Web design novices, relax: Flash is approachable. Macromedia's newest version of the Web animation tool adds helpful drawing tools and a new look with control panels you can find.
Available at the end of September, Flash 5 will be priced at £259 or £99 as an upgrade. Besides a new Bezier pen tool, Flash 5 features MP3 support, shared symbols libraries, and support for HTML text formatting.
Tighter integration with FreeHand, Dreamweaver, Generator, and Fireworks makes working across applications easier.
But most improved is the Flash interface, which borrows from Macromedia's lineup to put a familiar face on Web graphics.
The new Flash 5 interface will look familiar to users of other Macromedia tools, says J. Peter Goldie, Macromedia vice president of marketing for Flash and FreeHand.
Setting up animations and layers is more straightforward, and it's easier to import Illustrator and FreeHand files, he adds.
A right-hand panel structure makes it easy for new users to find the controls, says Jeremy Clark, a product manager for Flash.
But you can still use pull-down menus. You can also customise the keyboard shortcuts to be similar to other programs you use.
An information panel that houses an element's height controls and RGB monitor sits at the top right corner of the screen. Below that is a mixer panel where you can manipulate hue, saturation, and brightness.
The character panel lets you access font controls, paragraph alignment, and advanced text options.
Macromedia hopes Flash 5 can draw new users with its approachable interface, while giving experienced users advanced tools like a full implementation of ActiveScript.