Price: 489.55 . 139 . 705 . 1195
Pros: 3D capabilities offer a world of new possibilities; tools such as Airbrush are highly useful; Library now searchable.
Cons: Installation has its glitches; the program runs the risk of becoming bloated with features of dubious value.
Of all the new features, possibly our favourite is the Airbrush tool, which can be set to fire MovieClips. This is one of those features that you’ll wonder how you ever coped without.
In another useful touch, Flash CS4 has a variety of fairly convincing stock sound effects, which can be opened directly from Soundbooth for editing.
If only all the new features were as well thought out as these. Unfortunately, the release also includes tools such as the Deco tool, which might be one of the worst features we’ve ever seen in a piece of professional software. Frankly, unless Adobe is planning to refocus Flash sales on the wrapping-paper market, we hope this gets lost in the next release.
Similarly baffling is the Kuler Extension, a colour picker whose palettes are driven by Adobe’s groovy social colour-scheme portal. Its value to web designers is debatable.
Of course, if you don’t have a use for the Deco tool you can ignore it. Other changes are more intrusive – the Properties palette has been changed to be vertical rather than horizontal, wasting screen real estate.
It’s clear that this is a major development in Flash’s evolution. There are some great new features, and kinks have been worked out, but it’s frustrating that Adobe has felt the need to try and make Flash feel more consistent with the other Creative Studio applications.
For those of us who remember Flash before it changed hands, these changes are perhaps a step too far: when Adobe bought Flash, it became the curator of an Internet institution – sure, it had a few quirks, but these were more than made up for by its ease of use, which had won it a massive worldwide following. Maybe Adobe should make some of its other tools more like Flash, rather than the other way around.