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¦ SharedObject data: Flash Player 6 movies can load and store data in Local SharedObject objects (which are saved on the user’s machine) or in Remote SharedObject objects (which are saved on servers running Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX). LSOs and RSOs can function as mini-databases that can store information as native Flash datatypes, such as objects in the Array or Object classes.
¦ Flash Remoting data: By using a Flash Remoting-enabled gateway on a Web server, you can load AMF (Action Messaging Format) binary data directly into a Flash movie. AMF data retains native datatyping, eliminating the need for a Flash developer to serialize and deserialize data packets between a client and server application.
¦ Server-side scripts: Flash movies can receive dynamic data (as text, Flash movies, MP3 files, JPEG images — just about any of the assets mentioned in this list) from applications that run on your Web server. Using scripting languages such as CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language), ASP (Active Server Pages), Perl, or PHP, queries can be made to databases that return up-to-date information.
During the planning phase of your Flash project, map the potential use you have for these types of content. Whether you’re making rough storyboards or detailed functional specifications (see Chapter 3 for more information), define the use of every asset wherever possible.
Constructing a Flash Asset Architecture
As you develop the functional specifications, flowcharts, and schedule for your Flash project, consider the goals of the project, and decide upon the optimal Flash document structure that will support these goals. The following two sections provide a series of checklists and maps to help you organize your project’s goals.
816 Part X ¦ Creating Flash Applications
See Chapter 3 for more information on planning Flash projects.
Considering Preliminary Logistics
Have you had ideas — especially ideas for Web presentations and applications — that no one else has had? As you plan to build a Flash presentation that will redefine the experience of the Web, you will provide the necessary ingredients for the project’s floor plan. You can’t create a blueprint for a structure until you know the pre-existing conditions of the project.
¦ What Flash Player version does the target audience need to have installed? The
Flash Player version will affect the range of asset options that you can employ. Flash Player 4 can only load Flash movies (SWF files) using loadMovie() or URL-encoded text data using loadVariables(). Flash Player 5 adds the capability to load XML data using the XML class. Only Flash Players 6 and 7 can load Flash movies (SWF files) containing embedded video. Make sure you decide which version of the Flash Player your presentation will require.
¦ What connection speed does the target audience have? Many developers assume that the people in their target audience have high-speed Internet connections such as DSL, cable, T1, or faster. If you know that most people viewing your Flash presentation or using your Flash application have dial-up connection speeds of 56Kbps or slower, your choice and size of assets should take the user’s wait time into consideration. Regardless of connection speed, you should always optimize your Flash movie assets and loading structures.
¦ Does the target audience include people with special needs? If visually impaired people are included in your target audience, you should consider using the Accessibility panel options for assets in your Flash movie — including loaded Flash movies. Flash movies with Accessibility options require Flash Player 6 (and later) and a Flash-supported MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) screen reader such as Window-Eyes.
Chapter 32 has more information on the Accessibility class in ActionScript.
¦ How many assets will the presentation or application require? The Flash architecture that you plan to use is affected by the number of assets loading into the presentation. You can build simple structures that work with a small number of assets, or you might need to set aside time and testing for larger, more scalable solutions that can work with an unlimited (or ever-changing) number of assets. For example, if you design a town newsletter that has five news articles per week, you can realistically create five placeholders (such as keyframes or Movie Clips) that load images and text into the proper positions within the Flash movie. However, if you need to create a Flash search engine that can display anything from one to 100 “pages” of information in the Flash movie, you need to build an architecture that creates an internal data structure in ActionScript on the fly.
¦ Will the presentation or application use static files or dynamic data? Your Flash project architecture should also take into consideration how assets and data will be created. Will you manually create and upload static text, JPEG, and MP3 files to your Web server, and load them into your master Flash movie? Or, will you develop a database and server-side script that delivers these assets on the fly to the Flash movie? If you think you’ll eventually need to “upgrade” a Flash project to use dynamic data, you can simulate complex data structures in static text files during development. When the database and server-side script are ready to be integrated with the Flash movie, you can then switch the URL you are using for the static text file to the live server URL.