Price: 489 . 139 . 705 . 1195
Pros: New productivity features and the promise of vastly improved performance for high-end developers.
Cons: Quite pricey for what otherwise feels like a 0.5 release.
Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia was one of the more unsettling developments in the Net’s recent past. Studio 8, particularly Flash, felt like a parting gift from the Macromedia team and was packed with great features. So we waited with trepidation to see what Adobe would do to the software.
There’s no doubt that there are some cool new things to be found in Flash CS3. The revised CS3-style interface is a huge improvement on the old version. With the old version of Flash, working on a single monitor even at high resolution could be a bit cumbersome – there were just too many palettes. The new Workspace’s palettes can be put in almost any arrangement anywhere on screen, and the ability to collapse Docks into icons is also useful.
When it comes to production features, the most significant development is a new version of Flash’s scripting language, ActionScript 3. AS3 promises to bring huge performance improvements for more complex Flash applications. However, since it differs dramatically from its two predecessors, the learning curve will be steep.
Outside of the interface and ActionScript 3, there are a number of other new features that can broadly be described as efficiency improvements.
The new Copy/Paste motion feature is a great addition. It lets you copy a motion tween and then apply it to a different instance on the stage even allowing you to select certain aspects of the tween to paste – for example, just the X&Y position, or just the scaling or colour tinting.
This feature will be a boon for anyone producing relatively sophisticated interfaces that require the repetitive creation of tween effects, or any other situation where different clips have to be animated in the same or a similar way. Rather than copying the frames of animation and then manually swapping the symbol on every keyframe, you can paste the symbol you want and then impose the animation on it in one step.
Similarly to the Fireworks equivalent, we now have primitives, which allow you to create a rectangle or circle and customize their properties on the fly. Theoretically, this makes resizing and updating interface elements faster and more flexible. However, the inability to use the transform tool to perform these adjustments reduces the practical usefulness of this feature.
Photoshop users will like the new importing facilities that let you select layers to import, and decide how they are imported including file compression, registration points for each layer, and whether to put each a layer in a movie clip. There are also enhanced settings for importing from Illustrator.
Finally, the Pen tool has also received a face-lift and it now functions like the Illustrator equivalent. Colour-coded object highlighting also features, which helps with navigating more complex projects.
For many Flash users, the improvements will seem slight considering the price. However, the workflow and timesaving improvements and the improved performance of Actionscript 3 are genuine leaps forward.