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Macromedia Ships Flash 4

Macromedia Wednesday released Flash 4, the new version of its Flash authoring software.

New features include integrated support for high-fidelity MP3 streaming audio and commands for creating sites with interactivity. In addition, Flash 4 contains a revamped authoring environment to help create bandwidth-efficient Flash Web sites.

Flash creates vector-based Web sites that aim to deliver sound, interactivity, graphics and animations across multiple browsers and platforms. MP3 streaming audio support in Flash 4 helps designers create Web audio applications, such as long-form animations with voiceovers and background music, while keeping files small for low-bandwidth delivery.

Newly introduced support for text entry fields in Flash 4 allows developers to create Web forms, applications, and e-commerce front ends. Sites can now gather customer data from within Flash-based Web pages, and then pass that information to a Web server.

Flash can also control how user-entered information is displayed. Flash 4 supports draggable interface elements, conditional logic, and basic mathematics, assisting in the creation of Web shopping cart applications, for example.

Improvements to the Flash 4 authoring interface include new inspector palettes and drawing tools, as well as more intuitive layer. A timeline and smart motion guides assist in the process of creating animations; and a library palette with sorting, grouping, and usage tracking capabilities helps with asset management.

Finally, a publish command outputs the range of Flash-supported formats-including multiple versions of HTML, compressed bitmaps, and the new QuickTime.

Flash 4 is available for Windows 95/98, Windows NT, and MacOS for US $299. Current registered Flash users can upgrade to Flash 4 for US $129.