Flash 4’s support for MP3 audio compression is a major addition. You can use MP3 streaming audio in your Flash files while maintaining excellent compression rates for fast download. Using the timeline, it’s straightforward to visually synchronize frames of animations and streaming audio. Another important requirement on Web sites today is the ability to capture data and provide instant feedback to the user. Flash 4 now lets you add this level of interactivity by using edit text fields in Flash projects to collect and send information directly to a Web server and database. Any text added to a password field will be automatically converted into an indistinguishable font for security. You can also maintain your design integrity by specifying custom fonts in the text fields, allowing you to create front-end interfaces for Web based applications on your site. Some of the best improvements in Flash 4 are, again, the result of Macromedia taking note of user’s upgrade suggestions – including more control over your working environment. Inspector palettes are tabbed and can be dragged around to form a customized work area. The addition of a scene inspector for managing and editing multiple movie scenes, shift-selection for selecting multiple objects, plus the ability to edit your artwork in place, will increase productivity. You can undock the timeline and take advantage of additional multiple monitor support. And, when drawing rounded rectangles, you can now use the directional arrows to adjust the corner radius and create curvy buttons. Animation is a key element of Web sites, from rollover navigation buttons to complete cartoons. It is vital to be able to create them easily and quickly. Flash 4 now has a Create Motion Tween command, allowing animations to run more smoothly. Simply select a graphic from the library, or other source, create a keyframe in the timeline by positioning it on your project area, then select Create Motion Tween from the Insert menu and manipulate the animation artwork to the desired effect. Your animations will have a more realistic movement. A built-in library is essential for keeping track of the different elements used in your sites, like GIFs, sound, animation files and scripts. Flash 4 has an improved library utility. You can sort elements by date, name, kind and number of times used. You can also group assets together in folders, and see a preview of the chosen element. The time-consuming tasks of exporting, testing and previewing finished projects has been made simpler by a new Publish command. You can specify which combination of elements to publish, and it’s now easier, using the Publish settings selector, to pick the correct output format. Other additions include QuickTime import and export features and titling and animation effects. You can import custom colour sets to ensure colour consistency, and updated tutorials help you get the most out of the new features.
There are many improvements to Flash in this upgrade, and current users will be delighted at the attention to detail and the integration of other Web standards like MP3 and QuickTime. Macromedia has excelled itself. Flash 4 really is an unique tool for creating stunning Web sites.