26.2. Flash Power Tools
You can do some pretty nifty things with Flash using its built-in features right out of the box. For many users, this is plenty. But Flash isn't just about animation and sound. Using its advanced scripting features and add-on software, Flash movies can be programmed for complex interactive functionality and even serve as the front end for dynamically generated content.
ActionScript, which was introduced in Flash 4, evolved into a much more powerful and useful tool in Flash 5. Not only is it responsible for controlling basic playback and user-triggered behaviors, it also enables Flash to integrate with XML, HTML, and other parts of the web page. The latest ActionScript version features complex math operations that allow advanced programming functionality, such as 3-D modeling. If you are set on becoming a Flash power-user, you will definitely want to learn ActionScript.
For more information on ActionScript, read ActionScript: The Definitive Guide by Colin Moock (O'Reilly, 2001).
26.2.2. Macromedia Generator 2
Macromedia Generator 2 is a development tool and server application that composites, produces, and delivers web graphics on the fly. It is integrated with Flash but is a separate commercial product. The web graphics can be GIFs, JPEGs, PNGs, imagemaps, QuickTime Flash movies, animated GIFs, or other Flash movies. Some uses include automatically updated charts and graphs based on real-time information (such as stock information or sports scores), regularly changing bitmap images (such as weather maps), or personalized content based on user input.
To use Generator 2, you create Generator templates (.swt) in Flash that separate the actual visual content on the page from the design structure of the page. The dynamically generated content (such as charts, images, personalized messages) can be switched out and delivered to the Flash player either immediately or at scheduled times.
There are two versions: the Enterprise Edition ($2999) and the Developer Edition ($999). As the price suggests, the Enterprise Edition is a more powerful solution, offering better performance, scalability, and administrative tools. It is appropriate for large corporate sites that serve millions of visitors. The Developer Edition brings the same basic functionality to smaller scale sites. For more information on Generator 2, see the Macromedia site at http://www.macromedia.com/software/generator/.
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