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Flash MX - News for Designers

Flash MX - News for Designers

There's as always a lot of new stuff for the designers. Some of these are enhancements that have been on the wish-list for a long time. In Flash MX even the 'Clip-art' that come with the standard libraries have been updated, making these a bit more usable... ;)

4th MARCH 2002, by Jens C. Brynildsen 1 Templates
Ever had a client that insisted to do thing himself? Now you can at least make a template that can 'save' the design... This is'nt a new object or anything. It's simply a way to open a set of Flash files. These files will keep their original settings and content, making it easy to change things. Remember that you already can lock objects to prevent editing? This feature plus Templates can be a powerful combination if used right. Flash MX features several templates for broadcast, ads and more. The ad templates contain a guide layer with usage guidelines and other useful information.

2 'Style Sheets'
We haven't had the time to dig into these functions, but it appears to be some functionality to apply sort of a 'Style sheet' to both text and objects inside the Flash file. Some programming guru will probably make some tools making these features available to non-programmers rather soon.

3 Property inspector
This feature is on 'permanent loan from Dreamweaver' as a Macromedia representative phrased it. It will display the options for any object you highlight on the stage. Click a text field and it will give you the contents of the text-inspector in Flash 5. Click a line and you will have access to stroke settings. Clicking the stage will give you the properties for the stage such as fps, size and background color.

4 Text enhancements
Substitute missing fonts! It had to come sooner or later. This is especially an issue for people working in a mixed environment with both Mac's and PC's. When you open a movie and some of the fonts are missing, you get a substitution dialogue. Another nice text feature is a new way to break apart text. The first 'break apart', will break a text into separate letters. Applying one more time will turn them into vector shapes! Designers that are into ActionScript should absolutely check out the programmers article!

5 Color mixer
A big bummer from Flash 5 has been corrected, the Color Mixer is back to Flash 4-style. Any color used is easily added to the current swatch by clicking in the swatch. In Flash 5 it would disappear and you had to pull down
a menu and then add the color to the swatch. Really annoying...

6 Free transform tool
Free transform and envelopes are now possible, but you cannot change the envelope. That is a big drawback, but Macromedia representatives told us that it would make the tool too complex. We guess that Macromedia don't want Flash to compete directly with Freehand... The tool allows skewing, perspective and distortion effects.

7 Snap to pixels
Ever wanted to place something precisely on a pixel? Doing this will increase playback speed significantly as Flash then don't need to calculate the aliasing-points. If you enable 'Snap to pixels' a 1-pixel grid will appear, easing the placement. The advantage disappears as soon as you widen the stroke to non integer numbers, but used well, it'll cause significant speedups.

8 Scriptable masks!
In Flash 5, a mask was a mask and could not be modified. In Flash MX there are no such limitation. This will, if used creatively, change design in Flash forever...

9 Macromedia Answers Panel
The Macromedia Dashboard have been trashed in favour of a 'Macromedia Answers Panel' that can do some nifty things like searching tech-notes and such at and other community sites. Maybe not such a bad idea? 50% of my company's flash installations was never able to update the panel anyway. On these machines Flash claimed that the content was up to date even though it had never been updated...

10 Named Anchors
Is a bit of an odd feature. It could be extremely useful, but should have been taken further. What it does is allowing you to insert 'Named Anchors' inside your Flash file. That allows allows for bookmarking of certain pages inside a file and also allows the 'Back' and 'Forward' buttons on the Browser to be used. For it to work, you have to add some special HTML to your document. The Publish function does this for you, but the only sensible thing here would be some sort of 'real' communication with the browser, allowing you to really bookmark stuff inside the Flash file.

Here at FlashMagazine, we have sort of solved this through using cookies (check the news section), but the best would be if some programming-whiz could figure a way to do this with ActionScript dynamically. That way you could actually use the back and forward buttons for what they were meant to do.

Make sure you also read our stories on the Big News , News for ActionScripters and The Downside.


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