10 Minutes with Flash: Ultimate Resources for Learning Flash
Well, kids, we've reached the end of the 10 Minutes with Flash series (this article is #20), so I thought I'd spend today's 10-minute block pointing you to what I believe are the best Flash resources, online and off, for learning more about Flash. Over the years, I've had to do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions to get where I am today, and you will surely find yourself in the same situation as you spend more time with Flash.
First, we'll check out the online stuff, and then I'll point you to the books that are most essential when learning Flash and ActionScript.
The Online Stuff
The Web contains a vast sea of information, and spotting the good stuff can be a chore unto itself, so much so that it might actually impede your ability to use the Web as a learning tool. But let me tell you this: I've seen it all, and read most of it. Save yourself some frustration and stick to the list of resources cited in this article. I've used each and every resource mentioned here and I endorse each of them completely.
Macromedia Online Forums
The Macromedia Online Forums are excellent locations to hang out in and get your questions answered. There are forums for many Macromedia products, each of which contains several categories of topics from which to choose (as shown in Figure 1), and each forum has Team Macromedia (volunteer support team) members floating around to help you out.
Figure 1 Flash geek central.
Aside from Team Macromedia members, there are always lots of devoted Flash nerds with serious skills crawling through these forums on a daily basis, just dying to answer any question you may have. Also, because Macromedia's search tool is powered by Google, you should have no problems searching the forum archives to get answers quickly and easily.
The Macromedia Online Forums require registration, but your user name and password can thereafter be used for everything you do on Macromedia.com, including purchasing software and downloading extensions from the Exchange.
Macromedia XML News Aggregator (MXNA)
A site I visit almost every day, MXNA is an aggregator of developer blogs, DevNet content, and general Macromedia news, all of which is fueled by XML feeds created by the aggregated sites. For example, Mike Chambers and several other Macromedia staff members maintain active blogs. Each of them has an RSS feed that is aggregated, so the most recent post is displayed on MarkMe.com's homepage, as shown in Figure 2. In addition to Macromedia staff, MXNA aggregates blog posts by respected third-party developers, some of whom authored some of the Flash books you've probably already read.
Figure 2 333 feeds and counting...
As a result, MXNA is an essential resource for Flash tutorials, community information, and Flash and other tech news. One glance at the home page offers a window into a whole lot of information about Flash. If you want to be "in the know," MarkMe.com is the place to go. (Rhyming is fun.) My blog is also aggregated by MXNA, and can be seen firsthand at http://www.WidgetMaker.net.
InformIT.com Flash Reference Guide ()
Naturally, the Flash Reference Guide had to appear on this list. The FRG is currently kept up by ActionScript whiz Matthew David is the author of the Flash 3D Graphics Bible and lead author for Flash MX Magic, and his skill and experience makes him an excellent Reference Guide host. Matt blogs regularly in the InformIT web logs and contributes new articles fairly often as well.
In case you haven't noticed, you're in the FRG section right now. It includes tons of articles by other authors, and is also the home of the 10 Minutes with Flash series, written by yours truly, so you know you can rely on it for good information (I'm so humble).
Your Local Macromedia User Group and its Online Forum
The Macromedia User Groups (MMUG) program is the best-kept secret in the Flash community. Somewhere in your city, it's likely that a user group is alive and kicking, and you just don't know about it yet.
I'm the manager of the Flash MMUG in Phoenix, Arizona. In the two years since the group's inception, we've been a part of two worldwide user group events (one of which was organized for the launch of the MX 2004 product line); seen brilliant presentations and development efforts by user group members and non-members alike; hosted presentations by Macromedia staff members such as Mike Downey (Flash Team Project Manager); given away several thousand dollars worth of software, including several full copies of Studio MX and Studio MX 2004; given away all kinds of Macromedia gearincluding t-shirts, pens, coffee thermos' and CD cases; and raffled off at least 50 books on Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and other software.
But none of what I've mentioned so far happens online, so why am I ranting on and on about it? Because most groups have online forums through which all the development knowledge contained by a user group is accessible via your web browser.
My group's forum produces roughly 300400 posts per month (some higher, some lower), almost all of which aim to answer questions posed by the many members of the group. Aside from support, members often also offer links to and information about cool Flash sites, games, news, and third-party tools.
In my group, Friday afternoon posts to time-killing, highly addictive Flash games have become traditional. Because of my group's obsession with finding Flash games like this, I've been able to use a yeti to earn points by throwing penguins at a dartboard. I'm sure that many other user group managers can make similar statements.
Even if you're not into Flash games, user group forums are a great place to get a second set of eyes on your code when you're stuck on a bug, learn something new on a daily basis, and lend a hand when you become good enough to help others having the same problems you did.