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Moving forward with ActionScript 3

This has never been more true since the latest CS3 release of Flash, which incorporates ActionScript 3, a completely new implementation of the Flash scripting language. ActionScript has evolved gradually over a number of versions of Flash. Each time new capabilities were added but old code could still be used with minimal changes. With AS3 that’s all changed, it’s so different that old code needs a complete re-write to work. From the developer’s point of view, there has never been more control, but the real dividend of converting is the huge jump in speed and performance that AS3 brings. The secret is in the “Just In Time” compiler, that converts the code into fast running low level machine code just before running the program.

The upshot of this is that things that were previously out of the question are now possible, like real-time 3D rendering for advance games or user interfaces, MIDI controllers for music applications or sophisticated image manipulation for photo retouching or paint programs. None of these applications would have been possible in a practical way with previous versions of Flash.

In the education sector, we have seen Flash becoming the platform of choice for developing engaging interactive content, with a plethora of CD ROM titles and on-line resources available, of widely varying quality. When more advance or more efficient coding has been required, Java, Visual Basic or C++ have been used, but the improved performance has often been at the cost of an engaging user interface and usability. With the advent of AS3, we will see more and more educational content being developed in Flash. It’s ability to combine application development and hard core programming with animation, interactivity and multimedia in one environment, cross-platform and with no plug-in issues, make it unstoppable!

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten Linux, which is on the increase in education. The Flash 9 plug-in is available for Linux, and MDM Zinc is capable of creating Linux compatible CD ROMS using Flash.

Derek King – Senior Software Developer

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