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Flash CS4: A cursory review

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Posted by Shawn on June 10, 2009

I just got around to upgrading to the CS4 Production suite recently, which of course includes the latest in the flash series. It's actually the only application I've installed from CS4 so far, I'm waiting till I get a new computer to bother with installing everything else. CS3 will do for now. I really wasn't planning on upgrading at all until CS5 or later, but CS4 gives me two very desirable features that I'll get into later.

First up, the interface and layout. It's.. well.. more rigid. Whereas CS3 had curves and padding, this one is more about straight lines and making use of space. It took a few moments to get the panels arranged the way I liked, and then I noticed it- the properties panel has changed drastically. Introduced in Flash MX/6, the properties panel has been one of my favorite additions to the interface and now they've gone and tampered with it. All it really comes down to is that the properties panel is now meant to be docked vertically, not horizontally. That's great, but I don't use a widescreen monitor. So now that I'm forced to dock it with my library and other panels on the right side, it increases the overall dock width and gives me less viewable stage width. More importantly though I'm accustomed to looking down at the bottom panel to see the properties, and now it's not there. The properties panel used to serve as a 'snapshot' (in my opinion) for the current active object on the screen. Additional info for that object was hidden away in the tabs, like filters for example. Now, all of this information is present at once, via little drop down menus. The stacking of these menus (even collapsed) takes up a lot of space, hence the change to a vertical panel. The problem is that it's filled with information I don't need or care about. When I glance at a movieclip I usually just need to know its instance name and/or screen position, not its filters, blend mode, color effects, or "3d position" (that's a new one).

My other main gripe with the new layout is that the open filename tabs are attached to the stage now, not the top of the screen. In another attempt to mess with my preferred layout, CS4 puts the timeline at the bottom of the screen. I can put it back up top the way I like it, but since the filenames are included with the stage they now get sandwiched in the upper middle of the screen. Now when I go to quickly select another tab's file I find myself entering the timeline's motion editor instead of a new file (another new thing, I'm getting there I promise).

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Posted to: Flash/Actionscript, Reviews