Flash is a format for animations that can be included in web pages. There are several programs that can create animations in Flash format but the most powerful, most expensive and most well known is Adobe Flash - this is the program we will be learning. To read about alternatives to Adobe Flash, follow the 'Non-Adobe Flash' link above.

Adobe Flash (previously called Macromedia Flash)...

  • is used by over half a million Web authors worldwide to design and deliver high-impact, low-bandwidth websites.
  • can be used to create many kinds of applets (programs that runs within a web page) but is especially popular for making animations since it incorporates a 'timeline' feature that is not found in programs such as Java or Visual Basic. Familiarity with Adobe Flash is thus helpful for understanding other timeline-based applications such as Adobe Premiere, a video editing tool that we also hope to use in this course.
  • is Java-based and thus provides an introduction to this powerful, platform-independent programming language.
  • uses a Java-like language called ActionScript which is easier to learn than Java itself, but Flash is still a very sophisticated program that is difficult to learn.
  • is expensive! The latest version of Flash, Flash 8, costs $400 for the Basic version and $700 for the Pro version on the Adobe site in December 2005.
  • allows you to do most of what you can do with other programming languages such as MS Visual Basic, with the huge benefit that your Flash programs can be easily incorporated into web pages (programs that run inside web pages are called 'applets').
  • has a few tutorials available here - please follow the link above...

If you are interested in using Flash only for making flashy presentations then don't study my tutorials - follow instead the lessons and tutorials that are included with the Adobe Flash program. These are well made and worth working your way through, though this will take you several hours.

My classes will focus on Flash programming (scripting). We'll concentrate on making Flash animations that ARE interactive and, in some cases, useful too. It's possible to make useful or interactive programs without using the 'timeline' feature in Flash, and that is what we will do - in other words our Flash movie will have only one frame.

I'm going to assume that you have already worked through the lessons that are included with Flash, and perhaps some of the tutorials too - the ActionScript tutorial would be especially relevant and so would the components tutorial since Flash components (push button, radio button, checkbox, listbox…) are all items that we learned about already when we studied VB (in VB they were called 'controls' but in Flash they are called 'components'. I'm going to assume that you have already worked your way through my Visual Basic tutorials, and that you more or less remember how we did the calculator and lunar lander applications. We'll try to reproduce these applications with Flash.

Flash has a programming (scripting) language called ActionScript and if you have already worked with Visual Basic you should be able to understand existing ActionScripts without too much trouble. However, it's always more difficult to write programs than it is to read them, and ActionScript is based on Java rather than Visual Basic so ActionScript has only limited similarity with VB. Note, however, that this means that by studying ActionScript you will be getting an introduction to Java, the most sought-after programming language on the planet (VB is easier to learn than Java but there are probably more job vacancies for Java programmers. Java has an advantage over VB in that it can run on many different platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux...) whereas VB runs only under Windows.

It's time to get started with our first Flash program, a four-function calculator