortunately, users working on the different platforms cannot collaborate on the same project.

East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at