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Who This Book Is For

Okay, let's face it. O'Reilly is better known for its technical references than for edgier books like the Hacks series. O'Reilly has published some of the most advanced books on ActionScript development available, including the well-respected ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide and the hard-core object-oriented programming guide Essential ActionScript 2.0, both by Colin Moock. O'Reilly's ActionScript Cookbook, by Joey Lott, presents more than 300 practical recipes for a wide range of ActionScript problems, and Flash Remoting: The Definitive Guide, by Tom Muck, covers high-end application development and remote connectivity.

I think it is safe to say that this book is substantially different from those books, which is appropriate since the books serve different purposes, even if their audiences overlap. Whereas those are serious, traditional programming books speaking to well-structured code and best practices, this tome is full of exploration and whimsy. Whereas those books speak of productivity to experienced programmers, this book speaks of adventure to the young at heart. If you're new to Flash, this book is as tantalizing as the aroma of a warm apple pie. If you are experienced with Flash, and perhaps a bit bored with it, it might remind you why you fell in love with Flash in the first place. That said, hard-core developers will find lots of serious coding advice, optimization techniques, and tips and tricks for application development.

Frankly, if you've never used Flash, some of the hacks will confuse you, but many will not, as there is something here for everyone. In early chapters, I make an effort to explain occasional operational basics, such as creating a new empty layer (InsertTimelineLayer) and attaching code to a frame (select the frame in the Timeline panel and open the Actions panel using F9 or WindowDevelopment PanelsActions). We'll be placing most of our scripts on a dedicated actions layer [Hack #80] but some scripts must go in external .as files [Hack #10] .

Because this book is predominantly geared toward readers with some familiarity with Flash, if you've never used Flash, you should probably pick up one of the many fine tutorial books available from (gasp!) other publishers. (O'Reilly is coming out with a Flash tutorial book-Flash Out of the Box by Robert Hoekman-in the second half of 2004.) If you don't have a copy of the Flash authoring tool, you can download a trial version from Macromedia ( and go through some of the included tutorials to learn the basics, too.

That said, many of the hacks in this book can be appreciated even if you've never picked up Flash. I certainly hope this book inspires the uninitiated to try Flash and those who know Flash to appreciate it anew.

If you're a traditional programmer new to Flash or a serious application developer, be forewarned. This book isn't about best practices or object-oriented programming or Rich Internet Application (RIA) development. And if you're prejudiced against Flash, the large number of hacks covering animation, drawing, and motion graphics may turn you off to Flash forever. That would be a shame. What is presented here is but a small slice of the Flash universe, my own personal corner in fact (with a little help from friends and contributors). Skip around and you'll find not just eye candy and ear candy but lots of ActionScript examples, too. You'll learn something, even if it wasn't what you set out to learn.

The Flash universe is both vast and diverse and this book doesn't try to be all things to all people. But almost every developer, whether an experienced Flasher, a beginning scripter, or a hard-core coder, will find more than a few interesting techniques and tips. If you were ever a child, if you were ever in love, if you like drive-in movies or howling at the moon, this book will remind you a little bit of all those things. And that, to me, seems like a very good thing.

So read all the other Flash and ActionScript books you can get your hands on, but leave a place on the shelf or your desk for this one, too.

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