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Book Review – Flash CS3: The Missing Manual by E.A. Vander Veer and Chris Grover

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Flash CS3 is the first version of Flash since Adobe bought out Macromedia on December 3, 2005. Now with support for Actionscript 3.0, better integration with other Adobe products as well as other enhancements, it is still the undisputed king of animation software. Flash CS3: The Missing Manual is ready to help you learn how to use Adobe Flash.

OK, well there is a manual that you can get with Adobe Flash, but it is the same kind of manual that you get with every other kind of software package; kind of dry and matter-of-fact. What Flash CS3: The Missing Manual tries to do is create a manual that should have been included with the product, something lively and engaging that encourages you to learn Flash CS3. It shows you step-by-step instruction, but also it tries to explain why you want to do each step.

Flash CS3: The Missing Manual has 14 chapters divided into 5 sections. I will give an overview based on the sections. It is designed for all skill levels except for "super-advanced-programmers." If you have never used an animation program, the book would be a training book, if you have or are more advanced, it would serve more as a reference book. Obviously, to work through the examples you will need a copy of Flash CS3 and a computer to run it on. The book references both the Windows version as well as the Macintosh version.

Part one, "Creating a Flash Animation," will walk you through creating your first animation. It begins by showing you around the Flash interface, explaining the different panels and controls that you will be using. It will show you how to create simple drawings and then how to animate those drawings.

Part two, "Advanced Drawing and Animation," will teach you how to manipulate your drawings by rotating skewing, stacking and aligning them. You will learn to organize them, color, add special effects by using the built-in timeline effects. If your work needs you to create variations on a theme, then you will learn how to save documents as templates so you do not have to start from scratch each time. Finally, you will be introduced to the different types of media files that Flash lets you work with. Here you will work with bitmap graphics, video clips and sound clips to add to animated sequences.

Part three, "Adding Interactivity," will show you how to work with ActionScript actions to frames to create automated effects. ActionScript is the programming language within Flash that you use to make your animation interactive. You will learn how to control your animation, especially if you need to jump to different spots within your timeline. You will also learn how to capture information from your audience and dynamically insert text at runtime. You will work with components that come with Flash to make your job easier.

Part four, "Delivering Your Animation to its Audience," focuses on how to test, debug and optimize your animations for differing connection speeds as well as fixing problems with ActionScripts as well. You will also learn to publish it in a format that your audience can use, or export it for further manipulation using another graphics or animation program.

Part five, "Appendixes" contains installation information as well as additional outside help that you can access via the internet. There is also section called "Flash CS3, Menu by Menu" which will take you through each menu describing what each option is.

Beyond the fact that Flash CS3; or any version for that matter, is a highly complex program to learn, especially if you are new to it; to try to learn it from a dry manual, would take the patience of a saint. But why should you do that when you can use Flash CS3: The Missing Manual?

As with all Missing Manual series, Flash CS3: The Missing Manual is not dry; in fact it can be quite entertaining at times. It contains all of the items that one would expect from educational material; clear and concise language, tips, tricks, workarounds and plenty of screen shots to make sure that you are doing things correctly. Flash CS3: The Missing Manual provides a clear, concise, and entertaining way to learn Flash.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.