Relearning Flash

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been diving back into Flash after a little hiatus to work on classroom training. It was a longer hiatus than I would have liked, and included getting the CS3 upgrade to the most current version of Flash. I hadn’t looked into ActionScript 3.0 until I opened the program to start some new projects. I did do some work in AS 2.0 in the past few months, but nothing new. When I started a new project, I of course targeted ActionScript 3.0. ActionScript 3.0 is a pretty radical shift, much more so than I had anticipated. I feel like I’m going back to square one learning ActionScript.

My programming background is not that deep. I learned web programming languages out of necessity. I started using Flash at around version 4 and just kept up over the years. ActionScript 2.0 was great because it was just like JavaScript. I picked it pretty easily and even started creating objects when necessary. I was comfortable and confident with Flash and felt like I could pretty much do whatever I needed to with ActionScript. What I didn’t know, I could learn because I understood how things worked. Now, I’m completely lost.

ActionScript 3.0 kind of scares me. I’m not computer science major with years of programming experience. I’m an eLearning developer trying to find tools that will help me create training products. Now, Flash is more of a programming tool than a creative tool. For a lot of people I’m sure the change was welcome and makes their lives easier. For folks like me, it’s huge barrier to productivity. It sets me back a few weeks (maybe more) because now I have to go and learn something new while trying to get projects done. In a small training group where I am the Instructional Designer, Flash Programmer, and Graphic Designer, Project Manager, and any other job title you want throw into the mix, taking time to learn a program I thought I knew is a bitter pill to swallow. Now I have to explain to my manger (who hired me in part because I knew Flash) that I need to take a break from projects to learn Flash.

Adobe hasn’t left people completely out in the cold. You can still work with ActionScript 2.0 in Flash 9. That’s what I ended up doing for my recent project. Deadlines sometimes don’t allow for on the job training. If you have a Flash file written in ActionScript 2.0 and want to convert it to 3.0, you’re out of luck. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way. Saving As doesn’t work. The languages are too different.

At this point, I don’t plan on going back and redoing any of my old projects. I’ll learn AS3 and move on. My primary concern is how SWF output from tools like Articulate Presenter and Viewlet Builder will work with AS3 files. The Flash Help file says you can load AS2 SWF files, but can’t call functions or pass data. Hopefully I’m wrong about that and they will play together nicely. If they don’t, I guess we are stuck with AS2 until other vendors make updates to their products to add support for AS3.

I wonder how much upgrading to Flash 9 has cost training departments. No just the price of the upgrade, but the cost of updating courseware. I know it will cost me a lot of time, not just to learn AS3, but also to try and integrate other SWF files from other programs. Well, at least I can honestly say I never stop learning.