What is Flash?

What is Adobe Flash?

Similar to Java, Adobe Flash is another technology that allows animations, interactive forms, games and other jazzed-up features to be embedded in web pages. Adobe Flash Player is a well-known and trustworthy plug-in that users should feel comfortable installing. In fact, Flash is the most commonly installed plug-in on the web, more common than QuickTime, RealPlayer or Java. The Flash plug-in can be found on Adobe’s website.

Over the releases of new versions of Flash, Adobe has made Flash more and more controllable via programming, where they have it positioned as a competitor to HTML to build interactive web sites and applications such as an e-commerce store. Adobe argues that Flash is the way to go instead of HTML because of the following reasons:

1. Flash movies load faster and save on download time because Flash is vector based whereas HTML is not.
2. Flash intelligently ‘caches’ it’s movies so they don’t have to be reloaded.
3. Flash gives the user (the person viewing/using the Flash movie) a more responsive ‘rich-client’ like experience.

All of these points are true, but they can be true for HTML pages as well (except for the vectors). I will address these points now:

Flash pages can be made to load faster, but most of the time, the way they are designed in the real world, they do not. That is not a Flash problem, it is more an issue of the Flash developers going nuts with fancy and heavy Flash movies. HTML caches pages as well, once images are downloaded they are held in your browser’s cache. The cached images are then used instead of downloading them from the server again.

With new technology like ASP.net and Java Server Faces, HTML now can react just like a ‘rich-client’ application. Even without these new tools, properly designed HTML for most dynamic sites can provide a good user experience.

Flash text rendering/displaying is much slower than HTML and noticeably less clear. Adobe knows this and that’s why they include the ability to display basic HTML in Flash and that’s why on their own site, they make heavy use of  HTML.

What  about Flash development?

1. You can do some really nice work in Flash that would be difficult and sometimes impossible in HTML alone. Things like complex animations and playing video spring to mind.

2. Practically no browser issues: For the most part, Flash movies will work the same if the user is on Firefox or IE, on Mac or PC. The browser issues (where people coming to your site have different browsers that can ‘break’ your pages) are quickly becoming a thing of the past since most people (thank the web gods) are using IE. But even today, I still have to deal with people who may be using some old browser that can break all but the simplest of HTML code.

So when should you use Flash?

In our humble opinion, I would use Flash to create a presentation that is similar to a television commercial. This type of presentation is something where the user sits back and enjoys the show as the Flash movie delivers the message to the client with animation, sound, and possibly video. Please do not get this confused with those ubiquitous ‘intro’ animations that still plague many Flash sites. Rather I am talking about informative movies that the user can decide to view to learn about something like a product or a service.

I can also see Flash being used in straight animations, like what your kids watch Saturday morning. One last use where I find Flash handy, is with so called ‘rich-ui’ components like calendars or fancy navigational systems. The only danger here is that if the user doesn’t have the proper Flash plug-in, they won’t be able to use those components and as such in many cases (like with a Flash based navigation bar) the user will not be able to use your web site!

Instead of Adobe’s vision, I see Flash being used selectively to enhance an HTML based site.

What is .SWF File format?

swf = Short Web Format  😉  a.k.a. shockwave file or even swish file..


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