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The 10 Best Flash Development Tools

Flash Development Tool
1 FlashDevelop A type of Integrated Development Environment (IDE), Flash Develop is used for creation of all kinds of video games, web apps, desktop apps and flash websites. The resulting app from this tool runs in Adobe AIR or Adobe Flash Player, on iOS, Android, Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows.

The main use of FlashDevelop is to enable developers to easily edit, compile, debug and publish any project created in Flash ActionScript. The tool supports haXe, ActionScript 2.0, ActionScript 3.0 and various other languages. It also offers snippets, syntax highlighting, code completion and several other features that are quite like the Microsoft Visual Studio.

The IDE is essentially an open source and free of cost software that’s been written in C# majorly, and has been developed on the highly efficient Scintilla editor component. Its plug-in architecture makes it extensible. Other than that it’s a .NET framework 2.0 app that’s available only for the MS Windows platform. Being an open source project and having a modular plug-in system, the users can improve and optimize it, apart from writing plug-ins that can fill in for the missing features. FlashDevelop project is mainly funded by donations.

It makes use of the freely available Adobe Flex Software Development Kit (SDK) for development of MXML and ActionScript 3 apps. MTASC compiler can be employed for developing ActionScript 2 apps. On the other hand, you can even use the haXe toolkit for development of JavaScript, Neko, PHP or ActionScript 3 apps. It even offers highlighting and code completion for the CSS, PHP, XML and HTML.

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2 Minibuilder An extremely lightweight and free of cost IDE, Flash Minibuilder was specifically designed for development of programs written in ActionScript 3. This tool itself has been written in ActionScript and provides for a comprehensive cross-platform and free alternative to the ActionScript projects. Extension, alteration and even integration of Minibuilder with other software is an extremely easy task.

This tool makes use of a multi-tabbed GUI, helping you in easy definition of your project. Apart from that you can browse different projects, perform searches and check out the recently opened projects. Although there is no help manual available, its features are intuitive enough, and can be decoded easily. There are no complex configuration settings under the hood, hence even rookies can dabble into ActionScript projects.

It gives you the freedom to define flash ActionScript projects by providing details related to the project type, which could be Flash AIR AS3 (Adobe AIR-based app), Server side AS3, AVM2 (Tamarin based executable) or Flash Player AS3 (SWF file which runs in Flash Player).

On the whole Minibuilder comes equipped with a comprehensive suite of features that contribute to easy development of programs and ActionScript. Almost any level of user can master it, regardless of his/her experience.

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3 SWFTools SWFTools is a type of open source software tool suite meant for easy creation and manipulation of the SWF files. You can use this suite under the GNU General Public License. It can be compiled from a C source code, and run under Apple OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux environments. When running it on the Microsoft Windows based systems, the precompiled installer installs a GUI wrapper meant for the PDF to SWF (pdf2swf) conversion tool of the suite, as well.

This flash tool depends upon and links to various third-party libraries for certain aspects of its functionality, for instance, libjpeg, freetype, PDFlib and Xpdf.

The SWFTools suite comprises of the following components: as3compile, avi2swf, font2swf, gif2swf, jpeg2swf, pdf2swf, png2swf, swfbbox, swfc, swfcombine, swfdump, swfextract, swfrender, swfstrings and wav2swf.

You can use many adapted and/or extra commands provided in the Git repository as well as within the development environment. This suite also comprises of a Python gFX API library that contains an xpdf based PDF parser and many rendering back-ends. Extraction of text from the PDF pages becomes very easy with this API. Furthermore, it also helps you to convert PDF files into SWF files and in creation of bitmaps from PDF files.

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4 Ming This one’s a flash (SWF) output library, which can be used from C++, C, Perl, Java, Ruby, PHP, Python and many other programming languages. You get a great deal of Flash functionality, including many of the Flash 8 features.

If we talk about the specifics, it allows you to create sprites (also referred to as movie clips), flash movie actions, buttons, text, shapes (morphs included) and much more.

The primary aim of Ming is abstracting away a good amount of mundane specifics related to the SWF file format. It also comes equipped with a PHP wrapper that easily wraps the Ming objects inside the PHP objects.

A Python wrapper has also been updated for mirroring the PHP interface’s functionality, hence you can make use of the PHP documentation without any major confusions. There is a Perl wrapper tool, which is commonly used by the Perl programmers. The C++ wrapper on the other hand comes as just one large header file. However, it works pretty well.

Ming is available under LGPL, while the command line ActionScript compiler has been released under the GPL license.

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5 MTASC – Motion Twin ActionScript 2 Compiler MTASC is an ActionScript 2.0 compiler that has been authored in the OCaml programming language. It’s produced by a company going by the name Motion-Twin. The software is available free of cost and can be used either alone or in combination with other tools such as Swfmill for development of SWF files, consisting of interactive multimedia content that can be played with any Flash player.

MTASC has been developed by optimizing the OCaml compilers, and hence offers considerable speed improvement compared to the Macromedia Compiler (MMC). It corrects many different safety problems which come up during the use of MMC. Furthermore, its stricter compared to MMC and can detect many more errors than it.

Please note, MTASC isn’t compatible with ActionScript 2.0 when it comes to local function definitions, local variable scoping etc.

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6 Vectorian Giotto The updated versions of Adobe Flash that have been powered by ActionScript 3 are more potent than ever before. What’s even more worrisome is that they are impenetrable as far as non-coders are concerned. And we aren’t even talking about the costs involved as yet.

Enter Victorian Giotto, a Flash creation tool that is targeted mainly at designers. You can use point-and-click tools to edit the Flash animation elements. It’s all a matter of dragging, dropping and editing. Every animation and vector drawing tool you might need are present, neatly wrapped up inside an interface which comparatively has more accessibility than Adobe. However simple it may seem, please don’t confuse it to be capable of only rudimentary animations. With Giotto you can create highly professional and impressive animations.

Although the program might feel slightly intimidating at first, you’d be sorted once you go through some animation tutorial and get acquainted with the flash animation basics. Once you’re done with your first animation, you can access more tutorials to understand the other important aspects of the tool.

It also ships with a good number of quick-start templates, however, you would require ‘Flash player for IE’ installed prior to using them. They also showcase the results you can achieve with this tool.

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7 Ajax Animator Ajax Animator is a comprehensive standards-based collaborative Flash IDE that works as a web-based Flash tool, and comes free of cost. You can even use it as an off-line installation if you want.

It has been specifically designed to provide a community aspect and simplicity to the Flash developers. The primary goal of this Flash tool is to evolve into an extensively used alternative to the Flash IDE. However, it has also emerged as a cross-format and cross-platform animation tool that works fairly effectively in support of SVG animations, SWF (Flash) animations, animated GIFs and much more. It has been developed using JavaScript, Ext JS framework and some HTML 5 related technologies like SVG.

The development of this flash tool began in the year 2006 by a sixth grader going by the name Antimatter15. Originally intended to be free of cost replacement of Flash MX, Ajax Animator is nowadays used as a general-purpose animation tool. Quite contrary to its name, this tool employs hardly any Ajax in its code!

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8 haXe Normally pronounced as hex, haXe is essentially an open source programming language. Flash programmers use it for compiling haXe programs to .swf files. It offers excellent language and performance features for development of flash-based content.

In general, it’s a high level multi-paradigm and cross-platform programming language as well as a compiler capable of producing source codes and applications for several different computing platforms, from one single code base.

Being an open source software it comes free of cost, and is distributed under GNU GPL v2 license, and its standard library under MIT License.

haXe includes many common functions which are supported across various platforms, for instance, binary, arrays, types, numeric data, text and few common file formats. The basic idea behind the origination of haXe was to support both server side and client side programming using one single language, and simplification of the communication logic between them.

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9 Swfmill This is one more freely available command line tool that aids generation of SWF files. You can convert SWF to XML and XML to SWF using this processor. It employs SWFML, essentially an XML dialect that has been closely modelled on the SWF format. This tool comes with the XSLT capabilities, apart from a more accessible SWFML dialect for generation of SWF files.

The most commonly seen usage of this tool is in generation of asset libraries consisting of SWF movies, TTF fonts, JPEG and PNG images, for users with haXe or MTASC compiled ActionScript. However, you can also use Swfmill for production of both complicated and simple SWF structures. Some of its other features are:
- The output and input of XSLT transformation can be binary SWF or XML.
- Inbuilt simple dialect that supports the development of simple SWFs and library creation.
- Built around the EXSLT or XSLT processor
- You get XSLT commands to import SWF, TTF, JPEG and PNG files, and for mapping of the SWF ID numbers.

Originally written by Daniel Turing, Swfmill is now periodically maintained by Daniel Cassidy. Many more people have contributed substantially to this tool, including the likes of Steve Webster, Ralf Fuest and others.

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10 Sothink SWF Quicker Although this one is not an open source Flash tool, the kind of features it offers makes it definitely worth the investment. It’s a very cool SWF Maker & Editor for the flash animators.

You can build flash animations from the scratch or directly edit any existing SWF, without the FLA file. The resulting animation can be exported as various media types including .gif, .swf, .exe, and .avi. You can export simple animations in the form of HTML 5 as well, based on JavaScript and HTML.

It’s a product of SothinkMedia Software, and supports ActionScript 3.0, Flash CS5, rich format text editing, and general/guided motion tween, stream sound, shape design, mask layer, button creation, movie clip creation, built-in effects, Flash video, event sound and much more. Although it provides the same kind of vector editing capability as available in Adobe Flash, it costs comparatively much less.

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Formerly known as ‘Macromedia Flash,’ ‘Adobe Flash’ is the new name Flash is known by ever since Adobe acquired Macromedia in the year 2005.

Adobe Flash is essentially a multimedia software platform employed for production of desktop applications, mobile games, mobile applications, Rich Internet Applications, embedded web browser video players and animations. Flash helps in display of raster graphics, vector graphics and text, contributing to the creation of apps, video games and animations. In addition, it facilitates mouse captures, camera input, microphone input, keyboard input and streaming of video and audio. Adobe AIR is the associated development platform for Flash.

You might find many artists producing flash-based animations and graphics using Adobe Animate. A large number of software developers also produce video games and applications employing Flash Catalyst, Flash Developer, Adobe Flash Builder and/or any other type of text editor, along with Apache Flex SDK.

End users are allowed to view any pertinent Flash content using AIR (for the mobile or desktop applications), Flash Player (for the web browsers) or a wide range of third-party players like Scaleform (meant for video games) and others.

Adobe Flash Player which is supported on the Linux, Mac OS and Windows systems allows end users to easily view any Flash content with the help of web browsers. On the other hand, Adobe Flash Lite helps in easy viewing of Flash content on the older mobile phones, however has been discontinued and replaced with Adobe AIR.

When it comes to Flash application development, it’s the ActionScript programming language that enables easy development of the mobile apps, desktop apps, web apps, video games and interactive animations. Programmers are allowed to easily implement the flash software making use of the Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) like Powerflasher FDT, FlashDevelop, Adobe Director, Adobe Flash Builder and Adobe Animate. Adobe AIR allows for comprehensive and full featured development of mobile and desktop applications using Flash, which can then be published for Switch, Nintendo WiiU, Android, Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS and macOS.

Although Flash used to be a fairly dominant platform at one point of time when it came to the online multimedia content, it’s now being gradually phased out considering the fact that Adobe is making a transition to HTML 5. Despite the fact that Flash player is slowly on its way out, Adobe has promised that it would continue developing Adobe AIR, and associated technology for development of standalone games and applications.

Flash-based applications

Web applications

During the early 2000s, when Flash was extremely popular, it used to be installed on almost every desktop computer, and was the go-to technology for display of interactive online games, interactive webpages and playback of audio and video content. In fact, when the former PayPal employees founded YouTube in the year 2005, they had used Flash player as the primary means of displaying the compressed video content on the Internet.

For almost a decade between the 2000 and 2010, a great multitude of businesses employed Flash-based portals for launching new products or for creation of interactive company websites. Some of the noteworthy users of Flash included HBO, Disney, Cartoon Network, General Electric, Nike, World Wildlife Fund and Hewlett-Packard. Post the introduction of hardware accelerated 3D for Flash, by Adobe (Stage 3D), there was widespread growth of Flash websites featuring 3D content, particularly for virtual tours and product demonstrations.

However, in the year 2007, YouTube started offering their videos in the HTML 5 format, in order to support iPads and iPhones that didn’t support Flash Player. The reason behind that was a controversy between Adobe and Apple, with Adobe completely stopping Flash player development for mobile phones. The company started focusing its efforts on the development of HTML 5 animations and Adobe AIR applications instead. Things changed even further in the year 2015 when Google launched Google Swiffy which would convert any flash animation into HTML 5 format. This Google tool automatically converted any flash-based web ads and would make them compatible with the mobile devices. Year 2015 also saw YouTube making a complete switch to the HTML 5 technology (for all the devices), however, clarified that the Flash-based video player would be preserved for the purpose of older web browsers.

Rich Internet applications

Post the introduction of ActionScript by Flash 5 in the year 2000, developers started making a combined use of the programming and visual capabilities of Flash, for production of interactive applications and experiences for the Internet. Such web applications later came to be recognized as RIAs or a Rich Internet Applications.

The launch of Macromedia Flex in the year 2004 saw the product being exclusively targeted for the app development marketplace. Macromedia Flex introduced advance-level data visualization components, fresh user interface components, a modern IDE (in the form of Flash builder) and data remoting. Flex started competing with Microsoft Silverlight and Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), with the passage of time. It was later upgraded to offer support for integration with the remote data sources, making use of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, BlazeDS, AMF and Adobe LiveCycle among many others. Later on Flex applications could be published for the desktop platforms, with the help of Adobe AIR.

The decade between 2006 and 2016 witnessed a popular web-based Internet speed testing service called that conducted more than 9 billion tests with the help of a Rich Internet Application created with Adobe Flash. The service was shifted to the HTML 5 format in the year 2016 because of the gradually decreasing penetration of Adobe Flash player on the personal computers.

Rich Internet Applications and web applications could now be developed in Flash, with the help of ActionScript 3.0 programming language, apart from pertinent tools like Adobe Flash Builder. You can also make use of various third-party Integrated Development Environments like Powerflasher FDT, Flash Develop and others for development of Flash-based applications and games. These are quite similar to the Microsoft Visual Studio. On the other hand, Flex apps are normally developed with the help of Flex frameworks like PureMVC.

Video games

Flash-based video games have been extremely popular on the Internet for a very long time. Reputed websites like Newgrounds is in fact dedicated to the hosting of Flash-based video games. Some of the extremely popular games created using the Flash technology include Angry Birds, Farmville, Solipskier, Clash of Clans, Hundreds, QWOP, Adventure Quest and Machinarium.

Adobe introduced several different technologies to aid easy development of Flash-based video games, including Stage 3D (in support of the GPU accelerated video games), Cross Bridge (for conversion of C++ based games into a Flash-compatible format), Adobe Scout (for improving the overall performance of these games) and Adobe AIR (for easy release of video games for the mobile or desktop platforms). Introduction of 3D frameworks like Flare3D and Away3D facilitated simplified creation of 3D content for the Flash platform.

Adobe AIR facilitates easy creation of flash-based mobile video games that can be published quickly to the Apple app store and Google play store. Flash technology is also for creation of interfaces and HUDs for the 3D video games, with the help of Scaleform GFx, an advanced technology responsible for rendering of Flash content inside the non-flash video games. The Scaleform GFx is supported by over 10 different and major video game engines such as PhyreEngine, CryEngine, UDK and Unreal Engine. It has also been employed for providing 3D interfaces to over 150 well-known video game titles, ever since its launch in the year 2003.

Films and animations

Everyone knows about Adobe Animate, one of the commonly known animation programs for creation of inexpensive 2D commercial and television animation creation. Adobe animate competes with the likes of Toon Boom Animation and Anime Studio.

Some of the well-known users of Flash technology in this regard include:
- DHX Media Vancouver that has used it for various productions including My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Pound Puppies
- Williams Street for production of Squidbillies and Metalocalypse
- Fresh TV for Clone High, 6teen, Nelvana and Total Drama
- Nickelodeon Animation Studios for the production of Danny Phantom, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Riviera and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

However, Flash hasn’t been extensively used for production of feature length animated films, with the exception of the 2009 Irish film titled ‘The Secret of Kells’. This film was animated mainly in Adobe Flash, and even went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2009, at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Many popular online series have been produced using the Flash technology, for instance, the Emmy award-winning production Off-Mikes (produced by Animax Entertainment and ESPN), Gotham Girls, Happy Tree Friends (produced by Warner Bros), Homestar Runner (produced by Matt and Mike Chapman) and Crime Time (produced by the Future Thought Productions).

A large number of third-party software packages that were primarily designed for conventionally trained animators and cartoonists can publish their animations in the Flash’s SWF format.