I know things have been lacking around here, but there's a good reason. Equal to my passion for typography is my passion for Flash. I've been meaning to write about it for a while, but I wanted to make sure that what I had to say was worth while. In constantly contemplating exactly what to write about, the ideas began to categorize themselves, and, eventually, started to fall well into a series format. Inspired by Mark Boulton's great Five Simple Steps series, my own will attempt to teach you all you need to know about Flash to be well informed. This is not a set of tutorials designed to teach you Flash. There will be tutorials; however, they will be specific to the point o' the day. The goal is to examine some practical and appropriate applications of the software. Let's get on with it.
In the Beginning…
…there was FutureSplash. The predecessor to Flash, FutureSplash was a tool designed to create animation. It's important to remember that, although the current version of Flash is capable of creating robust applications, animation has been there from the beginning. It was and remains to be one of the strongest features of Flash.
Today, Flash is one of the most widely spread technologies on the web. According to Macromedia, 91.7% of users sampled around the world had Flash player 7 or later as of September 2005. Why so popular?
Bandwidth limitations played into Flash's favor early on. Because of its well-written compression scheme and ability to handle vectors, Flash's export format (SWF) became a competitor to older standard image formats like GIF and JPEG.
The format of Flash also appealed to multiple audiences. Traditional animators were drawn to it because of its proximity to traditional animation; comfortable features such as keyframing and tweening were evident. Video editors were ahead of the learning curve, since Flash's timeline model so closely replicated what they were used to working with. Illustrators and designers also gravitated towards Flash because of the promise of easily animated, well-design vectors graphics on the web.
Because it appealed to the professional, Flash's popularity took off. However, it also appealed to the amateur, and its ease of use spurned so much interest that the web quickly became bloated with overanimated, bandwidth hogging sites. It was so bad that many wrote it off as a lost technology with no merit. So why start a whole series about it?
I'm Glad You Asked
Just because some abuse technology doesn't mean that the technology itself is the problem. Education and moderation are the key to using Flash successfully and appropriately. The target audience for the articles that follow are designers and developers that have (wrongly) condemned Flash as useless. It's a powerful tool, when used well.
What Comes Next?
Now that you know the history, we can start diving into some practical applications. The next installment will deal with animation, how to keep it surprising and entertaining without being over-the-top. Unlike this post—which was informational—all other articles will deal with how to apply the technology by working directly in Flash, and mostly likely contain example files to work with.
The next one from there is purposely up in the air. What else should be on the list of upcoming topics?