Flash Generation Utilities Flash

While Macromedia Generator 2 is by far the most powerful tool for dynamic Flash movies (and dynamic .GIF, .JPEG, .PNG, and QuickTime Flash movies), there are other options for creating .SWF movies on the fly. Most third-party Flash server tools use proprietary scripting languages or syntax to enhance content generation and management. Just as you can use Column Name/Values to specify environment variables for .SWTs served by Generator, each generation tool has its own way to pass information to the .SWT (or .SWF) files for processing.

This section provides an overview of the more popular third-party Flash utilities on the market. The primary benefit of these utilities is cost they’re significantly cheaper than Macromedia Generator. However, you won’t find comprehensive technical support for most of these third-party utilities.

Swift Tools’ Swift Generator
Perhaps the best known “competition” to Macromedia Generator 2, Swift Generator (www.swift-tools.com) can produce .SWF movies from .SWT template files. Unlike Macromedia Generator, Swift Generator cannot create alternative output from .SWT files (for example, .GIF, .JPEG, .PNG, .QuickTime Flash, and so on). As of this writing, Swift Generator is fully compliant with Flash 5 ActionScript and is available for these server platforms: Linux, Windows, FreeBSD, Solaris, BSDi, and Mac OS X Server.

SwiffPEG by SwiffTOOLS
SwiffPEG is a utility that converts MP3 audio files into Flash .SWF files. You can batch-process several MP3 files, saving yourself the time of importing MP3 sounds into Flash and publishing them as .SWF files. While this isn’t a real server application, you could potentially operate the program with scripts. At the time of this writing, SwiffTOOLS had a SwiffPEG Server in beta development.

Blue Pacific’s Flash Turbine
Flash Turbine (www.blue-pac.com) dynamically generates .SWF files from .SWT files. Unlike Swift Generator or Macromedia Generator, Flash Turbine uses a scripting language called Draw Script that enables you to dynamically draw shapes or text and place images and Movie Clips. There are several versions of Flash Turbine, most notably ASP Flash Turbine, which, as the name implies, works with ASP pages.

Jeroen Kessels, Internet engineer, created this CGI utility that serves as a Flash textreplacement utility. Form2Flash (www.kessels.com/Form2Flash) cannot generate dynamic images like Macromedia Generator, Swift Generator, or Flash Turbine. This application uses <macro name> variable formatting instead of Macromedia Generator’s {environment variable} formatting. The name of the macro is declared with form input, as in:

<FORM ACTION=”/cgi-bin/form2flash.exe”><INPUT TYPE=”HIDDEN” NAME=”myText” VALUE=”Hello Flash.”><INPUT TYPE=”SUBMIT” VALUE=”Submit”></FORM>

When the form is submitted to the form2flash application, it will look for the macro <macro myText> in your Flash text and ActionScript, and replace it with the value “Hello Flash.” This application is available for Windows and UNIX servers.

You can create your own Flash generation utilities if you have the will and the knowhow. The best site to find information about the open standards with the .SWF file format is openswf.org.

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