Learning Flash + FlashDevelop

Hi,

So I've been trying to learn Flash since starting to work with Articulate since that really seems like the keys to the highway. But I'm doing it in a fairly clumsy way for a training professional (cobblers kids have no shoes, I guess). I'm looking up the fairly sophisticated (for me) projects I would like to implement and experiementing my way through them. Thinking a little, I've determined maybe I need to learn some basics and crawl before I run.

I'm also working in non-standard software - FlashDevelop. I'd like to run out and buy a book like "Flash for abject morons" but after a breif skimming of the titles, they are all "ADOBE Flash for abject morons." I might pick up one of those anyways, as they seem similar. Does anyone know if that would be fruitful? The goal is to get Flash proper, but for now, this is what I have.

I'd also like to get some classroom training, prolly at a local college. Any other suggestions? Online resources? Places to start? Concentrations that would be of particular interest to an Articulate user?

Also, I'd wish I had a Flash beginners forum quite as useful as this one!

Many thanks!

7 Replies
Steve Flowers

FlashDevelop is a really great code editor, but it won't really help with design and layout or animation of custom elements. I prefer to code in an external editor since Flash's code editor is so bonked with usability problems.

If you're expecting to do all your work in code, FlashDevelop may be nice. But to get used to the relationships between objects, the type of structures available, the nuances of "mechanical connections" between code and visual elements, and getting quick visual satisfaction for your learning journey I really recommend picking up Adobe Flash. Even if it's just the 30 day trial to get a feel for it. There are alternatives like http://www.swishmax.com but you'll run into limitations in syntax compatibility and feature support.

The other advantage is you're looking at over a decade of available tutorials, assembly examples, techniques, practices, and community interactions. All of that community goodness surrounding a tool that has a huge developer base cannot be ignored

You'll find a variety of information (some of it really dated) here:

http://www.kirupa.com

http://www.flashkit.net

http://www.gotoandlearn.com/

These are a good place to start for articles, tutorials, and examples. Adobe Flash is a great way to go, for the moment, to extend capabilities of Presenter. One caveat, Flash is great for some things. When the power is required there isn't another tool out there that will deliver the same capabilities for the same time invested. The IDE is mature and powerful. However, used improperly (like any tool) it's just a waste.

Have fun

Kevin Thorn

In my experience there are two arenas with Flash. The keyframing (animation) arena, and the interaction and web applications arena. The first doesn't require a whole lot of (sometimes none) ActionScript coding, but keyframing is very labor intensive. The second is as you're figuring out quite a learning curve.

In today's world with social networks, there are a couple really good groups on LinkedIN that if nothing else share links out to other popular community forums. If you're on Twitter, hashtag or keyword search Flash. Some of the world's top developers and designers are on Twitter and often share sources, tips, and snippets of code.

I've been asked this question before and my suggestion is always about your learning style. Do you learn better on your own with a book? With short online tutorials? Or a slower facilitator led class?

Flash can be very overwhelming for beginners and local tech schools usually offer Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced classes. Those are a great start to get your feet wet. Zara pointed out Lynda.com - tremendous resource with bite-sized tutorials.

Another suggestion is start building a library. For instance, say you wanted to build a custom drag and drop interaction. Search the interwebs for examples, tutorials, and code snippets. You'll quickly learn there are thousands of ways to approach it, but you'll also learn methods that fit your style.

Hope this helps and good luck!

James Brown

I've heard a couple different individuals mention that before you learn Flash you really need to learn how to draw. I would  begin there. I don't quite agree with Kevin about key framing. Key frames are basically points in the flash when things happen and I honestly found flash very easy to learn once I understood that everything you make is broken into layers on one big timeline and the how many frames you use depends on the animation speed. Think of Flash as a film projector and you are laying out the movie using frames. Personally I would say I'm between a novice and advanced user of Flash and there are a lot of great sites out there to help you learn what to do with the various objects. YouTube is a great place to look. I have done a lot of things in flash including using it to create cartoons, software tutorials, and other things and once you get down the idea of symbols and action scripting, things go pretty fast. Of course I have also had approx. 1 year of C++ Programming and 1 year of Cobal Programming in High School, and I've coded websites in ASP, HTML, and PHP so Flash was actually pretty easy for me to pickup and if you have the time and skill, you should have no issues. Your imagination is the only thing that will hold you back.  Good luck.

Kevin Thorn

Keyframing is an entirely different discipline. Check out Nickelodeon, WB, Disney, Cartoon Network, etc.soon and you can easily pick out series that were developed totally in Flash production studios. Publishing Flash for broadcast TV is quite different as there is no 'browser' to render the client-side ActionScript. Keyframing is ActionScript free. For the most part old school animation.

When I mentioned there are two major arenas. Keyframing (animation and broadcast TV), and for Web (applications, interactions, eLearning).

You don't necessarily need to know "how" to draw to use Flash, unless you're doing character animation, walk-cycles, lip syncing, etc. All of which is very difficult to do with ActionScript to any level of profession. Granted, there are other techniques like rotoscoping and stop-motion animation but those don't require drawing skills.

Let's break it down simpler. Say you want to animate a ball (circle) from one side of the stage to the other. You can either write a snippet of ActionScript that anchors the object in a certain x, y coordinate and apply a speed and direction, tween it between two keyframes, or keyframe each position as it moves across. Either way will produce the exact same animation. The decision is largely based on what its being used for, delivery platform, etc. Same with anything we build in eLearning - design before you build. The design will determine the best direction to take.

Obviously, keyframing (motion tweening, shape tweens, layers, scene switching, etc. is an easier learning curve then ActionScript. I'll go back to my original suggestion and first be honest with the best way you know how "you" learn. Books, online tutorials, classroom, all ways? Then seek out those areas for your needs. I started with Flash v4 and the in-tool Help Tutorials. From there went to the forums (Macromedia then). From there I learned of other communities and recommended books.  And lots and lots of late hours practicing

Steve Flowers

If you're using Flash, keyframe mechanics (including tweens and keyframe operations as well as timeline types and behaviors) are something you'll want to pick up - goes without say'in. The toolbox opens up when you can choose between an easy keyframe assembly for state representation or simple animation and a more complex code driven tween. I personally don't draw much in Flash. My wife does some illustration in Flash when Flash is the target, depends on what you're shooting for. 

Flash is one part toy, one part power tool, one part torture device (Flashisms) but once you get into it you'll love it. There isn't another tool I know of that empowers such awesomeness (and such lameness at the same time) in one packaged tool. So much flexibility. So many choices (good and evil).

I used to teach Flash (back in the 20th century) it's a hoot to learn. Immediate satisfaction and so many directions you can go.