Creating Flash Resources

A few people have emailed or commented to ask how they could create some resources like the ones on this site.  All of the resources on this site are created in  Adobe Flash Pro CS4 (PC).  This software lets you design the graphics and program the interaction.  A 30 day trial version is available here.

Flash has a number of advantages: The software development is relatively quick in comparison to other programming languages.  It is easy to publish the results to a wide audience as it is designed for the web.  As programming languages go, Actionscript 3,  which is what is used by Flash to create all of the internal logic, is relatively easy to learn.  The disadvantages of Flash is that it cannot meet the performance of other programming languages.  However, for the purpose of resources such as these, that is rarely an issue , plus it is getting better all of the time.  There are also a number of excellent open source projects that can be used that make the development easier, although they must be learned too.

I am sure everybody has their own method of learning. My method was to pick a simple design idea that I had and work towards making it.  This is a slow process as every step needs research either on one of the many excellent tutorial websites or from a book.  My desktop reference was Flash CS3 Professional Advanced for Windows and Macintosh. My recommendation of this book goes no further than it is the only one I have ever used and it seemed fine to me.  As I’ve not used any other I have no frame of reference as to its relative worth.  The advanced really refers to the fact that it uses the programming language of Flash rather than just its animation tools. In my opinion it is a beginner book for anybody who hasn’t yet learnt Actionscript and who can find their way around Flash’s drawing tools by trial and error.  The alternative method is to choose a different type of book that follows a “how to build x” approach which leads you by the hand to the creation of a simple game or application.  For me these don’t work as the only real way to learn to program is to solve each problem yourself.  In fact that isn’t just learning to program; that is programming.  It  is a series of problems that have to be solved.  How do I tell the computer to draw this?   How does the computer handle it when I click here? Etc…

At the end I had a product that I had a use for and which exactly matched my design.  This was Isometric Dotty my first ever attempt at programming anything in Flash.  It had taken a lot of frustration,  searching for answers, and was, I see now, massively inefficient at doing what it did, but it worked and I learnt a lot from it.  Then I tried to leverage the program design to use some of its structure to create the next idea I had but I still needed to add to it and solve the new problems this created.

If there is enough demand, and people would find it useful,  I’ll add some further pages on things that worked for me in learning to make the resources.  I don’t intend to start writing tutorials, there  are more knowledgeable people already doing those, but I’m happy to share some of my learning experience and methods if it will help.

If there are any areas that people would like to know more on please leave a comment below.

8 comments for “Creating Flash Resources

  1. Elyse Quill
    January 14, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    I do not have Adobe Flash but I am currently trying a program called Swish Max which is a Flash creator: (http://www.swishzone.com/index.php)

    Can I create these resources with a Flash creator other than Adobe Flash Pro?

    Thanks.

  2. admin
    January 15, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I only really know Flash itself well rather than the other programs but I will try to explain the situation as I understand it. Others should feel free to correct me.

    The resources on this site and I believe what you can create with swish are .swf files. Swish provides a more supportive approach to creating animations and graphics than the Flash application itself. I would imagine there is a trade off in this in terms of flexibility.

    As to whether you could produce these resources with Swish – that would depend on how complex its scripting language is. I understand it has a scripting language based on Actionscript which is the language that provides the internal logic for the resources (what I programmed these in). If Swish’s language provides all of the capability of Actionscript then yes if not then no. Without knowing the language I couldn’t say for sure.

    There are other Flash creators out there with different purposes. One that may interest you, I assume you are in education, is Flex. This shares a great deal with Flash and outputs swf files. It is for those more comfortable in traditional programming than Flash provides (Flash uses an animation style metaphor with a timeline). I mention it because educators can get it free here: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/edu/

    There are various other ways to output an swf file but no other satisfactory way to provide the logic (programming) that a resource like these needs that I am aware of.

    I hope that helps. If you would like any further clarification let me know.

    Spencer

  3. Dawn
    June 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind me querying this but I have been looking at putting together some kind of IWB resources for my school as part of my TLR post and wondering whether or not to begin creating my own resources from scratch. I have no idea about programming, etc and so am limited to where I can start. Is it easyish to get started on using this Adode Flash Pro?

    Thanks in advance for any help. Also I would like to add that the resources on your website are fantastic, they are rally useful classroom tools and a fun way of getting the leaning across.

    Dawn

  4. admin
    June 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Hi, I find it hard to say how easy/difficult it is to create flash resources. It uses a programming language, Actionscript, which is probably one of the easier languages as it has a lot of built in operations that you would need to do manually in one of the more traditional languages (some would say it isn’t a proper programming language as it does so much for you). Having said that it uses the structures of programming languages loops, conditions etc. In essence it all comes down to how easily you can translate what you want to happen into a mathematical based set of instructions. Some people’s minds find this easier than others. I’ve found that people with no programming experience don’t have any concept of how it all works. Once they actively try to work it out for some people (and not just geniuses) it just makes sense, others have to work at it a bit more. Look at a tutorial for something simple and try to understand how that code gives the result shown. That’s the best demonstration of how it all works you’ll find.

    In the end, though, however easy you find it time is the issue. My first resource which I made as a learning exercise took ages. 18 months later I’m quicker if I stick to techniques I’ve used often before but new things can still require a tremendous effort to learn and it is not unusual for me to spend hours researching how to overcome a problem. There’s never only one way to do something and nobody will ever have had exactly the same problem as you do, after all they are making a different end product. So you have to try and find something similar and try to interpret in a way that helps you. That’s a very brief summary of what’s involved in the programming. I’d say anyone bright enough to be a teacher is bright enough to learn to use Flash to the level you see on my site (the true experts can really make it dance. The barrier is whether you enjoy the programming enough to want to spend the time on it and overcome the frustration that is inherent in all programming at times.

    The best way to see how you like it is to pick a period when you have lots of time free. Download Adobe Flash CS4 and use its 30 day free trial. Pick a really simple resource idea and try to build it. There’s enough tutorials on the internet to not need to pay out for a book. If you do try make sure you start learning Actionscript 3 (AS3) – older versions of Flash used AS2 and it is a bit different. The new version isn’t more difficult, just different and it it’ll save you having to learn twice.

    Good luck with it. If there is anything I haven’t addressed that you would like to know please ask. I remember that it is the most elementary questions on how to get started that are never answered on the internet. I think people forget what it is like to start from zero.

    Spencer

  5. July 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Hi,

    Just to add, Flash CS4 Pro is a little bit pricey, and while some schools buy licences, it sounds like you want something to use at home. Flex Builder (soon to be called Flash Builder) is free for educators like yourselves, and lets you create swf files with pure actionscript. There is no library for creating Movieclips, and no timeline which makes it harder to get to grips with initially, but if you get the hang of actionscript 3, there is nothing you can do in Flash that you cannot do in Flex. Plus there are lots of good videos for getting started on the adobe.com site.

    Chris

  6. Ray Cilia
    March 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Hi
    I so impressed with what you have done here. I am running a Computer conference for the teachers of the Kinberley, Western Australia. About 170 will attend. I am running an Awesome website session for teachers. Your site will definately be on my list for them to take away. If you have any sites that come close to yours please let me know on my email.

    The Aseop Fable book , can i get a template for it or do I have to make it from scratch. A great way to produce class books.

    Thanks again

  7. David Payne
    September 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Hi, I’m probably being really stupid but how do I download these great resources to use on my whiteboard? I press the download button but don’t know where to go from there?
    I’m using Smart Notebook 11.
    Any suggestions, please?

  8. Spencer
    September 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I am glad you like the resources but they are not downloadable and so cannot be embedded in smart notebook, although you can link to them. They are free to use online. This is essential to enable the site to continue to be free as hosting, software, etc are all costs it needs to cover. Sites where you pay to use the resources generally don’t allow you to download either.

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