Macromedia Offers Peek at Flash 5

SAN FRANCISCO (03/29/2000) - Macromedia Inc. hopes Flash, its vector animation tool and file format, will enliven the Internet from any device.

At the Flashforward2000 user conference here this week, Macromedia previewed Flash 5, expected in June, and is highlighting its general efforts to spread the Flash file format. Joining Macromedia for workshops and pep rallies around Flash are designers, developers, and partner vendors like Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Computer Inc., and RealNetworks Inc.

Flash on Any Web Device

Ninety percent of people on the Web can access Flash content, according to NPD Online Research. The Flash player, a browser plug-in, comes with America Online 5.0, the Apple OS, Internet Explorer, Netscape, QuickTime, Red Hat Linux, and Windows 95 and 98. Beyond the PC, Flash players support the Liberate Web TV and Windows CE devices. Players for Symbian devices, Palms, and Web phones are in the works.

Flash adds interactivity, color, and digital sound (MP3) to Web sites.

QuickTime uses Flash for its interface elements; so does NBC's Web site.

Volkswagen uses Flash to mimic its TV ads on its Web site; and much of Shockwave.com's own interface is built on Flash, Lynch says.

To further Flash the Web, Macromedia is posting free software development kits for the Flash player and file format, noted Rob Burgess, Macromedia chair and chief executive officer. Developers can add Macromedia Flash export to authoring applications and Macromedia Flash playback, including printing, to platforms and devices.

"Regular Flash .swf files play on this [Windows CE] handheld device," said Kevin Lynch, Macromedia's chief technology officer, in a demonstration of the Flash player running on a Cassiopeia.

Sneak Peek at New Authoring Tool

The update, Flash 5, has a new look that is more similar to other graphics tools, says Eric Ott, product manager.

Flash 5 also has an improved menu system that you can reuse when creating Web pages. It even lets you create a Flash user interface within the authoring tool.

You can make a Flash movie of a menu and share it, Ott said. Flash 5 will ship with a lot of widgets, or menu designs, and makes it easier to add such functions as tabs, links, and pop-up boxes to designs. Those used to take hours to create, Ott added.

Flash Around the Web

Macromedia also highlighted Shockwave.com content by playing a clip from Stan Lee's 7th Portal cartoon, in which a group of Web geeks playing a multiuser game become the characters they portray. Macromedia offers the Flash movie as an example of Web content that can be used in other media.

Other session highlights included a presentation on Apple's QuickTime by Frank Casanova, director of QuickTime product marketing. He demonstrated the ease with which you can access and edit audio and video files with the QuickTime player and its QuickTime TV content channels.

QuickTime lets you capture, edit, archive, play, and stream, he said. "We use Flash to control the channels for all our QuickTime TV content."

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