RoboDemo teaches you the basics of Flash in a flash

Macromedia Flash is an increasingly popular vehicle for lively, engaging online information. It has advantages over standard HTML coding and graphical formats such as rotating .GIFs or movies.

But it's far from easy to use. RoboDemo can help.

Flash's two main advantages are high-quality multimedia presentation and compact file size. Plus, with the free Flash player downloadable from www.macromedia.com, users can view your content under almost any operating system.

The big downside, however, is that entire college-level classes are devoted to teaching Flash programming. Users gain real proficiency only by long trial and error.

RoboDemo, in contrast, requires no knowledge of Flash programming to create tutorials or presentations and save them in Flash format. Learning RoboDemo is a lot easier than learning Flash. To test RoboDemo, I started from scratch to build a simple Flash movie showing my imaginary users how to manipulate text in Microsoft Word.

After reading the RoboDemo instructions, I launched the program and typed some sample text into Word.

Next I highlighted the text and moved the cursor to each of Word's buttons for boldface, italics and underlining. RoboDemo captured the entire sequence of keystrokes and events.

Easy editing

My first edit was to eliminate my typing, so that the demo began with the text already on screen. Editing was very easy, not unlike video editing on a PC.

Then I paused the demo with the cursor over the boldfacing button. I drew a square around the button and shaded it with eye-catching purple. I added text in the same color, reading, 'When you click on B, the highlighted text turns bold.' I went on to show other ways text could be manipulated. It took only about a half-hour to finish the demo, not counting the time to read the instructions.

Saving my file in Flash format was as easy as saving any other type of document. The final 115K Flash file played for 70 seconds. An editable Flash file usually is around a megabyte in size, but the user file is often just 100K for speedier operation.

All modern browsers support Flash, but with RoboDemo you can also save a tutorial or presentation as an executable instead of a Flash file. That enlarges the file size but ensures that a user with any type of browser can run the file by clicking on it.

If you've already taken Flash classes, you probably don't need RoboDemo. And if you want to make a dancing robot or something fancier, you'll need more advanced tools.

What RoboDemo does is ease your way to basic Flash functionality without spending lots of time and money in a classroom.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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