Preface


In this chapter
Who This Book Is For
More Than Just Marketing
What Makes This Book Different?
How to Use This Book
Using Code Examples
Safari® Enabled
Comments and Questions
Acknowledgments


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:


Learning by doing

People learn by repetition, so you should perform all the exercises contained in this book. Techniques presented in one chapter are often used again in later chapters, offering practice while you learn new concepts. Subsequent uses will require less description and tutorial focus, until eventually accomplishing basic tasks becomes second nature. You aren't expected to master skills at the first use, and this approach means that you won't have to absorb too much information at once.


Shortcuts

Shortcuts and alternative techniques are introduced after you have performed an operation at least once. Becoming more familiar with each operation from multiple perspectives reinforces the material, helping you to transfer your newly acquired knowledge from short-term to long-term memory.


Chunking

Information in this book is grouped together in small digestible parts. This process is known as chunking. To see how this works, try to remember the following nine-letter sequence: pnggifjpg. Not too easy. Now try to remember the chunks PNG, GIF, and JPG. Simple, eh? The difference is in the presentation. Chunking makes it easier for you to understand broader ideas, instead of just repeating things by rote.


Need-to-know basis

As previously mentioned, this book doesn't try to teach you everything about a given topic before you're ready. Instead, it features "progressive disclosure," in which a topic is revisited in more depth as your knowledge and needs grow. For example, don't be concerned if a specific chapter doesn't describe all of the settings in a particular dialog. You may learn about portions of the dialog in one discussion and revisit the options in the remainder of that dialog later. This reduces the chance that you'll feel overwhelmed.


Sidebars

In addition to presenting new information, sidebars are also used to expand upon topics introduced in the main text. Subjects are usually explained in the text just enough to convey the main ideas, or for you to perform an exercise. If warranted, additional detail may appear in a sidebar. This allows more experienced readers to move on without interruption, while beginners can learn in stages (but see "A Few Important Words About Sidebars," later in this Preface, for a caution).


Suggesting the next step

Each chapter ends with a section called "What's Next?" This conclusion not only prepares you for the upcoming chapter, but also offers simple suggestions for you to expand on what you've learned. These unguided goals push you to develop related skills by accomplishing tasks without numbered steps or sample files. They are designed to motivate you into taking your skills to the next level and to start you down the road of self-teaching.

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.

Getting Started

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:


Keyboard shortcuts

Windows and Mac OS keyboard shortcuts are often listed for commands, especially the first few times they are mentioned. If only one shortcut is specified, it is the same on both platforms. Typically, the shortcuts only differ because they begin with the Control key on the Windows platform and the Command key on the Macintosh platform. These modifier keys are usually cited as "Ctrl-G (Win) or Cmd-G (Mac)." For brevity, they may be listed as "Ctrl/Cmd-G."


Menu commands

Menu commands are indicated using the arrow symbol ( ). For example, Edit Copy indicates that you should select the Copy command from the Edit menu. The same convention is used to indicate that you should choose a tab or suboption in a dialog box, such as File Publish Settings Flash ActionScript Version.


Italic

Indicates new terms, ActionScript references (names of functions, methods, parameters, properties, etc.), symbol names, symbol linkage identifiers, frame labels, and URLs, as well as the names of layers, files, directories, and similar items requiring emphasis.


Constant width

Indicates code samples, named instances of movie clips, XML tags, HTML tags, the contents of files, or the output from commands.


Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be entered literally by the reader. This font is also sometimes used within code examples for emphasis, such as to highlight an important line of code in a larger example.


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 permissions@oreilly.com.

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Comments and Questions

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Acknowledgments

Rich Shupe would like to thank the following people for their help, support, and distractions during his work on this book:

  • John Neidhart, Steve Weiss, and everyone at O'Reilly Media, as well as Robert Hoekman, Jr., and Bruce Epstein

  • Jodi Rotondo, Thomas Yeh, Kawai Sin, Joseph Shoemaker II, and everyone at FMA, including my students

  • Bruce Wands, Joe Dellinger, Russet Lederman, Mike Barrons, Jaryd Lowder, Diane Field, and everyone at the School of Visual Arts, including my students

  • Lori Piquet and everyone at DevX

  • Stewart McBride, Lynda Weinman, Kevin Skogland, Christoph Wiese, Gaylynn Firth, Kim Vandyk, and everyone at FlashForward

  • Paul Kent, Rachael Jones, Kate Greene, Heather Meninno, and everyone at Macworld, IDG, and Mactivity

  • Steve, Cindy, and Brian Shupe; Abigail Jannsens; Dennis, Elaine, Denise, and Doug Rotondo; and Cheri Strand

  • The Jungle (especially Penn Jillette and Teller), The Residents, Tony Fitzpatrick, Tim Jenison, Emily Z. Jillette, Paul Provenza, and all aristocrats everywhere

  • Extra special thanks to Jodi, Thomas, Brian, and Jesse Freeman; and welcome Kaito, Enzo, Moxie, and…?

Robert Hoekman, Jr., would like to offer his sincerest gratitude to the following people:

  • Bruce Epstein

  • O'Reilly Media, Inc. (especially Tim O'Reilly, Rob Romano, Claire Cloutier, Glenn Bisignani, and Norma Emory)

  • Robert Eckstein (and Scrappy)

  • Liatt Bailey

  • Beta readers Sham Bhangal, Paul Catanese, Lisa Coen, Marc Garrett, Mark Jonkman, Andy Rayne, Darron Schall, Drew Schiffman, Dana Stokes, Karen Vagts, and Edoardo Zubler

  • Macromedia (in particular Mike Downey, Mike Chambers, Ed Sullivan, and Amy Brooks)

  • FMUG.az (Flash and Multimedia Users Group of Arizona): John C. Bland II, Shane Anderson, Bob Wohl, Ron Haberle, Muharem Lubovac, Shaun Jacob, Jeff Garza, and everyone else in the group

  • Above all else, my wife, Christine Rose Pearson



Flash 8(c) Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity
Flash 8: Projects for Learning Animation and Interactivity (OReilly Digital Studio)
ISBN: 0596102232
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 117

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