Although Flash is often associated with animation, it can be used to create a wide range of rich content containing text, graphics, audio, video, animation that can run from a web browser, CD, or on the desktop of computers and hand-held devices.
Projects are developed in the Flash software and can be saved or exported for different purposes.
Source versions are the original Flash files. They contain the *.fla file extension and can only be viewed and modified by someone using Flash development software. These files contain the basic media, Timeline, and script information.
Compressed versions called Flash movies are viewed with FlashPlayer that can be downloaded for free. These files are compiled and compressed so they take up less storage space and download quickly. These are the types most often embedded on web pages and viewed with a web browser. The end user goes to a web page with the *.html file extension. The published version of the Flash movie (*.swf) is embedded in the code of this page.
Executable versions of the files can also be developed that embed the FlashPlayer in the program, so no special software is needed. Since these files require more space, executables are most often found when the projects are shared on CD.
The main file types associated with Flash projects include .fla - holds the source material for a Flash program, .swf - aka ShockWave Flash' movies / compiled and published files that cannot be edited with Adobe Flash, .as - the ActionScript source code, and .flv - Flash video file. Learn about the software program, its history, other file forms and much more at Adobe Flash at Wikipedia.
The following links take you to the resources on this page.
Stage. Your main work area is called the Stage. This is the area where you will be working with the visual aspects of your project.
Timeline. Like an electronic spreadsheet, the Timeline is set up in rows representing layers and columns and time by individual frames.
Media Objects. Generally media objects resources such as graphics, audio, and sound are imported into the Flash Library. Instances of these objects are then dragged onto the Stage as they are needed on particular keyframes. Media objects may also be accessed through ActionScripts.
ActionScript code. An object-oriented scripting language is used to add interactions and controls to your project.
Explore some of Adobe's online resources at What's New in Flash Professional CS5 and What's New in Adobe Flash Professional CS5. These two webpages provide an overview to Flash files, workspace, tools, and preferences.
Once you've installed the software, begin by creating some media objects using the drawing tools. There are two kinds of graphics used in Flash projects: bitmaps and vector.
Bitmaps are made of many dots that form a picture. Photos and many of the clipart files you see are bitmap. They take up lots of space and don’t enlarge very well. However it’s okay to import these if they’re important to your project.
Vector graphics are made of individual lines, shapes, and locations. They are infinitely scalable and look good reduced or enlarged. They also don’t take up much space. Flash created vector-based graphics.
Since Flash lacks some of the power of other graphics programs, you may wish to do your graphic work in another program and bring it into Flash. If you have access to the entire Adobe Creativity Suite, then you could work in Adobe Fireworks.
If you don't have access to a commercial program, consider open source software that can be accessed at no cost. For image manipulation such as retouching photos, image composition and image authoring, try GIMP or ImageMagicK.
Explore / skim the Graphic Effects Learning Guide for Flash from Adobe.
As you create your first projects, keep it simple. You might start with projects that involve stick figures, suns, trees, and houses. These things are all easy to create using the basic draw tools. Spend some time experimenting with lines, shapes, and colors.
Like all software, it's helpful to use the keyboard shortcuts. You can examine a Flash CS5 Keyboard Shortcuts (Mac) or Flash CS5 Keyboard Shortcuts (Windows) from Noble Desktop. Notice the link for the PDF / printable version on right side of the webpage.
Learn the basics and get started using the software and creating basic Flash graphics.
For a quick look at the differences between Flash CS5 and earlier versions, visit the Flash Professional Upgrade Chart.
You can find websites that contain tutorials or help with getting started and using Flash for developing graphic images. Explore some of these for added ideas:
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