Macromedia announced Flash MX today, its application for the design, development and deployment of rich Web-content.

The company says Flash MX will "create a better experience for the user in a rapid and cost effective manner". The company believes this is "fundamental" to the next evolution of the Internet. There's currently over 414 million Flash users worldwide.

Flash MX offers a variety of tools for motion-graphics design and for building data-driven applications. Flash output developed in the application can be experienced across multiple platforms and devices. Macromedia has introduced new colour-management and video tools in this version, and enhanced Flash's existing graphic tools.

Product range With an improved timeline feature and tight integration with FreeHand and Fireworks, Flash MX also offers designers a selection of pre-built templates and user interface components. The component architecture is open and based on a common architecture, so its possible to build new components as required. The product delivers enhanced XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) support and improved ActionScript programming tools. A code-reference feature helps designers use the correct coding, and the built-in debugger also helps in applications development.

Macromedia claims: "The content and usability of Internet applications needs to significantly improve." With this in mind, the company's aim with Flash MX is to "drive the adoption of rich Web-technologies".

As such, this version is the most interactive Flash yet – combining video, vector graphics, animation, audio and interactivity with complete multimedia support, including vectors, bitmaps, animation, audio, video and two-way messaging.

Teaching aid The application has built-in lessons and tutorials, a selection of templates, and the company continues to add new sections to its online knowledge bank, the Macromedia University. This release also boasts a series of accessibility features, designed to make Flash content accessible to everyone.

The Timeline benefits from improved cursor feedback, resizing, cutting and the capacity to paste multiple frames. The New Folder layers feature makes it easy to organize and access layered content in the timeline.

The end user experience is another key feature. The Flash MX Player is scheduled to appear soon. Flash MX saves on precious bandwidth by dynamically loading images and sound – MP3 and JPEG files are downloaded at runtime, this saves on file size, as these features no longer need be packaged into Flash for playback.

Anchor Another new feature, Named Anchors, permits users viewing Flash content to use browser functions, such as the Back/Forward buttons, to navigate to specific areas of Flash content defined by the author.

The application is the first of an integrated family of MX tools Macromedia plans to bring to market in the coming months. This collection aims to improve the experience for both developers and end users. Cross-platform support and new functionality have been introduced to support what Macromedia calls "the next evolution of the Internet".

As well as Windows, Flash MX supports Mac OS X 10.1 or higher, and Mac OS 9.1 or higher. The Flash 6 Player supports Mac OS 8.6-9.2, Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and Solaris platforms.

This release also builds on Macromedia's purchase of Allaire – makers of ColdFusion, which integrates closely with Flash MX. Flash MX also boasts optimized integration with ColdFusion, J2EE, and .NET servers through a new, data-exchange protocol and application server gateway.

Flash MX is a multilingual solution supporting both Vertical Text and Unicode Standards with 11 languages, including Korean, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese for the first time.