Using Flash MX ActionScript
Intro - Flash History
What is Flash? Perfetti says, “Macromedia Flash is a powerful development
tool that offers tremendous capabilities (at http://www.uie.com/whitepaper.htm,
2002).” In Flash’s early days, it was mainly used to create animations
or short movies. As Flash’s popularity grew so did its functionality with
each new version. Programmers were able to build real application user interfaces
with the latest versions of Flash. Flash could now boast that it had client-server
capabilities. Programmers use ActionScript, which is Flash’s programming
language, to create these user interfaces. Franklin says, “ActionScript
is a language that bridges the gap between what you understand and what Flash
understands (p. 8, 2002)”.
Flash’s Early History
Animation Building Tool
Figure 2. Early Flash application called FutureSplash Animator taken from the
Flash began as a simple drawing tool. Flash’s creator, Jonathan Gay, eventually
added the animation part of this tool to his product and began selling it under
the name FutureSplash Animator. In October of 1995, Jonathan tried to sell his
product to Adobe, but they thought the demo was to slow and declined. Eventually,
in December of 1996, Macromedia bought FutureSplash Animator, and named it Macromedia
Flash 1.0. Flash has been through five revisions since then, and is now called
Flash MX (Flash 6.0).
Flash’s Bad Reputation
Flash has had a bad reputation for being slow, and creating a bad user experience
for the user. In October of 2000, Nielsen wrote that Flash technology discourages
usability for three reasons (at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001029.html,
- Encourages bad design
- Breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction style
- Consumes resources that would be better spent enhancing a site’s core
It is true that many designers have created web sites with Flash that are not
user friendly and are slow to load. The way some designers have used Flash is
what really has given Flash its bad name. Meloni agrees that there are problems
but his recommendations are as follows (at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001029.html,
- Designers: Read up on usability. Practice it within your medium.
- Project Mangers: Plan and outline your projects well.
- Check-writers: Hire the right agencies, ones that look out for their clients,
- Nielsen: Step into the present. Adapt your tenets of usability and bridge
the gap between the Ten Usability Heuristics and today’s designers.
Nielsen has since recanted some of his beliefs, but his original remarks put
a slight damper on Flash’s use as a web tool.
How far has Flash come?
Flash is more and more becoming a choice for web design/developers or companies
to use for developing their websites. With bandwidth issues becoming less prevalent
and developers finding more ways to make Flash movies load faster and developing
more user friendly sites, Flash is fast becoming a dominant way to deliver Rich
Internet Applications. Airgid and Reindel say, “The idea of a page or a
static piece of information has been totally changed because of Flash’s
layering capability. Content can now be displayed in pieces or mixed together
to form new content by the end user. The booklike model of “turning” a
page to ready more information has been surpassed. Using Flash, developers can
layer information and design in a way that wasn’t possible with traditional
HTML” (at http://www.macromedia.com/devnet/mx/flash/articles/flash99good.html,
Flash’s newest version, Flash MX, also works with other programs to help
developers have a complete set of products to help them build dynamic web content.
Kav says that Flash MX was built with ColdFusion in mind, and can also be used
with J2EE, and .NET (at http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/02/09/index4a.html, 2002). Another product that Flash MX works with is Flash Remoting. Flash Remoting
is able to invoke methods to talk to web services. Marinescu says that Flash
out of the box – provides an asynchronous messaging model that allows Flash
to invoke methods RPC-style directly on web services, EJB’s, JavaBeans,
JMX MBeans, POJOs, ColdFusion pages, ASP pages, to perform ASO.Net data binding
operation, and creates links to a number of other resources in the ColdFusion
and .NET worlds that are probably less important to TSS than the JAVA cases (at