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Book Review: Flash CS5: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover

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Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform that is used to add animation, video, and interactivity to Web pages. You find it used in games and advertisements, and more recently it is being used as a tool for Rich Internet Applications (RIA).

Adobe Flash is not the easiest program to learn and the documentation that comes with the product is not always the most intuitive. This is where Flash CS5: The Missing Manual comes in. It tries to be the manual that should have been included with the product. Being lively and engaging it encourages you to learn Flash CS5. It does this by showing you step-by-step how to get the most from Flash. Flash CS5: The Missing Manual has 784 pages, 21 chapters and is divided into five parts.

Part One, "Creating a Flash Animation," will walk you through the creation of your first Flash 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 as well as how to animate your art.

Part Two, "Advanced Drawing and Animation," will get more into the heart of working with Flash. You will learn how to organize frames and layers, work with more advanced drawing and coloring, and the use of advanced color techniques. You will see how to choose and format your text as well as use symbols and templates so 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.

Next you will see how to work with motion presets, work with advanced tweens as well as taking a tour of the motion editor. You will add special effects by using the built-in timeline effects. Finally, you will be introduced to the different types of media files that Flash lets you work with. Here you will work with non-Flash media files, bitmap graphics, video clips, and sound clips to add to animated sequences.

Part Three, "Adding Interactivity," will show you how to work with ActionScript 3 to create automated effects. ActionScript is the programming language within Flash that you can 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 see how to work with objects, learn how to control the timeline, and control actions by using events. You will also learn how to capture information from your audience, dynamically insert text at runtime, and draw with ActionScript. You will also work with components that come with Flash to make your job easier.

Part Four, "Debugging and Delivering Your Animation," focuses on how to test, debug and optimize your animations for differing connection speeds as well as fix problems with your ActionScript 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. Finally you will get a brief introduction to Adobe AIR, take a look at the differences between Flash and AIR, as well as create, convert, and publish an AIR application

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 CS5, Menu by Menu" which will take you through each menu describing what each option is.

Beyond the fact that Flash CS5 — 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 CS5: The Missing Manual?

As with all Missing Manual series, Flash CS5: 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 CS5: 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.