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Book review: Extending Flash MX 2004

Book review: Extending Flash MX 2004

One of the key design goals for the MX2004 range of products was to improve your workflow. This can be seen in a number of time-saving features in Flash MX 2004, but none more so than in the JSAPI. This simple scripting API allows you to extend the Flash MX 2004 development environment by letting you author your own authoring tools!

TITLE: Extending Macromedia Flash MX 2004
PUBLISHER: Friends of Ed
ISBN: 1-59059-304-9
PAGES: 451 b&w
CD: No
AUTHORS: Keith Peters, Todd Yard
RRP: $49.99 USA
Buy here

Back in January 2002 Adobe released Livemotion 2. Although it was launched as a direct competitor to Flash it always suffered from being one iteration behind. Adobe tried a few tactics to differentiate it from Flash but it was finally canned last year. One of the more interesting tactics they tried was to open up the IDE to developers. Although LiveMotion is no longer with us, the idea of scripting the IDE has resurfaced in the form of the JSAPI in Flash MX 2004. The purpose of this book is to introduce to you and document this new extensibility API.

Because the subject matter of the book is pretty specific the authors have had the luxury to deal with the subject very thoroughly. The first two thirds of the book contain in depth tutorials on each of the main areas and the final third contains a full JSAPI reference guide. If you plan to develop a lot of your own tools or extensions (and there are already companies doing just that) then this reference is going to get well thumbed.

Both the authors and the technical reviewer (Peter Elst) were Macromedia beta testers for MX2004. The writing team really knows their subject and has the experience to write about Flash with some authority. Over the course of eight chapters we are introduced to the mechanics of extensibility with tutorials on building custom commands and tools, Timeline effects and behaviors. There's no CD but all the source code is available on Friends of Ed's website.

Chapter 5 is entirely dedicated to XUL, the XML schema for defining user interface elements. It starts with a quick XML refresher then goes on to document all the XUL tags including the non standard / Flash specific ones. Once you've learned how to do it all the hard way there's a nice surprise at the end in the form of a 'Dialog Designer' .SWF file. This Flash movie helps you build UI components and writes the XUL tags for you.

Chapter 7 introduces you to the joys of WindowsSWF and MMExecute. Up until now you've been working with purely 'modal' dialogue boxes. MMExecute executes the contents of any JSFL string you pass it and WindowsSWF windows are non modal. It's this combination that allows you to build custom tools that sit alongside your standard toolset.

To finish off with in chapter eight, Keith and Todd leave Flash entirely and show you how to build batch files to totally automate Flash from the command line. Great stuff. The narrow scope of the subject matter has given the authors the space to thoroughly cover this important new feature of Flash MX 2004.
visit Friends of Ed


About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, and

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