Flash MX - a teething review in on-going time  

This review of Macromedia's Flash version 6 (product name FlashMX) is being conducted 'on-the fly'. I am aiming to look at flash from an intermediate user's perspective in a world wide web environment. indevelopment.org itself is being used as the sample specimen and you my trusting reader are my sample audience.

Because of the ongoing nature of this review, the article is best read back-to front. Have a look, you'll work it out.

By the way: I'll be uploading the sample file that I making on a fairly regular basis. You can view it here: www.indevelopment.org/mx6-8x8/test.htm Remember that this is a working file, so if nothing happens then nothing is happening at the moment. You can still enjoy the track though.

Comments can be directed to the usual place: grant@indevelopment.org

Test System
AMD Duron 750
Windows XP
256mb Ram
40gb 5400 rpm hdd

reliable and stable pc

25/04/02 - Happy with Flash

I'm now over five weeks into the prodcut and I can report that I am happy with FlashMX. I'm midway into a system rebuild (caused by a usb 2.0 problem) so I know I won't be getting to into flash again in the near future.

I've found that a couple of minor tweaks were needed with the layout but other than closing a couple of menus that I never used, the default designer layout for 1024x748 is perfectly set out.

Because I use the basic ends of the actions (and then mostly for launching urls or movie navigation), closing the action menu at the bottom of the work area and returning to a pop-up menu has given a significant expansion to window-space.

I am annoyed that key shortcuts have been altered between this edition and version 5. For example, preview in browser is now CTRL+F12 (previously f12) and Action Menu is F2 instead of the traditional CTRL+ALT+A. No other instruction has been given to either command so I don't really see a need to change it at all.

Thoughts as of today: Flash MX (Flash version 6) is an improvement over version 5, which was light years ahead of version 4. Flash works well in windows XP and does not show any tendencies for being an unstable application. Macromedia should be pleased with a product that has benefited from the upgrade.

04/04/02 - Plain sailing in the application though creatively blank

I can report that 2 weeks into the trial I am yet to have a serious crash. While it is true that I'm not at my most creative right now, you really should see some of the horrible things I was doing in flash over Easter. That is, if it wouldn't reflect badly on me.

What's taken no time to adjust to is the contextual menu at the bottom of the workspace. As I've mentioned before, this is similar to Dreamweaver's properties menu in that it changes depending on the tool your using. It has made working with symbols and frames a much quicker process.

Click the frame and get the frame properties

Click the symbol and get its properties - neatness at last

Although I am yet to get into a data critical situation, I am yet to run into a major crash which is a great sign.

Creatively is a complete other story. I've yet to hit a concept and haven't even narrowed down the track so it may take a few weeks until I really get into the nuts and bolts but happy so far.


30/03/02 - Some minor quibbles

There's a few things that have begun to annoy me. It may only be specific to my machine but If I interrupt a complex publishing render, say by switching to a browser window or another app whilst flash is working on mp3 downsampling, once the publishing is completed the all of the panel sets are hidden.

Before After

This may be unique to my machine but it is an easily corrected annoyance through the Panel Sets menu option. Haven't had much inspiration for flash work so progress has been slow.

I have modified the clip, it's still in the teething stage and I know that I won't really get started until Jerem drops off his new track. At the moment it's just random dickering.


24/03/02 - Starting audio work

My first problem has occurred about 3 minutes after importing an mp3 file. I imported to library then played the track and I am waiting for my system to come back to me. In fact I had to crash the application to get out of the performance lag. What I think was happening was through playing from library, then adding a new layer into the document I used too many resources. At the time I had both Dreamweaver and Distiller opened. Have now closed Distiller and will attempt the same actions with only Flash and Dreamweaver open (two programs you'd hope would coexist at the same time happily).

Tried a similar approach, but this time imported a wav file and remembered to save this time. Process has worked fairly smoothly.

First gripe: F12 alone no longer previews the animation. CTRL+F12 is needed. It's a minor annoyance but will be enhanced when swapping into dreamweaver or back into Flash 5 because both use the F12 key only. I hate when changes like this happen.

By the way: I'll be uploading the sample file that I making on a fairly regular basis. You can view it here: www.indevelopment.org/mx6-8x8/test.htm

I must admit that I'm really happy with the file size so far. I've done no tweaking but with only a 3.5 minute wav file the .swf is only 406 kb. This will certainly grow because it's a low quality downsample but it does show that the default settings will create great file sizes.

So I'm uploading a basic, blank page and a flash file that contains only audio.

21/03/2002 - Version 6 .swf files removed from indevelopment.org for the time being

It's only taken 72 hours but I've converted the menus away from version 6. Whilst they work perfectly with the new version of the player, the page does not prompt to install the plugin on machines that have not upgraded their player.

Because of this I'm moving the navigation back to format version 5 but keeping the main home page in v6 format.

20/03/2002 - FlashMX Menus

Jerem mentioned to me the other day that he had a new track ready and I am just happening to be looking for a nuts and bolts project to test FlashMX with so a flash audio-video clip will be that task.

The first real positive that I can comment on is that it is now dead easy finding the menu you're after as Macromedia have noticed that most other software manufacturers group them under the one main menu.

The second hurrah is the tool sensitive menu at the bottom of the work area. The toolbar menu automatically switches to the text options when the text tool is selected and so on. Again, a great step for flash.


18/03/2002 SWF (version 6) added to indevelopment.org
I've just activated a 30 day trial version of flashMX, the next generation of Macromedia's animation package Flash.

I believe in early adoption, where possible, of new software. My philosophy is to test to the strongest degree possible and indevelopment.org will be a testing ground. I've converted the navigation menus to the flash 6 compressed format and will be empirically testing how it all goes.


The default interface looks like it will be an improvement, especially over version 4. By version 5 of the product, Flash had a more comfortable feel but it was always quite awkward to manipulate.

So far I've done nothing more but will report back when I've built something with it.

Of course, if somebody from Macromedia would spring for a full preview product for this review, you can always reach me at grant@indevelopment.org


Author: Grant McDonald www.indevelopment.org

090808 NW