Original Publish Date: 1/1/2006
Author(s): Glen Rhodes, Todd Yard, Stephen Downs, Craig Swann, Matt Voerman, Paul Barnes-Hoggett
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: friends of ED (December 19, 2005)
Overall Score: 4/5
I was really excited to see my copy of Flash 8 Essentials arrive as I’ve been looking for a place to read about all the new features of Flash 8 and how to use them. I definitely wasn’t disappointed in the book and the way it progressed along. The examples throughout the book are very good and help you understand the tools and how to use the new classes. On top of that, the last chapter in the book has four “bigger” examples that show you how to use some of the code you’ve learned to build bigger application-like projects, which is really cool to see. It’s always good to learn from the best on how they set up their projects and how they go about developing them.
The Flash 8 Video chapter is ridiculously good. I would get the book for this chapter alone. If you’ve tried to look at the VideoPlayer class in the Flash documentation you would know that, well, there really isn’t any help there for it. This chapter doesn’t go through ALL of the methods/properties (because damnit there is a ton of them) but gives you a good start on how to use some of those more useful new methods. If that wasn’t enough, the end of the chapter makes mention of a new title from friends of Ed in the works that is going to cover the WHOLE VideoPlayer class. I DEFINITELY can’t wait for that one. Oddly enough, while reading this book this past week, I was working on my next presentation for MMSUG which is on After Effects/Flash 8 video/new features, so this was a HUGE help in the process.
The BitmapData chapter is also very good as it covers almost all of the methods of the BitmapData class. There are a couple of methods that are left out with a reference to Flash help, but nonetheless it’s a really good chapter. The author takes you through the source image and output image on one file so that you can easily see the differences that are made by each method.
I think all of the chapters are pretty well written, with the exception of the ExternalInterface chapter. Don’t get me wrong, it serves its purpose and to its credit, the end states that the power of the ExternalInterface class is not really the class itself, but what you can do with it with your respective language of choice, but I think the examples weren’t as powerful as they could have been. There were also some small editing errors throughout the book, but none of them code specific, just some funny looking sentences being formed and even a hint of how the book is edited (one chapter has a line of code that shows where the bold and italics of the code were supposed to be made without actually making them so all you see is that text), which was in all actuality kind of cool to see because I always wonder how the process of putting books like this together goes (but that has nothing to do with the book itself, just my own personal curiosity).
Since the book is written by six different authors, as expected you can see the different teaching styles. Some chapters are explained MUCH better than others. Nonetheless, the book is still explained very well and that doesn’t mean that the other chapters aren’t explained, just not as well as the other ones. The only other beef I have with this book, but really all friends of Ed books (and this is simply due to me being lazy), is that I LOVE how they give you the example files (which are always available for download from their site), but they’re all the finished version of the files, as opposed to giving you the starting versions as well as the finished samples. I usually like to start off with a barebones file and write some code myself to get the file to where it should be, but in this state I have to delete all the code and some of the movie clips to redo them myself. This of course is a personal preference just because I learn better when I do the whole thing myself, so it gets a bit tedious to have to do that for all the files.
All in all, I highly suggest the book to anyone looking to catch up on the new features of Flash. Pretty much all of the features are outlined, in the IDE and through ActionScript.