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Designing for Flash MX 2004

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Flash has always been about designing better-looking Web sites. Matthew David shows you, with hands-on examples, how Flash MX 2004 offers stronger and more flexible tools to create the most interesting and creative Web sites.
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With all of the talk about Rich Internet Applications and what you can do with Web Services, Data, and XML in Flash, you can often overlook the fundamentals that made Flash as popular as it is today. The most fundamental feature is the foundation Flash has with graphics and their presentation over the Web.

The last few versions of Flash have appeared to be focused squarely on developing and extending the functionality of ActionScript. Certainly, the current release, Flash MX 2004, is no exception. The main difference, however, is that there is now a plethora of tools for designers. These tools range through from new drawing tools, to increased support for PostScript files, to Timeline effects visual effects, to a movie without writing a single line of code.

New Drawing Tools

A huge amount of effort has been invested to make Flash as extensible as Dreamweaver. If you are a Dreamweaver fan, you probably know about the 1,500+ extensions you can download and use within your Web pages. This same level of extendibility is now built into Flash MX 2004. The first example of this is with the new PolyStar drawing tool that lets you draw multisided polygons and multipointed stars.

By default, the Polygon/Star is not displayed. Select Edit --> Customize Tools Panel, which will open the Customize Tools panel.

The Customize Tools panel lists all the new shapes and drawing tools you can use. The default tool that ships with Flash is the PolyStar shape. Scroll through the middle menu in the Customize Tools panel to find PolyStar.

To add the new shape to the Tools panel, you need to associate it with an existing tool in the Tools panel. I normally associate the PolyStar with the Rectangle tool. Select the Rectangle tool from the left side of the Customize Tools bar (hint: the selected tool has a red outline) and add the tool to the Current Selection menu on the left.

Select OK and the Customize Tools bar window closes. You now see a little arrow on the bottom-right side of the Rectangle tool. Click and hold the Rectangle tool. After about 2 seconds, the PolyStar tool appears.

Select the PolyStar tool. You see in the Properties panel that you now have an Options button. Selecting the button opens the Tools settings for the PolyStar tool. You can choose the Polygon or the Star, the number of sides, and the star point size (which does not affect the Polygon). When you make your choices, you can now begin to draw with the PolyStar tool.

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