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Product Review: Adobe Flash Player 10
The new release of Flash Player is a very solid VM, which makes it even more solid platform in the RIA space

Flash programmers are celebrating one of the last Adobe Lab's releases, and beta releases of some of the CS4 family products. It's public beta of Flash Player 10. 

Let's review some of the new great features of the upcoming Flash Player:

  • It is the first time when Windows, Mac and Linux versions of Flash Player are released simultaneously. And now it supports Ubuntu too.

  • Another great announcement was Open Screen Project. Looking forward to open SWF specs, open device porting layer APIs. The licensing fees and  restrictions on use of the SWF and Flash video specifications will be gone. Does it mean that we can expect third party implementations of Flash Player 10 for different devices?

  • The new FileReference's save() and load() methods is one of the most welcomed features. Now you will be able to load files from the local disk into Flash Player directly, without any server side help. Load images, text, video – whatever you want. Moreover, you can save files (screenshots, text document, et al) to the local disk. What about security? Of course all these actions can be performed only by the user, through the file dialog. Check out this  tutorial with sources from GotoAndLearn.

  • The new text features are revolutionary, especially the new layouts. Multicolumn newspaper-like text, inline images, bi-directional scripts which can contain tables – all these features become available. You can select and edit the text across all the columns as if it is one text block. Also, the system fonts are now first-class citizens. You can change the opacity, rotate and even manage anti-aliasing properties of system fonts.  The new Saffron 3.1 engine will do it faster and with better quality.

  • Support of  UDP can be a result of the Amicima acquisition by Adobe back in 2006.  This enables p2p communications based on Flash Player and the upcoming version of Flash Media Server. It doesn't mean file sharing (we can't save packets using FileReference without opening the file dialog), but it means efficient p2p communications via microphone, webcam, text messaging or white boards coordinated by the Flash Media Server. You can read Justin Everett-Church's FAQ to learn more.

  • The all new  RTMFP protocol (Real Time Media Flow Protocol) is based on these UDP features. It’s an RTMP alternative which can't be used for content delivery in a more efficient p2p manner.

  • The new 3D features opens new horizons for the gaming and presentation applications. Now we have z axis for all display objects so you can get 3D projections with perspective. The flat objects can be transformed into in a 3D space with preserving  all the interactions (i.e. controls, animations and video) with great performance. This would not be possible without the new system fonts behavior mentioned above. With upcoming Flash IDE, it will be possible to try these 3D features in the design time. This means great expressiveness.  What the following screencast  GotoAndLear screencast  about this feature.

  • Pixel Bender Toolkit (formerly Hydra). This SDK and programming language was used in Adobe After Effects CS3 and targeted for custom graphical filters and effects. It produces hbc-files that can be downloaded or embedded in a Flash application and then applied as an ordinary filter. These high performing filters can be parameterized at runtime and take less than 1 KB. Here’s an effect gallery and exchange place.

  • New Drawing APIs. They make it possible to reuse complex drawing structures adjusting new styles and pointing at complex curves. You can apply new 3D features for triangles with very sophisticated bitmap fillings, shaders for these fillings and borders. Visit  Senocular's tutorial about all new APIs for more details.

  • Visual performance is improved for images, filters and video using hardware processing. This won’t automatically improve all of your existing applications as you need to perform special actions to prepare your content. There are no existing guidelines at this moment but you can read more in Tinic Uro's blog about GPU acceleration.

  • Flash Player now supports color management (i.e. your monitor's ICC profile). You can turn the color management on and off for the entire SWF movie at runtime. It guarantees that your application will look the same on different monitors.

  • The new Vector.<T> type. It is not about generics but just about strongly typed arrays. It improves the performance and makes it  possible  to perform type checking both during the compilation as well as the runtime. It derives from EcmaScript 4 drafts (read more in Francis Cheng's blog).

  • Dynamic streaming for video. It is about dynamically changed video's bitrate if the network conditions change. This feature will also be supported by future versions of Flash Media Server.

  • Speex audio codec. It’s a free speech codec without any patent restrictions for voice transmitting over UDP as addition to existing proprietary Nellymoser codec.

  • Dynamic sound generation for producing sound dynamically. To learn more, I recommend watching this GotoAndLearn screencast and Tinic Uro's articles (part I, part II and part III).

  • Support for bitmaps with large dimensions (4096 by 4096) is also interesting.

  • Enhanced clipboard with supporting for formatted text, images etc. You can also listen for clipboard events.

  • Both plain and rich text are supported in the context menus.
I might have skipped some of the new features of Flash Player 10, but you can always refer to the official FAQ page. Visit Plash Players 10 page on Adobe Labs to download new player (there is no debug version yet). The standalone debug versions are also available. You can use the official demos and Flash Player 10 API documentation to build your applications using special version of Flex SDK.

Adobe’s Flash Player team made a substantial progress with new release of this very solid VM, which makes it even more solid platform in the  RIA space.

About Konstantin Kovalev
Konstantin Kovalev "aka Constantiner" is an independent contractor presently working for Farata Systems. He is professional Flex developer and former Flash developer. Konstantin is active participant of Russian Flex community and creator of Russian blog resource www.riapriority.com dedicated to RIAs and Flash platform. Konstantin lives in St.Petersburg, Russia.

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