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Classroom and one-to-one training can be expensive. When most computer users decide that they need to learn a new skill or new piece of software, something more than just its accompanying manuals is a must. As fewer software publishers are including paper-based manuals with their programs, more how-to books are being written by third parties. Macworld looked at five Flash 5 help books by different publishers to weed out the useful from the useless. Some of them even come with software and tutorials on a CD-ROM. I’ve started with the least advanced book. Flash tends to be intimidating to new users, and that’s who the Macromedia Flash Visual QuickStart Guide is aimed at. Alongside the tutorials provided with Flash 5, it’s always useful to have an extra source of hints, tips and in-depth tutorials. This book claims to teach you Flash the easy way: by concentrating on providing pictures rather than text. However, there maybe plenty of screenshots, but there’s also loads of text to wade through. QuickStart Guide is good when explaining the basics of Flash – from creating basic graphics to how to use the Timeline efficiently, to describing each and every tool in detail. Everything a beginner needs is covered. Animation techniques are also included – from motion and shape tweening, object interactivity, and frame-by-frame animation. Next up is Macromedia Flash 5! Creative Web Animation. Written by two well-qualified Flash developers, Derek Franklin and Brooks Patton, this book takes you through Flash 5 from a beginners level to advanced. With 16 chapters covering many aspects of Flash – from basic animation, adding interactivity and ActionScripting, to finding your way around the improved user interface in Flash 5 – this book provides easy-to-understand explanations. It also gives time-saving methods to use when planning Flash projects, and warns when a tip may need extra processor power – or when it is advisable to use different methods of animating in order to gain a required effect without its associated problems. A multi-award-winning US design consultant, Hillman Curtis’s Flash Web Design – the art of motion graphics (the v5 remix) is slickly designed. The book takes apart useful examples of motion-graphics projects to see the structure and design principle used in a specific, real-life brief. Knows 'is streaming
Though the title of the book is Flash Web Design, several additional technologies are covered to varying degrees – such as encoding and streaming MP3 audio, preparing video for use in Flash 3D modelling, optimizing and testing. All examples are taken from real life, and the chapters have a logical layout. The technology explanations are easily understandable, and the use of illustrated examples clear. Practical advice on the hardware needed to produce professional projects is also included. Hillman Curtis writes about his own philosophy on design, with particular emphasis experimenting with different techniques. In Flash 5 Magic with ActionScript, the code that makes possible most of the interactivity you find in Flash Web sites is dissected. Similar to JavaScript, ActionScript is a programming language that enables Flash developers to add complicated interactivity to projects – including database connectivity. Even JavaScript coders will have a few teething troubles when first working with ActionScripts. However, this book takes you through the planning process, and uses real-world examples of techniques that can be used in e-commerce and educational design. Flash 5 Magic is well-designed, and makes a nice change from the severe serious-programmers help books that seem to be the norm. Flash 5 Magic has well laid out and planned chapters, and is targeted at a high skill-level. This means that shorthand is used for some of the tutorials, which could confuse less-advanced users. Macromedia Flash Advanced, as the title suggests, has a steep learning curve. But, as you progress towards becoming proficient in the application, an advanced guide is a helpful stepping-stone. If you want to improve your Flash skills – and have already mastered all the basics of animation, tweening, sound and video – then this book guides you through the use of ActionScripts to control graphics, movies or other objects within Flash to create a complete user environment. Creating application programs in Flash – such as arcade games, complex drop-down menus and forms – is difficult to do without an advanced knowledge of ActionScripts. To use this book, you should already know most of the basics in Flash – at least up to motion tweening, Symbol editing, manipulating layers and frame-by-frame animation. The book suggests advanced animation strategies, and explains how to begin constructing ActionScript components to add interactivity to movies. Flash Advanced also looks at the typical communication issues a Flash designer should be aware of when working with browsers, external files and applications. The final chapter focuses on storing, modifying and displaying database information through Flash projects. The bundled CD includes nearly all the Flash source files for the tasks set in the book. To get the most out of this Flash Advanced QuickPro Guide, you should ideally have worked through the tutorials and projects in the QuickStart Guide reviewed above.
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