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What About Flash?

Macromedia Flash is a vector-based authoring program and web plug-in that allows you to create animation, interactive content, and web pages. Because it works with vector data instead of bit- maps (GIF and JPEG), the information is much smaller and downloads more quickly than any other format on the Web. It is possible to create entire web sites in Flash that use any font you want, and those fonts will be accurately displayed to any visitor who has the Flash Player plug-in installed.

The authoring tool has the ability to work with any font that you have installed in your system. You can make the type animate, fade, scale, and/or rotate over time, creating much more dynamism than GIF and JPEG could ever hope to possess. The authoring tool lets you assign sounds and rollovers to type as well, and you can create links that jump to other Flash scenes (meaning your visitor might view your entire site without ever seeing a single HTML ASCII font).

One of the major drawbacks to Flash has been its reliance on a plug-in. While the plug-in is small (118K), it is still a deterrent to many. Fortunately, Netscape now includes the plug-in with its shipping version. In addition, Windows 98 supports Flash as a native file format.

I think Flash holds incredible promise as an HTML alternative. It gives designers the design control they want without forcing them to learn any programming. There is also a sister product, called Flash Generator, which allows you to use Flash with database-driven content. You could set up a template in Flash, for example, and have dynamically changing content conform to the template. Very exciting stuff.

The drawback to Flash is its reliance on a plug-in, its authoring tool (which is very deep, and has a medium–high learning curve), and the fact that Flash content is not searchable by most search engines or text readers. I think Flash is here to stay, and it offers one of the most promising multimedia technologies the Web has seen so far. To read more about it, visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash.

Figure 2.91Figure 2.91 Pentagram (http://www.pentagram.com) uses typography, at large and small scale, as the subject of a dramatic introduction animation in their Flash portfolio. This would not be possible with HTML, CSS, DHTML, or any other technology on the horizon.

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