Flash and SWF, a graphical portable platform

The flash plugin is installed on the browser of most Net surfers, and allows to view a video thanks to a script of video player inserted in the page. However Flash would have lasted only within a flash in the history of computing.
It is a fact we could have a complete Web application interface with this format that was competing with Silverlight, Canvas or SVG. And we still see sites made ​​in Flash, but it is definitively not the technology of the future.
It was also the first game platform in the browser, it tends now to be replaced by HTML 5 + WebGL or native apps on mobiles devices.

About the origin of the name, it was first called FutureSplash Animator and the word Flash is the compression of Future and Splash.

Flash will persist some time as a legacy support for videos even if it has application development tools, Adobe Air and the software kit Flex. Indeed, Adobe announced November 8, 2011 it gave up any development of Flash on mobile browsers, and replace it with HTML 5. But it will continue to support the Flash Player on desktop browsers.
On November 17, was announced that  Flex was donated to the Apache Foundation.

What is Flash?

The system consists of the following:

  1. A source code in ActionScript language in a file with the .fla extension.
  2. A graphical format.
  3. A compiler producing a binary file with .swf extension that includes bitmap or vector graphics and code.
  4. An runtime integrated to the player.
  5. A plugin for the browser that runs the SWF files, the Flash Player.

To make a flash animation, you need takes at least a code editor, a graphics editor and a compiler (see below).

AIR, Adobe Integrated Runtime is a runtime environment for rich web applications for which Adobe provides a runtime and a development kit for free. It is a virtual machine like that of .NET or Java.
AIR applications run online or locally. In the second case they have access to the file system.
The online applications require the installation of the runtime on the local computer.

SWF stands for ShockWave Flash, and it is the binary file format implemented by the Flash browser plugin. This format has been open since May 2008. To be pronounced "swiff".
SWF format is the most widely used for interactive animations on the Web.
The format has been created by the FutureWave Software company in 1993 for the FutureSplash Animator software, that was sold in 1996 to Macromedia (which renamed it Flash 1.0), which in turn was acquired by Adobe in 2005.

With the Flash plugin in the browser you can:

The time of Flash games

Flash allowed to recycle old PC games as Arkanoid and space battles, including also the venerable Prince of Persia that is available online.

To make software in Flash require the Flex SDK or the AIR SDK and to program in JavaScript (a little modified in ActionScript) and also to adapt the basic principles of game development to control the interaction between characters or objects in the environment.
Tutorials explain the design of a game in Flash. Tutorialized provides a list of tutorials on games. Tiles is specialized on tile games.

But the trend is to make either HTML 5 or native games, such as Angry Birds. And the future will certainly be games in the browser with Asm.js or Portable NaCl.

Two open source projects have been launched to describe the specification of the SWF format in order allowing to implement a non-proprietary plug-in, as Gnash and the Swfdec decoder.

It is also possible to export graphics to the SWF format with LibreOffice Impress.

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