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September 2006 Archives

Resizing Flash Text on Browser Text Resize

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09/29/06, 10:04 AM

A great accessibility enhancement in Flash. Check out what's been released this week:

It's worth checking them all out to see the progress of the code. If you just want to just to the chase though, then check out whichever of those last 3 links best applies to what you want to accomplish

FlashForward Highlights

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09/20/06, 11:24 PM

FlashForward2006 Austin Better late than never, here's a wrap-up of what I felt were the highlights of the FlashForward Conference last week in Austin, Texas:

FlashForward Keynote
Kevin Lynch, Adobe

Rather than rehash what's already out there, Robert Hoekman, Jr. already has a great list of bullet points from it, so check it out on his blog.

Designing the Obvious: Creating Great Software for the Web
Robert Hoekman, Jr., Go Daddy Software, Inc.

Designing the Obvious

Robert has a new book of the same title coming out soon, and his presentation centered on some of the key points in his book related to creating usable web applications. They are:

  • - The 7 qualities of a great web application:
  • 1. Knows why users are using it and supports what they need to do.
  • 2. Has only the features that are absolutely necessary for users to complete the activity the application is meant to support. (Think minimalism).
  • 3. Conforms to users' mental model of what it does. (Example of a usability problem is treeview controls are not easy to use for non-technical people)
  • 4. Helps users get started quickly so they can become intermediate users as soon as possible. (Intermediate users comprise 80%-90% of total users for a given app).
  • 5. Makes it easy to recover from mistakes and difficult to make them in the first place.
  • 6. Has uniformly designed interface elements, but leverages irregularity to create meaning and importance (Within 5 seconds, a user should be able to determine what the most important element on the screen is).
  • 7. Reduces clutter to a minimum. (Be able to justify every element on the screen).
  • - Gmail's undo delete function is much better than a "Are you sure you want to delete this" JavaScript confirm box.
  • - OurProperty.co.uk's Sign Up Form is one of the "best forms ever" according to Robert, although he recommends disabling the "Sign Me Up" button until all required form fields are filled out… I definitely agree the usability of the form is awesome, but I prefer to always have the submit button clickable and alert the user in some way if the form is incomplete because if you disable it, the user may not understand why the button isn't working.
  • - Always use Flash player detection. He has his own methods, but I of course highly recommend SWFObject.

His book, Designing the Obvious, is available for preorder on Amazon.com now and should be a valuable resource for all developers of web apps, regardless of the technologies they use.

Best Practices: Flash Detection and Embedding with SWFObject
Geoff Stearns, Schematic

As you know if you've been to Flash Pearls before, SWFObject is the best way to embed your Flash movies, and you should be using it all the time. I did find it interesting that Geoff did mention Bobby van der Sluis's UFO script and basically said to use whichever script is best for your needs. Personally I'm all about unobtrusive JavaScript, but when it comes to Flash embedding, I bite the bullet and use SWFObject so I can be sure the Flash content is displayed ASAP. Geoff also mentioned Bobby's awesome article on Adobe DevNet about Developing Flash websites using progressive enhancement and recommended everyone be sure to read it.

Interactive Imagination: Sight, Sound, and Motion
Craig Swann, CRASH!MEDIA

If you're ever at a FlashForward conference, be sure to check out Craig' session (he's practically always presenting). He does some amazing visual/audio interactive stuff with Flash using various inputs (microphone, camera, RFID, and more). Some links he recommended checking out that will give you a hint of what kind of work he does are:

Building your First Apollo Application
Christian Cantrell, Adobe

Christian discussed some of the details of Adobe Apollo, which is a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, JavaScript, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA's. Apollo is very early in the development phase, but we were able to get a good idea of what's in store for the future:

  • - It will be cross-platform
  • - Once you install the Apollo runtime, each Apollo app will be freestanding (running as its own process and can be uninstalled via Add/Remove programs in Windows or dragging to the trash in Mac)
  • - It will most likely be able to render PDFs (no PDF-based applications as we originally thought)
  • - Can detect if a user is connected to the internet, so work can be done offline and then the data can be sent to the server once an internet connection is established)
  • - System tray support for Windows (and a few other OS-specific features for each platform)
  • - Installs of Apollo apps over the internet
  • - Access to the user's file system
  • - Full context menu control
  • - Window Chrome control (use system chrome, no system chrome, or a custom chrome with transparency)
  • - Developer release is expected on Abobe Labs by the end of this year
  • - It's gonna be free!

Besides the generic release dates (which is definitely understandable), the only other thing Christian could not give much detail about is the HTML/CSS rendering engine. He could say that it would be based on an existing engine, so we won't have to worry about testing our websites in yet another browser, but that was the extent of the info. My guess is they'll use Opera since it supports more operating systems than Firefox, plus they're the leader in the mobile device internet browsers. We'll just have to wait and see!

Supercharging Flash 8
Aral Balkan, Ariaware

Master Flash presenter and OSFlash.org co-founder closed the conference by explaining some of his favorite Flash add-ons. The list:

  • - gProject - Grant Skinner's awesome replacement for the project panel in the Flash IDE
  • - FLASC - use MTASC within the Flash IDE
  • - Alf - allows you to search (filter) library assets and manipulate them to help you refactor your library
  • - LuminicBox Logger - great tool for debugging
  • - Arp - helps you develop RIA's with AS2.0 and AS3.0 with lightweight, pattern-based best-practices architecture
  • - Xray - another useful tool for debugging
  • - AsUnit - Unit Test Framework for Flash & Flex

FlashForward 2006 was a great time, and Austin is an amazing city. I can't wait for next year.

FlashDen Beta

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09/07/06, 01:31 PM

FlashDen is a newly launched site for royalty free stock Flash files (video, audio, effects, fonts, etc). And since it's Web 2.0, it's of course still in "Beta". Schematic has a great blog post with the details of what the site has to offer.

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