Flash is an amazing piece of software. It began as a simple animation tool and has grown into a sophisticated, high-end application for web developers and designers alike. Most people are familiar with the powerful animation features that are available within Flash. It is a great alternative to animated GIFs and helps web designers avoid some of the cross-browser issues associated with using Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML).
Nowadays, the uses for Flash are many and varied. Flash creates everything from simple animations to entire websites and applications, as well as broadcast-quality animations and content for mobile devices. Developers have used Flash for e-learning and online help applications. Flash even challenges Microsoft PowerPoint as a tool for creating online presentations.
The Flash Player is one of the most popular web browser plug-ins in the history of the Internet. In March 2005, Macromedia stated that Flash content had reached 98.3 percent of Internet viewers . This means that designers and developers can rely on some version of the Flash Player being available on most computers. You can find out more about the popularity of Flash compared with other plug-ins at www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/.
People are less familiar with the role of Flash in rich-media applications. Flash creates flexible and stylish front-ends for web applications as well as for stand-alone projects. The more recent releases of Flash include a range of tools for creating complex graphical user interfaces (GUIs). The standard UI components included with Flash make it easy for both designers and developers to create interactive movies. These components are also great for rapid prototyping of applications.
Flash movies can include dynamic content from a number of different sourcesdatabases, text files, and XML documents. A Flash movie can work like a template where you fill in the blanks with the external data. To change the contents of a dynamic Flash movie, simply update the data source. You dont even have to open Flash.
While weve been watching Flash evolve , the area of web development has changed dramatically. Weve seen a move from static, brochure-style websites to more interactive sites that offer real functionality to users. Think about the Internet banking applications that are available from most major banks.
Web pages have become increasingly complicated to cope with more sophisticated information and higher expectations from website visitors . The original HTML specification has struggled to meet the demands of modern web pages. As a result, different flavors of HTML have emerged, each tied to specific software packages and versions.
A high proportion of websites are now driven by content management systems. These systems allow website owners to maintain their own content without writing a single line of HTML. Increasingly, these sites draw content from sources such as database and mainframe systems. The role of website designer has changed from updating static web pages to creating systems that allow clients to update their own content.