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Director MX 2004 is finally shipping, and the upgrade to the premier multimedia-authoring tool boasts some improvements that you’ll notice at first glance. The ability to dock Movie in a Window (MIAW) tools alongside the other Director palettes is great, and the Windows version features some interface enhancements. There is authoring support for Mac and Windows in one package, and enhanced support for Flash MX 2004 and other members of the MX 2004 family. Support for JavaScript syntax and DVD-Video makes a welcome appearance in the upgrade too.

Director MX 2004 is finally shipping, and the upgrade to the premier multimedia-authoring tool boasts some improvements that you’ll notice at first glance. The ability to dock Movie in a Window (MIAW) tools alongside the other Director palettes is great, and the Windows version features some interface enhancements. There is authoring support for Mac and Windows in one package, and enhanced support for Flash MX 2004 and other members of the MX 2004 family. Support for JavaScript syntax and DVD-Video makes a welcome appearance in the upgrade too.

Be sure to remove any previous editions (such as any betas or trials) of the software from your computer before you start. This caused particular problems on the Mac OS X installation where nothing worked until the old version was removed and the computer restarted, whereas the Windows installer flashed up a warning when it found a previous installation.

One of the biggest improvements is the ability to author executables for dual platform delivery. Previously you had to buy the Mac and Windows versions for cross-platform authoring, and users will definitely welcome the new Projector Publishing Panel that offers a choice of selections for simultaneous output.

The results were a bit disappointing though, as the OS X executable we authored on Windows crashed on the Mac at a certain point during playback, adding insult to injury by asking where Director was situated on the “C Drive”. Windows users are still not able to publish projectors for those Macs still running Classic (pre-Mac OS X), which will raise a lot of complaints in Director heartlands such as the education sector. This omission may be down to pressure from a forward-thinking Apple rather than a lazy Macromedia, but cross-platform authoring is nonetheless a definite step in the right direction.

In the dock

The interface has seen some changes, sporting the look-&-feel of the Macromedia MX 2004 family and with
the ability to name sprites and channels, which is sure to win fans.

Changes are especially evident in the Windows version with the addition of Docking Channels along the left and right-hand side of the application window. These provide another way to customize the workspace. Though both Mac and Windows versions have the ability to stack document windows and tool windows together (though all windows have to be of the same type), with Docking Channels you have the ability to dock the Tool palette, and instantly whip the channelled window off to the side of the screen. It’s odd that this feature was left off the Mac version, especially as this platform is traditionally more UI-oriented.

The support for JavaScript syntax shows Macromedia’s drive to a wider audience for its authoring environment, especially as competing products already offer this functionality. It’s a good move and one that’s obviously not meant to herald an end to Lingo. A drop-down box on the Script editor lets users choose between the two languages, and allows the use of both sets of syntax in the same project. Now it is integrated with other products in the Macromedia MX family, Director now has support for Flash MX 2004, with the ability to launch and edit both Flash and Fireworks files in their own applications. It adds support for a subset of the Flash v2 components – the modifiable mini-applications that appeared in Flash MX 2004. This is sure to be a popular move, especially as they can simply be dropped onto the Stage, ready to be customized to fit your project.

Support for Flash components is sure to result in streamlined workflows, and the handling of Flash content is much faster.

The thorniest question is that concerned with DVD-Video. Although early reports said the software would offer a form of DVD-authoring, this is restricted in Director MX 2004 to creating hybrid DVD presentations. This shouldn’t be confused with the capabilities of commercial DVD packages such as DVD Studio Pro. DVD-Video is handled just like any other video (QuickTime and RealMedia on the Mac and additionally .AVI and .WMV on Windows) with the new DVD Event Manager allowing Lingo scripted, event-based controls to be added to the movie while it’s playing. The technology is at an early stage, and doesn’t allow the creation of discs for use outside a Mac or PC-based environment, but the potential is there to provide far more complex games and elearning applications than CD ever could.

More information on Director MX 2004 can be found in our extensive preview from January.