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
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