Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Usability

Web Design Reference Guide

Hosted by

Shockwave and Flash

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

By Molly Holzschlag

Shockwave is a technology that was created specifically for the Web. Using Macromedia Director, Shockwave technology works by streaming information to the Web browser via a plug-in or embedded browser support.

Shockwave hit the Web scene with a serious splash. However, because browser technology is still fickle when it comes to integrating advanced support for such a complex program with plug-in style delivery, it has caught on only in certain situations.

Shockwave does, however, have many advantages over most Web-based media programs. It supports audio, animation, and advanced interactive events. Web pages with Shockwave are considered to be "shocked," and they are popular among certain Web enthusiasts.

Flash can be considered a "cousin" of Shockwave. Originally a compact animation tool called FutureSplash and later modified to include sound, this lighter-weight multimedia package has created an entire Web subculture of design and interactivity. With intense support from Microsoft, Macromedia Flash was quickly included as a native part of Internet Explorer. At the time of this writing, Flash is in its MX incarnation, with a lot of interface and publishing improvements having been added over its growth cycle.

What's especially interesting about Flash is that it is a vector-based drawing tool, much like Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand, but with the sole purpose of creating Web content.

What this means is that the resulting files are very compact and can include a wide range of high-quality, low-bandwidth design. Add audio to the mix, and you have got a sophisticated and widely accessible tool.

Other Applications for SWF Creation

Macromedia Flash is not the only product that can produce .swf files. CorelDraw 10 has .swf support, and Beatware's epicture pro software is an excellent tool for animation with full export to .swf.

Adobe also had a product it was positioning for competition with Macromedia Flash. LiveMotion 2.0 contains scripting features that move it away from the comparatively limited first version. You can add audio and animation, and it's a vector-based drawing package. It also has the added advantage of a familiar and easy-to-use interface. Unfortunately, development into LiveMotion stopped with 2.0, although it remains a popular tool for Flash development, especially among hobbyists or those more comfortable with the easy interface features.

For more detailed information about the latest version of Flash and it's ever-expanding list of capabilities (into the development world, for instance), visit our Flash Reference Guide.