by Paul Trani
That's right. Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 is here. As a developer evangelist for Adobe, I am very excited about this release, especially as it pertains to Flash Professional and the ever-evolving world of mobile devices. In this article, I provide an overview of the new features in Flash Professional CS5.5.
A new UI has been added to allow you to change the scale of your FLA file contents when you change the size of the Stage. Access the option in the Document Settings dialog box. Enter new FLA file dimensions, and then select the Scale Content With Stage option. (You can choose whether you want to include locked and hidden layers when scaling.) This will scale all the elements in the FLA file (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Scale your FLA file contents in the Document Settings dialog box.
The AIR 2.6 SDK is integrated with Flash Professional CS5.5. It includes the latest API for iOS, which offers support for Microphone, Camera Roll, CameraUI, and the Retina display. For Retina display support, a Resolution drop-down option is added to the AIR for iOS Settings dialog box.
This feature provides better integration between Flash Professional and Adobe Flash Builder software by unifying their project file formats in such a way that Flash Professional can open projects created in Flash Builder (of the Flash Professional nature), and Flash Builder can import projects created in Flash Professional.
Create a project, and every FLA file associated with that project can share assets. An AuthortimeSharedAssets.fla file is created when a new project is created. The project name appears in the Document tab (for example, Android.fla: Meridien Project). Define which symbols you want to share using the Library panel (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Share assets from Flash projects from the Library panel.
This feature provides a new publish target, AIR for Android, that enables you to publish an application that can be deployed on an Android device. To start, create a FLA file from the AIR for Android template.
You can apply this feature to movie clips on the Stage to enhance runtime performance. Unlike Cache as Bitmap, which creates a bitmap at runtime, this feature exports a bitmap at publish time. If you have complicated vector shapes in a movie clip, the runtime performance is better than Cache as Bitmap. You can apply Export as Bitmap to a movie clip with shapes, Text Layout Framework (TLF) or Classic text, or 3D objects. You can apply the Export as Bitmap feature by setting the Render option in the Display section of the Property inspector. You can still edit the movie clip. There are options for Transparent and Opaque with background color.
This feature converts anything selected on the Stage to a bitmap. The default image format is PNG, but you can change it to JPEG in the properties of the bitmap created in the Library. Once you convert it to a bitmap, you cannot edit it in Flash Professional, but you can edit it in Adobe Photoshop or other image editors and then update it in your Flash project. You can access this feature by choosing Modify > Convert to Bitmap, or from the context-sensitive menu of the element on the Stage.
For an AIR for Android target FLA file, you can debug the movie on your device via USB by choosing Debug > Debug Movie > On Device via USB.
Performance for TLF has been improved. Scrolling speed has been improved exponentially as has the performance for creating TLF text blocks and populating them once they are created. These enhancements, which were made to the underlying text engine, make TLF work really well on mobile devices. Flash Professional CS5.5 has optimized the export of TLF text to SWF, which means a smaller SWF file size and generally better performance in Flash Player. Note that you will not see any difference when working with TLF in Flash Professional and on the Stage. The only difference will be in the resulting SWF file.
One of the features of TLF text that Adobe didn't take advantage of in Flash Professional CS5 is the ability to add tab stops and align text to them. That's now possible in Flash Professional CS5.5 along with the ability to enter tab characters in TLF text fields on the Stage. Note that different paragraphs can have different sets of tab stops. If a single paragraph is selected, the tab ruler displays markers for all tab stops in the selected paragraph. If multiple paragraphs are selected and each paragraph contains different tab stops, then only the tab stops from the first selected paragraph are shown, and edits are applied to all selected paragraphs.
Adobe added a variety of new code snippets for creating mobile AIR applications to Flash Professional CS5.5. These snippets enable you to easily use the accelerometer, handle multitouch gestures, save and load data, and do much more to start building your own mobile apps.
The code snippets HUD greatly speeds the process of inserting ActionScript 3 code and learning how it works. Upon selecting a snippet from the Code Snippets panel, you can view a description or the underlying ActionScript 3 code on the HUD (see Figure 3). Adobe has made some radical changes to how the ActionScript 3 code is formatted, and those changes are intended to help novice and inexperienced programmers parse the code and apply it quickly. This view is primarily read-only, but key areas are interactive, such as instance names, frame numbers, and target objects. Typographic formatting and rollovers indicate areas of interactivity.
Flash Professional CS5.5 gives you more control over the contents on the Timeline through the ability to copy and paste layers. You can copy and paste any type of layer, such as Motion, inverse kinematics (IK), and more to the same timeline, to a different timeline, or to a different FLA document. And the structure of the selected layers is kept intact. For example, masked objects remain masked in the pasted layers. You can also select a folder, copy it, and paste it, and all its contents are pasted along with the folder. In addition to copying and pasting layers, you can cut layers and duplicate layers, depending on your needs. You can access these new layer features by selecting the desired layer in the Layers panel and right-clicking (or Control-clicking) and selecting a layer command from the context-sensitive menu (see Figure 4).
You can now control authortime playback (and quick navigation in your animation) using a new integrated controller at the bottom of the Timeline and the Motion Editor. In addition to the controller, there is now a Loop button, which brings up markers for you to specify which frames you want to loop playback over. This loop range makes it easier to repeatedly review a particular part of your animation.
This new setting enables animators to pin the tail of IK bones to the Stage to allow greater control while posing the armatures. The pins exist when authoring only.
Auto Recover is enabled in the Preferences panel. At specified time intervals (ten minutes, by default), the Auto Recover feature creates a copy of the current open file and names it RECOVER_<filename>. That copy is saved in the same location as the actual file. Flash will not create multiple copies, but it will overwrite the same copy every time Auto Recover runs. This copy will be deleted once Flash is closed properly. If Flash closes unexpectedly, a dialog box will prompt you to recover the files that were open once you restart Flash.
Auto Save is enabled per document. You can turn this feature on and off in the Document Settings dialog box or when creating a new document. When this feature is on, Flash will automatically save your document at specified time intervals.
Every display object in Flash has a visible property. In the past, the only way to set this property was to use ActionScript. Adobe has now added support to toggle this property on and off directly in the Property inspector for display objects.
Those are the major enhancements to Flash Professional CS5.5. If you're interested in what's new with the other CS5.5 releases, you can learn more about Dreamweaver CS5.5 and web standards on Greg Rewis's blog. Jason Levine talks about video enhancements. And Terry White shows you some easy design and digital publishing solutions.
Paul Trani is a developer evangelist for Adobe, focusing on the Flash Platform and Creative Suite workflows.