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New for Designers in 2004

August 25th 2003 | Jens C Brynildsen



New for Designers in 2004

After the Flash MX launch in 2002, many designers were a bit disappointed. It seemed like most of the new features were for the programmers, except for video and the new transform tool. For MX 2004 the new design features are will save you hours even if they are not so cool and fresh!

If you tried the Beta version of the Flash Player 7, you probably noticed that it was much faster the current Flash 6 version. For designers, this makes a huge difference. Projects that used to run too slow can now be displayed at full framerate with no skipping of frames.

Speed and video
Flash 6 is now almost at 85 % distribution and is the single best way to display video on the web. Video performance is supposedly up to 5 times faster. That will do wonders for creative possibilities when making broadband sites. According to Macromedia statistics, almost 50% of the US audience now has a fast connection, so expect to see video much more often on sites in the months to come

Flash 6 video also looks much better using the new plugin. Flash MX 2004 also comes with a series of components for media control that requires little or no coding to work. Just drop the new controls on a video clip and it can be controlled with play, pause, stop, volume and scrubbing.

MX Professional comes with a new video encoder that has been registered with all the major video editing tools available. Quicktime Pro, Premiere, Avid, Cleaner, After Effects and Final Cut. All these tools can now export Flash video (FLV). FLV files can now be streamed directly.

Search and replace
The new search and replace tool is a boon. Now you can search and replace anything! Made an animation for TV output and got the some of the colors wrong? Just do a search and replace on any color, with filters for outline, fill or text. Replace symbols, text, sounds, video or fonts really quickly with a Replace all-button or one instance at a time.

Flash now supports CSS formatting of text. Flash can use the same stylesheet as the HTML-version of a site, so there's just one place to update for multiformat-sites. Click here to try out the CSS features yourself.

MX 2004 has a history-panel that you can use to create your own macros. Just select the last 5 commands and you can play them back on any applicable object! You can also save this as a script and distribute it. The Script language is the new JavaScript API.

Save and compact
While working with a FLA file in Flash 5 or MX, you can delete bitmaps and other information, but Flash actually keeps track of all of that until you do a "Save As...". Now there's a new feature called "Save and Compact" that will remove the redundant information, saving you some megabytes. Not such a big issue maybe, but why not provide it as an option? Good idea!

Ever done a project in more than one language? I've been doing one this summer: English, US English, French, Spanish and I'll soon do an Italian version of the project. It's all a matter of cutting and pasting a lot of text and you really feel like you're wasting a lot of time opening the same movieClip for the nth time just to paste text from Microsoft Word. My project has about 60 different texts so it does take quite some time to go through a file.

Enter Flash MX 2004: Click a button to export all your text to a file using the Strings-function. Send this file to the translator and when you get it back, just say to Flash: use these texts instead! This could have saved me days of work this summer. On the other hand, the project I'm doing is paid by the hour, so maybe I don't want that feature after all? Just kidding... I'd rather do something interesting like updating Flashmagazine!

A spellchecker is built in! Brilliant addition that will save hours and is pretty advanced. I'd say it rivals the features found in Microsoft Word, but the quality of the Dictionaries seemed weird. It found the errors we put in, but offered no suggestions? We guess this must be a Beta-related thing. Funny: The words 'Macromedia' or 'MX' were in the built-in dictionaries.

Tilt and draw!
And finally - the Brush Tool now supports the tilt-function of pressure sensitive tablets. Should make drawing directly in Flash more fun.

All text fields have mousewheel support in the Flash Player 7, so now your users can scroll the textfields you create. Not only that, but the textfields also support displaying images! Expect to see Flashmagazine back in SWF format within the year!


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