Adobe Flash Introduction and Resources

Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is a software development platform for creating animation, browser-based games, web applications, and mobile apps, and games.

Flash uses the ActionScript programming language, an object-oriented language originally developed by Macromedia. ActionScript was derived from the language HyperTalk, and utilize similar syntax to JavaScript. ActionScript is primarily used for website development and for developing applications designed for use with Adobe AIR.

Flash was a key tool in early interactive websites, offering web developers and easy solution for hosting streaming video and music, interactive web pages, and online games. It was so popular, YouTube originally used Flash to deliver its videos to users (and it still supports Flash for older web browsers). Flash was also widely used to create interactive web portals and 3D web content. Unfortunately, with the introduction of HTML5, interest in Flash as a web development and streaming media tool quickly declined.

Adobe Flash Professional, previously a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, has been replaced by Adobe Animate, a tool primarily geared toward artist and animators. Tools such as Adobe Flash Builder and Flash Catalysts can be used to develop Flash-based applications. Content created in Flash must be viewed using a special player, such as Adobe Flash Player, Adobe AIR, as well as a variety of third-party Flash players.

History

Adobe Flash was originally released by FutureWave Software, under the name FutureSplash Animator, in May 1996. In December of that same year, FutureWave was purchased by Macromedia, and FutureSplash Animator was rebranded Macromedia Flash.

After 8 major releases as Macromedia Flash, Adobe Systems acquired Macromedia in 2005, and the software was again rebranded, this time as Adobe Flash Professional (so as not to be confused with Adobe Flash Player). Adobe Flash Professional was included as part of their Adobe Suite and later Creative Cloud.

Macromedia Flash and later Adobe Flash was for many years the go-to tool for creating web-based video and online games. However, with the introduction of HTML5, Flash has largely gone out of favor for web pages. In recent years, Adobe has backed away from the use of Flash, in favor of HTML5 and other web standards-based content solutions.

In 2011, they stopped supporting Flash Player on Android and iOS devices. While Flash content was still viewable on these devices using Adobe Air, there was no native support via mobile browsers, effectively killing its usefulness for website development. In 2015, Adobe marked the end of their commitment to Flash altogether, when they rebranded once again, and Adobe Flash became Adobe Animate. While Animate can still create Flash files, it’s primary focus is HTML5 and other web standards.

Online Resources

Despite the fact that Adobe Flash is no longer fully supported, there are still plenty of online resources available, and a huge community of devout Flash designers. And while there are better tools available for designing a website (particularly if you want mobile compatibility), Flash continues to be a popular environment for game design.

  • ActionScript.org: the official site for the ActionScript programming language offers a number of useful resources, including articles, forums, free libraries, and tutorials. They even offer Flash tutorials for beginner through advanced users.
  • Adobe Tutorials: these free tutorials will help you quickly get up and running with Adobe Animate (formerly Adobe Flash). They offer dozens of training videos, instruction manuals, and an online support community.
  • Tutorialized: this site offers thousands of Flash and ActionScript tutorials. Despite the outdated name, new tutorials are continuing to be developed and added to the site.
  • Flash Kit: this Flash resource site claims to be the world’s largest. They host tutorials, help forums, open source tools, movies, and more. Some of the content is extremely outdated; however, they also have plenty of new information.

Books

Even though Adobe Flash Professional no longer exists under that name, there are still dozens of books available on the program (and dozens more for Macromedia Flash and Adobe Animate). Many of these titles were updated with each new version, so make sure to check the version of Flash you’re using and find the book that corresponds to it.

  • Adobe Flash Professional CC Classroom in a Book (2014) by Russell Chun: this official training series, developed directly with the Adobe Creative product team, provides hands-on training through ten step-by-step lessons covering software basics through advanced video creation. The most recent versions also include discussions on web standards, including HTML5.
  • How to Cheat in Adobe Flash CC: The Art of Design and Animation (2014) by Chris Georgenes: this guide is designed specifically for animators looking to speed up the creation process and get the most out of Flash. While it covers some basics, such as an overview of the latest UI, it assumes some previous knowledge of Adobe Flash Professional.
  • Adobe® Flash® Animation: Creative Storytelling for web and TV (2010) by Philip Carrera: this is an older guide, but interesting for its unique focus on storytelling. It’s written for the creative professional, and builds lessons around specific objectives, such as developing animation for a TV commercial, preparing your short for a festival, creating an animated lecture, or developing short clips for the web.
  • Learn Adobe Animate CC for Interactive Media: Adobe Certified Associate Exam Preparation (2016) by Labrecque and Schwartz: if you’re serious about working in Flash, Animate can still do that. This study guide combines text-based lessons with over 6 hours of video.

Conclusion

While no longer the go-to development tool it was in the early 2000s, Adobe Flash continues to be a popular tool for desktop and mobile applications. Flash’s use for website development has been waning for many years, though it’s still not uncommon to come across a flash-based site. Unfortunately, if you’re using a mobile device, this typically results in an error, as Flash is not supported by most mobile browsers. For this reason alone, if you’re looking to create an interactive website or provide streaming content on your site, it’s advisable to use an alternative solution, such as HTML5, which is widely supported across all web platforms.


Further Reading and Resources

We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to coding and development:

  • SMIL Developer Resources: learn all about this system for time-based markup.
  • SVG vs SWF: find out about the differences and similarities of these vector-based graphic formats.

Often what seems great today tomorrow looks tacky. In our infographic Web Design Trends You'll Never Forget we run through decades of designs that were once thought to be the height of coolness.