1. What is Flash?
    1. A little history lesson.
    2. What can Flash do?

  2. How can I make Flash work for me?
    1. Starting out.
    2. Where do I start with Firestarter?
    3. Will my Flash work in all browsers?
    4. Can I edit the SWF files once they are created?

  3. Helpful Links

Section 1: What is Flash?

Flash is a multimedia software originally designed by Macromedia that has spawned a whole new genre of websites with fast, vector-based animation (uses mathematical equations to ensure they scale correctly based on monitor size) and sound.

1.1 A little history lesson.

After the release of Flash, many users found it to be exceedingly complicated and wanted an easier method for creating these dazzling sites. CoffeeCup Software heard this demand from their customers and released Flash Firestarter, an easy-to-use Flash program. (Oh, and they also wanted it to be inexpensive.) The program was designed for the user who didn't want to spend days or weeks learning a new program but wanted to add a Flash introduction, or Flash buttons to their site the same day they started. Another Flash software that appeared about the same time as Flash Firestarter is SWiSH.

1.2 What can Flash do?

There isn't much that Flash can't do. It can create fancy introductions, navigation buttons, banners, slideshows, moving text, and pretty much anything else you can think of. CoffeeCup offers five programs that incorporate at least some Flash. Foremost is Flash Firestarter. Flash Firestarter is the fastest and easiest way to make complex text and image effects with just a few clicks of the mouse. The next two were originally designed with Java applets but were released as Flash versions, Button Factory (no longer available), and Password Wizard, at the request of our customers. Button Factory allowed for the easy creation of all types of navigational buttons, while Password Wizard will assist in creating unlimited password protected pages with unlimited usernames and passwords. Also at our users' request, we added a feature in our GIF Animator that converts Animated GIFs to Flash. Finally, CoffeeCup HTML Editor received some Flash functionality on version 8 and now includes a Flash Text Wizard.

Section 2: How can I make Flash work for me?

Easy, just choose a Flash program that suits your needs and start learning.

2.1 Starting out

The first major decision that needs to be made is which program you want to use to create your Flash. There are three very good choices: Macromedia Flash, SWiSH by Swishzone, and Flash Firestarter by CoffeeCup. These three program cover the whole spectrum from very complex to very simple. Macromedia Flash is the most complex of the three programs but also offers the most functionality and the longest learning curve. SWiSH is less complex than Flash but doesn't offer the functionality and has a longer learning curve then Flash Firestarter. Flash Firestarter is the least complex of these programs, making is very easy to learn, yet it still offers many of the same features as the other two programs. The spectrum of price is also covered by these three program with Macromedia Flash being around $300, SWiSH being about $100 and Flash Firestarter only $49.

Since you are reading this tutorial, more than likely you want a program that is easy to learn, yet has the ability to grow with you as you learn more about web design. Flash Firestarter is an excellent choice, as it is very easy to learn and has functionality that will scale as your ability increases.

2.2 Where do I start with Firestarter?

You will find our basic tutorial walks you through creating a Flash introduction for your website. Many techniques and features are covered here, but there are also other help files covering many of the features individually.

2.3 Will my Flash work in all browsers?

Yes, most browsers that have been released in the last 2-3 years have the ability to run Flash. Those that do not are able to download a flash plug-in from Macromedia's site. Each piece of Flash that you use in your webpage has a bit of code telling the browser that if it cannot play the Flash, it must download the plug-in automatically.

2.4 Can I edit the SWF files once they have been created?

No, you cannot. Basically what all flash program do is compile all the objects used in making that flash into a single file, a SWF file. Once this file is created, it cannot be edited. This is why all Flash programs have project files. For Firestarter, they are .fire and for Macromedia Flash they are FLA. These files can be opened and edited in the program that created them, but the final SWF file cannot.

Section 3: Helpful Links

  • Firestarter Help Just in case you didn't see the link above, here it is again.
  • Flash Kit A very helpful and knowledgable Flash site with a great forum.
  • Beginners Flash We All Have To Start Somewhere

And if those weren't enough, here are some examples of sites that may be a little out of reach for the everyday user. It's safe to say these guys know what they're doing.
  • Cleckler News Site designed entirely with Firestarter.
  • Chipotle Because their fajita burrito is mmm-mmm tasty.
  • Billy Bussey A personal favorite. View the introduction and let it load fully.