Graphics giant

The acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe could result in the biggest shake-up of the creative software industry for a decade, because these two giants have, through a sequence of mergers and buyouts, come to dominate the toolkits of most graphic designers, whether they are working in the publishing, print or multimedia industries. The synergy between the companies is delectable: Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator products have the print production market sewn up, whereas Macromedia’s combination of Dreamweaver, Contribute and Flash is now ubiquitous as a professional web development toolkit. Relatively few products within their respective catalogues compete directly, and with those that do it is pretty obvious which product will bite the dust. Much as I may love it, Fireworks cannot compete with Photoshop, and FreeHand is a much inferior tool to Illustrator. And why would Adobe continue with GoLive when it now has the outstanding duo of Dreamweaver and Contribute in its stable?

Graphics giant

There are many products that interest me as a developer of multimedia products: from Adobe’s range, the Adobe Audition sound recorder/editor and the fabulous Adobe Premiere video editor; from Macromedia’s range, Flash, Director and Captivate. Audition is a slightly updated version of Cool Edit Pro, and I hope that the increased resources of the new Adobe will see some fresh development on a product that’s remained largely unchanged over the past few years. The same can be said of Director – the Director community has long believed that Macromedia has been neglecting this product since the addition of 3D features in version 8.5, and this is a real pity. I believe Director to be the most undervalued piece of development software around at the moment, and not just for multimedia presentations (there are indeed a number of better tools around if this is your intention).

Director’s true strength lies in achieving the complex and unusual. For example, I want to create a modest application that displays word puzzles and allows the user to enter their answers (among other information). I have been looking at my options when it comes to coding such an application and the choices are surprisingly few, but Director is prominent in this select group. My immediate thought was to use Visual Basic .NET, as I have been using VB since the release of version 1 nearly 15 years ago, and I know all the versions up to 6 like the back of my hand. I have been dabbling with VB .NET since its release a few years back, but its biggest problem is the infernal .NET framework (this is the underlying skeleton on which the code sits, replacing the myriad DLLs needed to support pre-.NET applications). However, its huge size makes it totally impractical as a prerequisite for installing such a tiny utility as I had in mind, especially since it is intended to be available for download. The fact is that far too few among my potential audience have the latest version of the framework installed, and it is too much to ask them to stomach a 20MB download before they can install my 1MB program.

Another option would be to go back to good old VB 6, which has the advantage for me of instant familiarity and I know that it is capable of everything I want. VB 6 still needs a range of runtime files, but at least only those components used by the application in question need be installed. I’m actually put off this solution by the fact that it feels like a backward step to be using a programming tool that’s nearly a decade old. If I’m going to devote a lot of time to this, I want to be acquiring a new skill that’s going to be useful in the long term.

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