Welcome to Flash 8: Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity, a project-based introduction to the newest version of Flash. This book includes everything you need to get started in Flasha robust animation and interactive development toolright out of the box, including a CD-ROM with trial versions of the software and all of the example files from the exercises herein.
Who This Book Is For
This book is primarily geared toward beginning Flash users who want to bring their project ideas to life. This is not an exhaustive look at every feature available in Flash, nor is it an ActionScript dictionary. This book offers a different perspective.
Flash 8: Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity has been designed as a project-based introduction to the Flash world. Easy-to-follow exercises, content-rich sidebars, and plenty of illustrations work together to guide you through the application's major features. You will never find yourself overwhelmed by unnecessarily complex exercises or dry, labored discussions. At the same time, however, you will be inspired to create in new and different ways.
This book was written with a few simple assumptions in mind: that even if you're a beginner, you are relatively intelligent and motivated, you have a general familiarity with typical graphics programs and web browsers, and you have some basic HTML experience. However, you do not need to be well versed in ActionScript to enjoy this book. In fact, quite the contrary is true.
No programming experience is required. ActionScript fundamentals are slowly introduced throughout the book to help guide you through each new topic. You can take advantage of the sample files supplied on the enclosed CD-ROM and learn to program at your own pace. You needn't fully understand all the code examples right away, but when you feel comfortable, the ActionScript foundation presented in this book should prepare even the greenest of beginners to take your Flash skills to the next level.
Not Exactly a Beginner?
While essentially an entry-level work, this book is not just useful for the uninitiated. It is also an excellent choice for readers who have a superficial familiarity with Flash and want to learn more about the new features introduced with Version 8.
This book should also be effective for programmers with no prior Flash experience who need to learn the Flash development environment. If, however, you want a more in-depth look at ActionScript, take a moment now to refer to the resource listing in Chapter 15. You may find a pointer to a book better suited to your needs.
If you're looking for a broader focus, and you want to get up to speed in Flash with minimal effort, this book is for you. It follows the success of tutorial instruction, providing information on a need-to-know basis, without muddying the waters unnecessarily.
More Than Just Marketing
The subtitle of this book is more than just a catch phrase, it emphasizes two important themes that run throughout. First, this book will show you how to use Flash right out of the box. You'll dive right in and learn how to animate, play audio and video, program basic interactivity, and more. Second (and just as important), as you make your way through these pages, you'll learn how to think outside the box. The last two chapters, in particular, show you a few examples of how to create with Flash in nontraditional ways.
In this book, a box will serve as a unifying element. It will be the basis for graphic layouts, buttons, animationseven a cartoon character. It will be there to remind you of what is possible without additional resources, as well as what is possible when you think without boundaries.
Boxes are allegorical of many aspects of design and development. A box can suggest form and structure, but it can also represent an empty container that you can fill with ideas. This book will help you develop some of the skills you need to fill that box.
What Makes This Book Different?
Most entry-level books are structured with a rigid, linear sequence of chapters planned with the hope that one topic will logically lead to the next. Sometimes, however, this approach may not cover a subject when you really need it or, perhaps worse, may thoroughly cover a topic in which you have no interest. By contrast, this book tries to pair topics with goals, making learning the material a more organic process. Much like peeling an onion, this book will expose new concepts layer by layer, sometimes revisiting a point more than once to make it easier to grasp.
Several techniques are used in this book to help you better understand and retain the information you are given. This approach is what makes this book a more effective learning tool than other books on the shelf. Here's a breakdown of the approach:
How to Use This Book
If you read this book from cover to cover, you'll find many tidbits in unlikely places that you'd miss if you skipped around. You're strongly encouraged to perform all the exercises, even if they don't appear to relate to tasks that you specifically want to accomplish, in order to gain familiarity with Flash. Most of the exercises build on concepts and operations learned earlier, so unless you're already familiar with Flash, you should start at the beginning. The exercises are refreshingly brief, so give them a shot and pick up the finer points hidden along the way.
Nothing is more frustrating than a tutorial book in which you can't get the examples to work. If you run into trouble, bear the following in mind.
Flash 8 is sold in two versions: Basic and Professional. Think of the Professional version as a full product and the Basic version as an entry-level, or functionally limited, product. (See http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/basic/ for a comparison of the two versions.) Many of the basic features are common to both versions, but the two start to diverge when it comes to more in-depth capabilities. To cover the most ground, this book and some of its sample files assume you are using the Professional version, but you can still get a lot from these pages if you're using Flash 8 Basic. Installers for both versions are included on the enclosed CD-ROM. If you don't already have Flash 8 installed, it's a good idea to evaluate the Professional version.
Note: If you have lost the CD-ROM and have a high-speed connection, you can download the trial software from Macromedia's web site (http://www.macromedia.com). You can also download the sample files, as well as any updates or corrections, from the book's support web site at http://www.flash8projects.com.
A Few Important Words About Sidebars
The use of sidebars in this book differs from their use in many other books, in that they do not merely contain supplemental material that tangentially relates to the topic at hand. Instead, sidebars are used to pull important or lengthy topics out of the body text, where they might otherwise be too weighty or significantly interrupt the flow of the chapter. This is especially true in the step-by-step projects.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you read every sidebar. ActionScript topics, in particular, are introduced or expanded upon throughout the book in sidebars. This book has been designed to allow you to work through the projects quickly and to learn by doing. Rather than dedicating a full chapter or more to ActionScript theory, we introduce these topics as you go, in smaller pieces that are easier to digest and are presented just when you need them most.
Again, you are highly encouraged to embrace sidebars as content that is as valuable as the main body of the text. Skipping sidebars because you assume they are of lesser importance will almost certainly reduce the effectiveness of this book.
Conventions Used Herein
The following typographical conventions are used in this book:
Note: This icon signifies a tip, suggestion, or general note. Many tips are integrated throughout the text, but notes set aside in this manner may be particularly important.
Warning: This icon indicates a warning or caution. Ignore it at your own peril.
Using Code Examples
This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you're reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O'Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product's documentation does require permission.
We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: "Flash 8: Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity, by Rich Shupe and Robert Hoekman, Jr. Copyright 2006 O'Reilly Media, Inc., 0-596-10223-2."
If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rich Shupe would like to thank the following people for their help, support, and distractions during his work on this book:
Robert Hoekman, Jr., would like to offer his sincerest gratitude to the following people: