I checked in with Chris Grover, author of the recently-released "Flash CS5: The Missing Manual," to get a rundown on Flash CS5's new features. And because I couldn't resist, I also asked for his thoughts on the Apple-Adobe dustup and how -- or if -- Flash and HTML5 can coexist.
What are the major improvements and additions in Flash CS5?
Chris Grover: There aren't as many major changes and new features in Flash Professional CS5 as there were in CS4 and that's probably a good thing. Instead, Adobe's team focused on polishing features and adding tools that make it easier to use Flash.
That said, the most obvious changes in Flash CS5 include a new and more powerful text engine for displaying and animating text. The IK Bones feature introduced in Flash CS4 has a new property called Spring, which gives animators one more way to create realistic motion. Improvements have also been made to the video component used on many web pages to provide streaming video.
This latest version of Flash includes useful templates that perform a wide variety of functions. For example, you can choose between two different photo album templates -- one even uses XML to manage the photo files.
If you write ActionScript code, the hinting feature gives you tips on what to do next. it can also save you from typographic errors. Another feature, code snippets, offer chunks of pre-written code for common tasks, such as event listeners. You can drop snippets in your code, make a couple of tweaks, and you're off and running.
There are also some under-the-hood changes. For example, Flash has a new XML-based file format that makes it easier for members of a team to work on different parts of a project at the same time. As a result, it's easier for designers to create graphics and for programmers to develop code, independently.
Which Flash tools do you use most often?
Chris Grover: I'm a big fan of the Motion Editor that was introduced in CS4. It makes animation easier and gives me precise control. Creating good-looking tweens is more art than science, but with the Motion Editor, I'm in more control of every aspect of the animation.
On the ActionScript code-writing side, I find the code-hinting helpful. I can't keep the entire ActionScript 3.0 manual in my head, so I like hints and clues. I know there are those who'll find code-hinting annoying, but that feature can always be turned off.
What's the relationship between Flash and Flex, Flash Builder, and Flash Catalyst?
Chris Grover: For a long time, Flash has been kind of a chameleon of a program, combining graphic design, animation and programming. Flex came along to provide an open source way to develop web applications that use the Flash player and other web standards. It's really a programmer's tool. Now there are two other options: Flash Builder will appeal to programmers, while Flash Catalyst will appeal to designers. If you're interested in the whole enchilada -- both design and coding -- Flash Professional is the place to start.
Chris Grover: I'm not sure whether the iPhone packager is going to on the scene for long, and that's a shame. The great contribution of Flash is that it makes it easy to communicate your ideas in a beautiful, stylish manner. You don't have to be a C++ or Objective-C programmer to develop a sophisticated and useful application. This opens the door for a wider audience to develop interesting applications and truly creative content. However, Steve Jobs is pretty good at digging in his heels. I remember using a one-button mouse for many years. So, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how much the current feud hurts Adobe and Apple, and how much it helps other handheld devices.
What's your take on Apple's anti-Flash stance?
Chris Grover: When I read through Steve Jobs' open letter regarding Flash, it seemed to me the first few points were red herrings and meant to scare people. Yes, the Flash player could be more secure and it could perform better. But not designed for touch screens? Please. These are fixable issues. The same could be said of many tools and applications. It's a constant battle for developers.
It wasn't until Jobs' sixth point that I thought the real motive appeared: Apple wants to be in control. Apple wants you to use its tools to create apps for the iPhone and iPad. It doesn't really want you to develop an app that works both on the iPhone and on another handheld like the Droid. I have a feeling Apple would like Adobe a whole lot more if its tools didn't work on Windows PCs and other non-Apple products.
If HTML5 adoption takes off, what does that mean for Flash?
Chris Grover: My best guess is that Flash will continue to evolve and grow as a platform for developing animations, games and desktop applications using Adobe AIR. While HTML5 may steal away some of Flash's current chores, there are many other areas where Flash will continue to be the tool of choice.
Learn more about this topic from Flash CS5: The Missing Manual.
Unlock the power of Adobe Flash and bring stunning animations to life onscreen. Flash CS5: The Missing Manual includes a complete primer on animation, a guided tour of the program's tools and capabilities, new illustrations, and lots of details on working with video. Beginners will learn to use the software in no time, and experienced Flash designers will improve their skills.