Macromedia has been busy updating Flash, its multimedia content development tool.

The latest version, Flash MX, is available from 15 March, and offers a number of improvements for both the designer and developer as well as server integration features that will tie in with later MX product releases from the Macromedia stable.

Essentially Flash MX is Flash 6.0, but Macromedia has decided to start calling the software by a more 'friendly' moniker, as well as following the current fetish for the letter X.

With video support and shared libraries for the designer and a new code editor and debugger for the developer, Flash MX has something to offer both the creatives and the techies. Its starting price is £369, with upgrades priced at £149.

Coldfusion MX is the only product that has been announced so far that will take advantage of the functionality offered by Flash MX. Coldfusion is a server-side technology for delivering dynamic web pages. Flash MX developers can easily call server-side Coldfusion code as well as exchange data dynamically.

Coldfusion MX will also allow developers to write server-side code in the same ActionScript language used by Flash.

Flash MX offers a better development environment, with a new ActionScript Editor that supports syntax highlighting and code completion to speed up programming. There's also a full debugger, so tracing errors is easier.

On the design side of things, shared libraries mean co-ordinating a team is simpler. Shared elements can be updated once and these changes will be reflected in any documents that make use of them.

Video support has been added, so movies can be played back directly from a Flash file. Flash uses the Sorenson Spark codec, which offers high-quality compression at a low data rate, ensuring movies don’t become too bloated.

Pre-built user interface components, something that Flash has long been lacking, are now standard. If you want a scroll bar you can now simply drop one in, rather than having to build one from scratch.

Flash has long been the leading interactive multimedia tool. A massive 98 percent of online users are now able to view Flash content, according to Macromedia. With advantages to both the developer and designer, plus the promising integrated of further MX products, Macromedia looks set to further reinforce its position.