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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) February 17, 2000

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Now with over 94800 subscribers!

http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. CONTESTS: Submit & Win!, Subscribe & Win! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Get Creative With Flash Preloaders 3. NET NEWS: * Windows 2000 Launched * Microsoft Primes Developers for Next Gen Web Dev System * Eazel Aims at Easy Linux * E-Commerce: Hazardous to Your Wealth? * Study Says More Time Online Means Less Time With "Real People"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1.CONTESTS: Submit & Win!, Subscribe & Win!

>Submit & Win!

The article submissions are pouring in, but it's not too late for you to submit yours! Every Thursday the Update features a new article contributed by our readers through our Open Publishing Initiative. You get fame, hits, and the respect of your peers... and now, writers published in the newsletter also get a brand new copy of Adobe System's PhotoShop 5.5!

http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html

This week, writer Robert Roberts covers the importance of Flash preloaders - when dealing with Flash sites, you've got to engage the viewer quick, or risk losing them. Thanks Robert, and enjoy Photoshop 5.5!

>Subscribe & Win!

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Get Creative With Flash Preloaders

>Introduction

You've experienced this before: you click on a URL for a hot new Flash Web site, the first page opens, and you are presented with some variety of blinking, throbbing text informing you that the Flash file is loading. Sometimes there is a percentage bar gradually filling, just like some old cartoon thermometer. This is fine if the Flash file loads within a minute or two. But if you have time to run next door for a sandwich while the file loads, you must seriously consider two things: either reduce the size of your Flash movie, or make your preload environment just as interesting and engaging as your "big" stuff.

Constantly, we are urged to keep image file sizes as small as possible because every second that your visitor waits for something to happen increases the likelihood of that visitor leaving your site. Therefore, the larger the Flash file, the more important your preload environment becomes. This article examines preload environments and ways of maximizing impact by discussing the two styles of preloader and the two most-used methods of implementing them.

>The Two Styles of Preloader

There are two basic styles of preload environment: the "thematically integrated" style, and the "thematically independent" style.

Thematically Integrated Preloaders:

The thematically integrated approach is self-explanatory - the preloader is finely tuned to engage the visitor, bringing him/her smoothly into the main movie. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, limited only by your imagination. Consider these elements: * COLOR - even if your preload material is different from the main content, similar color choices tie things together. * FONT - while this may seem obvious, font choice itself can become an integral part of the preload sequence. Any character or word can become an animation. * SOUND - if you use sound (and most Flash sites do), this can be one of the most critical integration tools. The trick here is that the preload sound files must be very small in order to keep things simple. One way of doing this is keeping preload sound quality low, saving higher quality for later. Use tiny files; convert stereo to mono; try greater ADPCM compression. * CHARACTER - is your primary material meant for children or for Wall Street? Your preloader sets the stage for material that follows. * DESIGN ELEMENTS FROM MAIN MOVIE - if your primary material uses a green hippo wearing wrap-around sunglasses, utilize a version of the sunglasses in your preloader. Maybe your text can be a reflection in the sunglasses. In other words, use your material creatively.

Thematically Independent Preloaders:

When I was a kid, going to the movies was a festival of visual events. There was a newsreel, local advertising, previews of coming attractions and, best of all, a cartoon. To me, that cartoon was almost more important than the feature. It didn't matter that Donald Duck's mishaps were totally unrelated to "The King And I."

The point here is that sometimes it can perfectly appropriate for the preloader to be different from the main material. Humor is one of the best ways to keep the attention of your visitor. If your visitor is amused, s/he will not only stay to see what happens, but will also be in a more receptive frame of mind for your Big Message. Besides - wouldn't it be a lot more interesting to watch that progress thermometer explode or break into little pieces that become navigation buttons?

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>The Two Most-Used Methods of Preloading

Okay. So now you have this dynamite preload sequence that's going to keep your visitor glued to the screen. But how do you load your stuff? You can use either the "IF FRAME IS LOADED" technique, or what I call the "SHOVE IT UNDER THE RUG" technique. Keep in mind, these are brief, generalized descriptions that assume some knowledge of editing and scripting in Flash. If you don't follow it all, don't worry about it right now. There are links to more complete introductions to Flash at the end of this article, under RESOURCES.

If Frame Is Loaded

1. Place your preload sequence into your movie as "Scene 1". Make certain that it's at the top of your "Scenes" list. Your main material is "Scene 2". 2. In "Scene 1", create two layers, "Labels" and "Actions". You can place your preload animation on keyframe 1 on the "Actions" layer, or make a third layer just for it. 3. On the "Labels" layer, keyframe 1, place label "Start". 4. On the "Actions" layer, keyframe 1, assign action: If "Frame Is Loaded"; on right side, choose "Scene 2"; enter LAST frame number of Scene 2; choose "Go To and Play"; enter "Scene 2, frame 1". 5. Still on the "Actions" layer, select final keyframe; assign action: "Go To and Play"; enter "Scene 1"; choose label "Start".

Shove It Under The Rug

This is the technique that makes those progress bars behave on schedule, and allows you to notify your visitor about what portion is being loaded.

1. Place your preload sequence into your movie as "Scene 1". Make certain that it's at the top of your 'Scenes' list. Your main material is "Scene 2". 2. In "Scene 1", create three layers, "Animation", "Rug", and "Underneath". Place your preload animation on keyframe 1 on the "Animation" layer. 3. On the "Rug" Layer, cover the entire stage with a filled rectangle, or your animation background. This hides what's happening underneath. 4. On the "Underneath" layer, make a keyframe at frames 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.... one for each "sweep" under your "Rug". Dump all your graphics in keyframe2, movie clips in keyframe 4, and so on. Be sure to turn off the sound files (Stop Sync) or they will play during the preload.

>A FINAL NOTE

Whatever approach you take, it is absolutely essential that you engage your visitor right away. Your visitor wants to know that you appreciate the necessity of a waiting period, and that you're doing something to alleviate boredom. Your preloader is just as important as the rest of your material, and should never be treated as an afterthought.

>RESOURCES

http://www.macromedia.com/support/flash/ Links, learning and resources, straight from the source.

http://navworks.i-us.com/index.asp Covering interface and flash design. Includes two membership areas.

http://www.flashkit.com/ Flash news, movies, tutorials, links and more.

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About the Author:

Robert Roberts is a multi-talented artist who has been working in San Francisco since 1979. A classically-trained musician/composer, he prefers doing freelance graphics, which has included many facets of "traditional" media and tattoo art. He got his first computer just over two years ago, "discovered" digital graphics, and hasn't stopped discovering. He just recently launched his own freelance design business.

You can reach Robert at: info@gooddoggygrafx.com or www.gooddoggygrafx.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Windows 2000 Launched, Microsoft Primes Developers for Next Generation Web Dev System, Eazel Aims at Easy Linux, E-Commerce: Hazardous to Your Wealth?, Study Says More Time Online Means Less Time With "Real People"

>Windows 2000 Launched

Whether you're a PC-head or Linux-lover, Mac advocate or PDA provocateur, the release of a new version of Windows is news. Or at least, it you'd think it was, but the collective response seems to be more yawning than yelling. Microsoft officially launches Windows 2000 today, after months of pre-hype. Media reaction has ranged from cynical to cautiously positive, with the emphasis of the new OS being less on interface innovation, and more on backend functionality and stability. http://cnnfn.com/2000/02/16/technology/windows2000/ http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_642000/642671.stm http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/columns/testdrive/docs/tt021300.htm http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-201-1544272-0.html Cnn.com, BBC.co.uk, MercuryCenter.com, CNet.com, 000214-17

>Microsoft Primes Developers for Next Generation Web Dev System

In related news, Microsoft showed developers a glimpse of its vision of the future of enterprise Web applications at the Visual Basic Insiders Technical Summit. The much-hyped suite includes the Windows 2000 operating system as the cornerstone of Windows DNA 2000 and the Visual Studio 7.0 development system, which aims to simplify the development of enterprise Web applications. These enhancements will build on the existing skill set of over 3.2 million developers using Visual Basic. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,1087,10_304801,00.html InternetNews.com, 000215

>Eazel Aims at Easy Linux

Veterans of Apple Computer and America Online are setting their sights on the Macintosh equivalent of Linux. Their start-up, called Eazel, is at work on a graphical user interface (GUI) for Linux that founders say will extend to every aspect of the Linux computing experience. The project is an extension of the Gnome user interface. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1006-200-1552097.html News.com, 000216

>E-Commerce: Hazardous to Your Wealth?

Can going online be a hazard to a retailer's financial health? Quite possibly, at least according to a recent industry study that found that encouraging customers to go online leads to a decline in customer loyalty, referrals to friends and over the long term, a decline in profits. http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article/0,1087,4_306001,00.html InternetNews.com, 000217

>Study Says More Time Online Means Less Time With "Real People"

A new study on the Internet's impact on society released Wednesday reached the conclusion that the more time people spent online, the less time they spent with real people (as well as less time stuck in traffic, shopping in malls and watching television). Given that there are still only 24 hours in a day, this should come as no real surprise. Wired provides an appropriately humorous response... http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/02/17/internet.study.01/index.html http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,34387,00.html CNN.com, Wired.com, 000217

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

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