Adobe Creative Suite 5 expands and extends its graphic reach
Rumblings about HTML 5 knocking Flash out of the box aside, Flash has become -- love it or hate it -- a cornerstone for how rich Web content, especially video, is delivered. To that end, Flash CS5's stated mission is to allow people to package and deliver Flash (for content inside a browser) or Adobe Air (for content outside the browser) to any device that runs it. For people targeting more than one platform with Flash, this version is well worth the upgrade.
The new Flash not only adds development tools but tries to provide a more welcoming environment for newcomers as well. Adobe does this by offering not just blank templates but also customizable libraries of code ("snippets") that cover many common scenarios -- for example, drag-and-drop operations, or clicking an item to go to a Web page.
What's nice about these snippets is that they come documented -- they include inline comments that explain how to modify them and to what end. The blank Flash app templates that come with the program also cover many common scenarios (such as a video player), although they're often very minimal. None of this is a substitute for a full tutorial (there are links to basic tutorials on Adobe's site as part of the program's online documentation), but they're good ways to dive in and start swimming.
One area where Flash has not only been reworked but made much more consistent with other Adobe products is text handling. The text engine in Flash 10 has been totally rewritten to be more like the typography system for Photoshop or InDesign. It now has, among other things, proper support for Asian typography, right-to-left languages, and advanced font features like ligatures. To me, it looks like a sign that, in the future, content created in any one part of Creative Suite will be treated much more interchangeably between applications.
Testing a Flash movie for use in different devices is done through its sister application, Adobe Device Central. This program is used by other Creative Suite apps as well, but Flash makes the most use of it: You can simulate everything from screen sizes to accelerometer behavior to the ways different phones display different types of media (e.g., Flash embedded in HTML vs. Flash opened stand-alone).
Even better is the ability to publish a Flash project as a native iPhone app. The end result is a real iPhone app, not something running on top of an add-on Flash interpreter -- but you still need to be mindful of how the iPhone's attributes (such as screen size) will affect the behavior of your app. A blank iPhone app template is included to help you get started, although you do need to have a proper digital certificate from Apple to actually run the program on the phone.
(As of this writing, Apple had announced that it would ban developers from using rival programming tools. Adobe's official announcement just prior to CS5's introduction was: "We are aware of Apple's new SDK language and are looking into it. We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5." )
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