Flash can be easy. The release of SWiSH clearly demonstrates that you don’t need to be graphic artist or a programmer to build stunning Flash movies for your Website.
Last year SWiSH was released as a tool that can animate text: you had a handful of effects that could not only make you text dance — it would practically do the Macarena. Easy to use, the product’s interface was not cluttered, nor too complex . SWiSH 2.0 extends this philosophy with more than a few handy new additions.
- Button: Yes, now you can finally create buttons that work and operate exactly like buttons in Flash.
- Sprite Object: this is very similar to movie clips in Flash. You can create a short animation and have it be placed within a button, inside a main movie, or anywhere along the timeline. Very cool.
- Importing: Now you can import many of the common open standards for Vector and Raster graphics. The new imported formats include: WMF, EMF and SWF files, as well as GIF, JPG, BMP and PNG images.
- Drawing Tools: the drawing tools allow you to draw and edit Vector graphics on the stage.
- Effect Presets: SWiSH 2 now not only gives you 150 animation effects, but also allows you to modify each Effect, giving you total control over how the animation plays back. As an added bonus, you can save that setting.
- Live Editing: this is very cool. You can play the animation as a SWF file (the exported file format needed to play a Flash movie in a Web page) within SWiSH and edit it at the same time!
- SWF Opitimization: the optimization of all files into Flash SWF files is now much more intelligent. Exported files are now much smaller.
If you are not a pro Flash developer, there are few products that can match SWiSH’s ease of use. What makes this product particularly engaging is the way you can get up and running in a matter of minutes to build very cool Flash movies. The Effects Presets allows you to add 3D, explosions, Vortex, and TypeWriter visual effects, among others. Each of these presets can be tweaked to the tiniest detail and then saved, so that you can easily apply the new effect to future movies.
The new Vector drawing tools are a welcome inclusion. A seasoned Flash developer will see that they are very similar to the drawing tools in Flash. You have the basic shape tools (line, pencil, Oval and Oblong), and the paint tools that fill the shapes with color. I actually found these tools easier to work with than those in Macromedia’s Flash — not a bad job at all.
Finally, another new asset that is very much needed in SWiSH is the ability to create buttons and movie clips (SWiSH calls movie clips "Sprites"). And these complete the full tool chest, which will allow you to create high quality, captivating Flash movies.
I think SWiSH is a great tool for the pricetag — the effects alone can make the price worthwhile. However, I do see room for improvement, for instance, with the scripting tool.. I can tell that SWiSH was designed to create movies, not interactive Flash presentations — this feature really was a pain to work I’d really like to see that area of the program improved for version 3.0.
I was also disappointed by the lack of support for importing Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand files. Many designers use these as their primary tools for building graphics. I found it annoying to have to export my Illustrator graphics as WMF files and then import them into SWiSH.
There are dozens of Flash movie clones appearing on the market. The two leaders are Macromedia and Adobe with Flash and Live Motion. These are too massive programs brimming with functionality, but they’re very expensive. If you take their best features — the ability to create animation easily, and distil it in a neat, small program — you get SWiSH. For the price SWiSH is a great addition to your library.
There are over 70 products that create Flash movies. See over for a collection of the best with price, value and brief description. As you’ll see, SWiSH rates very well on all criteria.
Rating: 4 stars
Special Offer: SitePoint users buy SWiSH now for $39.96
Flash Tools Comparison
The one that started it all. A great interface and access to all of those neat features. How can you knock it?
Adobe Live Motion 2
Macromedia is getting a run for its money with this product. Great graphics tools and full access to the scripting library making this a great tool.
A great tool to build fast animations with stunning effects.
Takes your Flash movies and make them into screensavers.
SWF Studio allows you to extend your Flash movies to connect with databases through ODBC and other cool tools.
The best 3D tool that exports to the Flash format. Why is this not in Macromedia’s own Flash tool?
A Web-based Flash text movie tool.
Matthew’s most recent publications include Flash MX Magic (New Riders), Flash MX Game Design f/x & Design (Coriolis) and content for Everything Ever Needed to Know about Live Motion 2.0, Flash 5 Magic, Inside Dreamweaver 4, Flash 5: Visual FX, Web Publishing Bible and The Dreamweaver Bible.