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5.5. Flash Printing

Another interface between the browser and printer comes from the folks at Macromedia. Flash 4.0 introduced a new feature to give developers control over printing Flash content. In the past, when a Flash movie was printed from a browser, the printout contained only the first frame (probably not the most useful frame) or nothing at all. To fix this, Flash Player (release 4.0.20 and higher) can print any content specified by the designer.

This feature can be used to print out a more meaningful frame from the movie, but why stop there? Since any content can be cued to print, the Flash movie can serve as an interactive interface to all sorts of documents. A banner ad can spit out a coupon that shoppers can take to the store. A small diagram could print pages of detailed specifications. You could also use Flash to design customized documents specifically for printing, such as greeting cards. Flash printing offers powerful possibilities for enhancing online interactivity with print components.

Users print Flash content via a context-sensitive menu accessed when clicking (option-click for Windows; control-click for Mac) on the Flash content, or by using a button designed into the Flash movie itself. The print function in the browser does not print the alternative Flash content.

The Flash print command triggers an ActionScript (the scripting language used in Flash) that detects the plug-in version; if it finds the compatible plug-in, it prints the specified Flash content. The content it prints is stored in a separate file in the Flash (SWF) format. This could be an image chosen from the current Flash movie, or any document created in Macromedia Flash, Freehand, Adobe Illustrator, or any program that supports Flash (SWF) files.

Again, this effect works only in Flash Player 4.0.20 or higher (4.0.20 has been shipping since December 16, 1999). In Flash 4.x, Flash printing works only within web browsers. The later 5.0 release works in a standalone Flash Player so printing functions can be added to CD-ROMs.

Because there is no print preview available for Flash content, it is recommended that you label your Flash print button very clearly with what happens if it is clicked. This is especially true if there is a large discrepancy between what you see on the screen and what will come out of the printer (like a banner ad that prints a 12-page brochure).

For more information on Flash printing, take advantage of these resources from Macromedia:


The Flash Printing SDK contains information for creating printable Flash content. It includes a detailed and easy-to-follow set of instructions in PDF format.


The Flash 5 Print Authoring Kit contains more how-to information on creating Flash content for print.

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