Intro to Flash | WebReference

Intro to Flash

Working With Flash

Up until now, I've avoided learning about Flash because I never thought it would catch on. I figured the long download times needed for such graphic-intensive Web sites would discourage the average modem user. But with millions of computers now running the Flash Plug-in, it seems Flash isn't going away anytime soon. And you know what they say: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You might as well start up Flash 4 (free demo available at Macromedia) and get ready to do a little exploring.

The Basics

Getting started with Flash 4 can seem intimidating, as familar and unfamilar windows alike start appearing on your screen. Take a deep breath - using Flash isn't that hard once you know what you're looking at. There are three general areas to learn about: the Toolbar, the Work Area, and the Timeline. I'll assume that you are comfortable with the basic painting and drawing tools found in most graphics programs. If you are, you'll be familar with the functions on the toolbar, and you're ready to venture into the world of Flash. The work area is also straight forward; this is where you will create what is seen in your Flash movie.

Fig. 1 - The Flash 4 interface

Understanding the Timeline is also simple if you keep in mind that you are creating a mini movie. There are different scenes that make up the final show. These scenes may lead the user through linear events, but they can also act as different settings for the movie. For example, when using Flash for your whole Web site, different pages could be located at different scenes. In Flash, each scene is made up of a number of frames. Keyframes are added at almost every change in the action as a mark of where each object should be. You also have layers at your disposal in the Timeline. These work just as layers in Photoshop and other leading graphics programs work. Also, any graphical item in Flash (referred to as an object) that will be used throughout the movie or that will be animated can be made into a symbol and stored in a library for quick access.

Sound overwhelming? Don't get too worried, we will see how everything works together as we walk through an example.

Next: Making your first animation

Comments are welcome

Written by Kate Levy and
Revised: June 23, 2000