Macromedia announced Flash Writer - a free downloadable plug-in for Adobe Illustrator - at Seybold yesterday.

Flash Writer lets Illustrator users save artwork natively to the Flash Player file format, and deploy artwork to the Web without having to reformat it as a bitmapped file.

Until now, Illustrator users had to convert artwork into bitmapped GIF or JPG formats, and lose scalability and the ability to quickly publish vector artwork to the Web for display or high-quality proofing.

The Flash file format also has a compact binary file that can be streamed from any Web server and displays more quickly than other major graphics formats. SWF files from Flash Writer can also be brought into the Flash 4 authoring environment to add animation, interactivity, MP3 audio compresson and other advanced features.

According to Macromedia, 83 per cent of Web surfers can view Flash content online without having to download and install a player. The Flash file-format was published as an open-Web standard last year, allowing other companies to both export the Flash format or playback Flash content within their applications.