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Review: Essential Actionscript 2.0

Review: Essential Actionscript 2.0

Colin Moock's previous book, 'Actionscript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide' (colloquially known as the ASDG) not only sits on the desk of any serious Actionscripter - it sits on the desk of every developer on the Macromedia Flash team. It is the defacto reference guide to Actionscript syntax. This new book, 'Essential Actionscript 2.0' (EAS2) has been written to naturally compliment the ASDG.

TITLE: Essential Actionscript 2.0
PUBLISHER: O'Reilly
ISBN: 0-596-00652-7
PAGES: 502 b&w
CD: No
AUTHOR: Colin Moock

It is important to realise that Actionscript 2.0 is simply Actionscript 1.0 with a formal structure, and that this structure has been implemented in a dozen or so new commands. The ASDG is fundamentally a reference work, so to simply update it would have been missing the point. EAS2 quite rightly concerns itself with the profound and far reaching ramifications of this new structure.

The book is split into three broad sections. The largest section takes up the first half of the book and is an exhaustive review of the AS2 framework and associated syntax. The depth of discussion on even the simplest topics is quite extraordinary. Something as seemingly simple as casting variables to datatypes is full of obscure and subtle revelations. This depth of arcana is what puts Colin's work ahead of anyone else in the field.

After 280 pages of theory you'll probably be itching to put some of this new knowledge into practice. In the following section we move onto Application development. It's here you work through Flash specific development examples using the likes of packages, components and event listeners. The relative merits of inheritance vs composition are thrashed out again and again as each new technique is explored.

Finally in section three we move away from Flash specific mechanics to more generalised OOP theory, and how it can be applied to Actionscript. There follows implementations of several common Design Patterns including Singleton, Observer and Delegate. The MVC implementation alone is worth buying the book for. If you haven't considered the benefits of working this way before then the accompanying discussion of runtime swapping will blow your mind.

If you've followed Colin's site or attended his Flash Forward 2003 workshop then a few of these examples may be familiar to you. When these were originally presented they were in Actionscript 1 and included all the tortuous prototype-chain stuff that came with it. It's worth taking a minute to compare this with their new Actionscript 2 implementations, and thank your relevant deity that you don't have to do it that way anymore.

Actionscript has made the leap from scripting to fully object oriented programming language, and EAS2 will introduce you to the required skills of software engineering. Unlike the ASDG, it's less of a reference work. This is a careful discussion of the semantics of object oriented programming within Actionscript 2.

Colin Moock and O'Reilly have risen to the occasion yet again and produced the defacto standard textbook on AS2. A few weeks ago I reviewed the worst Actionscript book I'd ever read. I won't shame the publisher by naming it again but I'm sure the morbidly curious can find it. I'm very pleased to say that Essential Actionscript 2.0 is without question, the best Actionscript book I've ever read. 10 out of 10. Buy it. Read it. Absorb it. And when your done, read it again.

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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, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.

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