Using the Flash Player Plug-in for Web Browsers Flash

Flash movies can only be played in Web browsers that have the Flash Player plug-in or ActiveX control installed. Macromedia has made huge strides in making the plug-in prepackaged with newer Web browsers and operating system installation programs, eliminating the need for users to manually download and install the plug-in themselves.

Unfortunately, the Flash 5 version of the plug-in will only be included in future releases of Web browsers and operating systems. Remember that the Flash 3 and 4 Player plug-ins can try to play Flash 5 movies however, new features in Flash 5 movies will not be available (such as new ActionScript syntax and features).

Supported operating systems
Since Flash 3, Macromedia has greatly expanded its platform support for the Flash Player plug-in. At the time of this writing, you can download Flash 5 Players for Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 and for Mac Power PCs. By the time this book is published, version 5 players should be available for Sun Solaris and Linux x86. At the FlashForward2000 March conference, the Flash Player was demonstrated on Windows CE! While this was an “unofficial” player that is not publicly available (it was a “proof of concept” demo), Macromedia has proven that Flash graphics can be ported to a variety of GUIs (graphical user interfaces) and operating systems. We’ve also heard reports of Flash 3 graphics showing up in add-on applications for the Sega Dreamcast.

Supported browsers
The Flash Player plug-in works best with Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers.
Any browser that is compliant with Netscape Navigator 2.0’s plug-in specification or Internet Explorer’s ActiveX technology can support the Flash Player plug-in or ActiveX control. Note that Mac versions of Internet Explorer use a Netscape plug-in emulator to use the Flash Player plug-in rather than an ActiveX control.

For AOL subscribers, any version of AOL’s 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, or 6.0 browsers (except for the earliest 3.0 release that used a non-Microsoft Internet Explorer shell) will support Macromedia plug-ins.

Plug-in and Flash movie distribution on the Web
Anyone can download the Flash Player plug-in for free from the Macromedia Web site. In fact, according to Macromedia’s licensing agreement, if you’re publishing Flash movies on your Web site, you need to display the “Get Shockwave Player” logo or “Get Flash Player” logo on your Web site. This logo should link to Macromedia’s download page, just listed. However, you need to license the right to distribute any Shockwave plug-in installer from Macromedia.

Plug-in installation
The template and/or handwritten HTML that you use for your Flashenabled Web pages determines the degree of difficulty your visitors will have upon loading a Flash movie.

Because Web browsers vary dramatically between operating systems (for example, Internet Explorer for the Mac behaves very differently from Internet Explorer for Windows), you should make the plug-in process as invisible as possible. The following are the possible outcomes of each HTML template that Flash 5 uses:

  • Flash Only (Default): This template doesn’t use any JavaScript detection for the Flash Player plug-in. It simply places the <OBJECT> and <EMBED> tags for the Flash movie into an HTML document. The CODEBASE attribute of <OBJECT> will direct Internet Explorer for Windows to the download location of the Flash ActiveX control. This process should be relatively straightforward for Windows users. For visitors using Netscape 3.0 or greater (on any platform), the PLUGINSPAGE attribute of <EMBED> provides the browser with the plug-in location, and prompts the visitor to go there.
  • Ad 5 Banner: This template inserts an <OBJECT> tag for Internet Explorer (just as the Flash Only template will) and JavaScript detection code for the presence of the Netscape plug-in. When a Netscape browser loads the HTML page, JavaScript checks for version 5 of the Flash Player plug-in. If the plug-in is installed, then JavaScript writes the proper <EMBED> tag and attributes for the Flash movie. If the plug-in is not installed, then JavaScript writes HTML code for a static .GIF image.
  • Ad 4 Banner: This template works in the same way as the Ad 5 Banner template, except that it checks for the Flash 4 Player plug-in or ActiveX control.
  • Ad 3 Banner: This template uses the same HTML code as the Flash 4 with Image template, except that it checks for version 3 of the Flash Player plug-in. Note that the Flash 3 format should be selected in the Flash tab of the Publish Settings.
  • Flash with FSCommand: This template does not employ any JavaScript plugin detection. The JavaScript inserted by this template is solely for the Flash action, FSCommand.
  • Java Player: This HTML template will use an <APPLET> tag with <PARAM> subtags to employ the Flash Player Java edition. It does not use <OBJECT> or <EMBED> tags.
  • QuickTime: This template will create an HTML document containing the <EMBED> tag information to display a QuickTime Flash movie a .MOV file, not a .SWF file.

Unfortunately, you can never predict with any certainty how visitors will encounter a Flash plug-in installation. Most of the automated HTML coding from earlier versions of Flash (3.0 and earlier) and/or Aftershock may make an “upgrade” installation very difficult for Web visitors. For example, if an HTML document uses JavaScript to detect the Flash Player version 3 plug-in and the visitor’s browser is using the version 4 or 5 plug-in, the browser may return a false value for the plug-in and direct the visitor to a non-Flash page. The older JavaScript code doesn’t know that the Flash 4 or 5 Player plug-in is perfectly capable of playing older Flash movies. If you have created Web pages and Flash movies with Flash 3.0 or earlier.

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