Dreamweaver 4 Overview

Introduction to Dreamweaver 4

1  Dreamweaver 4 Overview
2 The Interface: Same, but Different
3 Handling Code
4 How Buggy Are Your Scripts?
5  Inserting Flash Objects in a Flash
6 Handling Images
7 Site Management: All Together Now
8 Hits and Misses
Home Tired and Want to go HOME

Dreamweaver 4 Overview

Page 5 — Inserting Flash Objects in a Flash

One of Dreamweaver 4's most exciting features, from a design perspective, is the integration of Macromedia's two big graphics tools, Flash and Fireworks. Dreamweaver now offers the user the ability to instantly drop animated Flash buttons, Fireworks banners, animated GIFs, image maps, or just any graphic element you'd need onto your page with just a few clicks.

For example, let's say that you want to drop a button that links to this particular article on your page. (How truly fabulous of you!) Working within the design view, position the cursor at the place on your page where you want to button to appear. Then click on the "Insert Flash Button" icon in the Objects panel. You will be presented with an attributes menu for your button.

You can select the type of button that you'd like from the rather extensive menu of pre-fab choices. Most of the buttons are animated -- they change colors or do a little dance when you put your mouse pointer on top of them. Some of them even make sounds. You can enter the text that will appear on your button in the "Button Text" field. You can also select font and background color attributes to match the design schemes you've used elsewhere on your site. Next, enter the link where your button will lead the user when it's clicked. Finally, name the button whatever you'd like and save it in a directory on your site that contains your other multimedia elements.

When you click OK, an .swf file is created and saved wherever you have specified. Dreamweaver's default action is to save the button in the same directory as the HTML file if you don't specify a location. When you preview the page in your browser, you can see how the button looks and behaves. If it's not what you expected, simply select the button in Dreamweaver's design view and make changes to its size, background color, and other attributes in the Properties panel. To change the target link, button text, or even the actual shape and behavior of the button itself, click on the Edit button within the Properties panel and you will be presented with the original attributes panel for the button. Make any changes you want and click OK to save them.

Quick and easy, huh? You can use the same steps to add Flash text to your page, as well. Flash text can be used to link to other URLs, much like a button, or you can simply use it for headlines and titles on your page. Both the Flash text and the Flash buttons created by Dreamweaver can be fully edited and customized using Flash, too.

One very appealing feature of Flash objects is that they are vector-based. Just like vector-based clip art, you can scale the size up and down without losing sharpness or quality. Also, vector-based graphics print to paper more clearly than bitmap-based graphics like JPEGs.

There are, of course, two significant problems presented when you use these features. The first and most obvious is that the user viewing your site will need to have a current Flash viewer installed on his or her computer in order to see the Flash elements. This presents the possibility that the page will not load properly when viewed by an estimated 10-20 percent of your users -- even if you only use one Flash object on your page.

The second problem is that you're bloating your page unnecessarily by using Flash elements. Dreamweaver automatically adds eight lines of rather ugly embeded object code to your page in order to make the Flash object do its thing. All of the code is mandatory -- if you want to use Flash on your page, you're stuck with it. More importantly, small Flash objects such as buttons are usually somewhere around 8 or 10K in file size. This is significantly larger than the file size of an optimized GIF or JPEG, which could serve the same purpose. GIFs or JPEGs won't, however, give you any of the advantages of vector-based graphics, either.

These problems are nominal if you're only using Flash objects every now and then on your page, but if you end up replacing every graphic element or button on your page with them, it won't be long before your file size -- and download time -- become too large for the average user. So, keep those low-bandwidth users with crusty old laptops in mind and use your best judgement.

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