With Flash Professional CC 2014 Adobe is slowly pushing Flash as a universal vector animation tool for Web designers. No longer limited to Shockwave Flash (swf), Flash can export to other formats such as WebGL, SVG, and HTML5. This is great for long-time Flash developers who need this flexibility, but Flash Professional CC 2014 also includes new features that allow designers to enhance their creative potential.

Variable-width strokes with shape tweening

With vector art, normal lines don't look natural, so it's difficult to create nice-looking characters for your animation. When you draw with an actual pen on paper, you can vary your stroke based on the pressure you apply on the pen. This is exactly what Flash Professional's new variable-width stroke tool is for--there's no need for a pressure-sensitive tablet. This new tool will greatly enhance the look of cartoon style animations, a big plus for Flash.

In order to apply it, you click on the line you want to modify, and you drag out the handles that appear to define the thickness at this particular point of the line. If you like the shape, you add it to your profiles by clicking on "+" in the Fill and Strokes palette so you can apply the shape to any other line. It is also possible to animate the shape of the line in the timeline using a Shape Tween.

New Motion Editor

Omitted from previous versions of Flash Professional, the Motion Editor is basically a resurrected feature. It allows you to adjust every aspect of your motion tween using various easing presets. For example, if you want to create a motion preset, where an object would bounce back and forth in a sine motion, you would have a hard time doing this manually. Or imagine that you want, instead of a linear fade, a smoother start and ending. With the Motion Editor you have precise control, which is great news for anyone who often uses motion tweens. In my past experience, my agency would use scripts from GreenSock, a popular tweening library, but we can turn to the Motion Editor in many instances.

After creating a motion tween in the timeline, you access the Motion Editor by right-clicking on the motion tween and selecting Refine Tween from the contextual menu. The Motion Editor then appears in the timeline underneath the layer. You can expand by dragging the area for the timeline up, and on the left side you click on the triangle to expose the individual values for Location, Transform, and Color Effect. By selecting, say, the Alpha value, you can now add individual anchor points to the path.

What is really neat is that you can still add various easings to your path. Clicking on the icon at the bottom of the Motion Editor will bring up a smaller window, where you have a choice between several easing shapes, including things like bounce and spring or sine. This allows for some combinations that you would otherwise have a hard time to create manually.

Combined with the motion presets palette, you can create a library of your favorite motions and apply it quickly to any object in your animation. For animated banner ads in particular, this comes in very handy, because here you often have to recycle motions.

New Export options

If you want to use one frame of animation, you previously had to render it to a pixel-based format like JPG or PNG. Now, Flash Professional CC has an SVG-export feature to do so. SVG (scalable vector graphics) format can display vector graphics in a browser, and it can also be used to import a frame in Illustrator.

Adobe added the ability to export to the WebGL (Web Graphics Library) format, which is great because it supports 3D elements. However, you can't simply export your Flash animation to WebGL; you have to create a WebGL file through the New command and then bring over the animation.

Bottom line

Adobe Flash Professional CC 2014 adds the variable-stroke width palette and the Motion Editor, two great features, that many Flash developers will appreciate. The ability to export to SVG and WebGL is important to designers that require an alternative format to Shockwave Flash (swf). While the new features might not rock your world that much, these are really nice enhancements that are welcome.