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Tales from the List

Tales from the List

There has been a growing trend in list discussions about Flash. This month, the list saw threads centered around the use of Flash as an alternative to writing DHTML Menus (hopefully cross-browser compatible), Flash on SSL, and resources for learning Flash - to name a few.

As I mentioned in last month's DevCon summary (CFDJ, Vol. 4, issue 12), Flash MX/ColdFusion MX integration was a very hot topic at this year's conference. There's also been a noticeable growth in the number of Web-based business applications using Flash MX - based front-end GUIs. This month's installment of Tales From the List is all about the recent buzz surrounding Flash in the ColdFusion community.

Dave Sueltenfuss wrote to the CFDJList with his concerns about the use of Ben Forta's DHTML Menu tag in a site that uses frames. Frames, target support, and cross-browser compatibility were major concerns of Dave's, and he looked to the List for advice. Initial responses from Douglas Knudsen and Eugen Notter listed favorite sites of theirs (coolmenus.dhtmlcentral.com and greglanders.com to be specific).

James Gorman then added to the thread, noting that his company was currently exploring the use of Flash as a DHTML alternative, and wanted to get feedback from the list. Thus began a lengthy thread regarding Flash learning resources and the general benefits and drawbacks of using Flash to create site navigation and business logic front ends.

Dave replied immediately, noting that he believes there are issues with loading Flash SWFs in an SSL environment, which was immediately refuted by Tony Weeg who noted that Macromedia has addressed this issue (which simply means that the HTML code generated when publishing Flash movies is now able to reference a code base behind SSL).

Douglas Knudsen chimed in, stating that to make it work, "use HTTPS and the absolute path for CODEBASE and PLUGINSPAGE attributes, but use HTTP and the absolute path to your SWF for the EMBED SRC and the VALUE attribute of the PARAM tag," which is why Flash is not a choice solution for sites using SSL for all pages. As with most things, where there's a will, there's usually a way. Dave Deeds responded to the thread stating that his company is using Flash in an SSL/non-SSL environment - you simply need to put the SWF in both the http site and the https site to make this work.

Amit Patel then joined the discussion, inquiring about educational resources for learning Flash. Amit stated that he'd recently been on a job interview and in addition to ColdFusion, Flash was a strongly desired skill set. This is a growing trend among employers, and he's become interested in learning Flash. Aaron West recommended looking at some of the books that are out, as well as visiting the designer/developer center on Macromedia's site (www.macromedia.com/desdev/mx/flash/) and a few other sites he likes (www.flashkit.com and www.flashcfm.com). Devendra Shrikhande chimed in and also recommended www.echoecho.com/flash.htm.

The discussion spawned another thread on official Macromedia training with Flash. I had just returned from a trip to Macromedia's east coast headquarters in Boston, where Steve Drucker and I spent five days sitting through and becoming certified to teach Macromedia's new class "Developing Rich Internet Applications with Flash and ColdFusion." This course teaches ColdFusion developers (with little to no experience with Flash) everything they need to know about Flash and ActionScript to begin building robust applications.

You do not need to be a designer (I can't even draw stick figures), as the course focuses on the coding side of Flash, as well as key concepts in the Flash authoring environment. Of course, in addition to Flash ActionScript, the course also covers Flash Remoting and how to use Flash and ColdFusion together to create dynamic, data-driven Flash interfaces to ColdFusion business logic back ends. I brought it up on the List because it is exactly the type of training that so many ColdFusion developers are now looking for to expand their skill sets. On a personal note, it's probably the best class produced by Macromedia training, to date.

Lisa Haas and Evik James both wrote to the List inquiring whether or not the DRIA course has something to offer already experienced Flash designers and whether or not a CF 5 developer not planning on migrating to CFMX would benefit from the class. Flash designers who know ColdFusion and are ready to learn ActionScript certainly will gain from the class, and CF 5 developers would benefit from all of the material in the class, though they wouldn't be able to implement the remoting technology using CF 5.

Raymond Camden chimed in about the class (for the second or third time that month) to let everyone know that he has also reviewed the materials and feels that it is the best class currently offered by Macromedia, and the best resource for CF developers looking to learn how to use Flash to build front ends to their business applications. More information about the "Developing Rich Internet Applications" class can be found on the Macromedia Web site, or by visiting the DRIA synopsis page on the Fig Leaf Training site at http://training.figleaf.com/figleaftraining/ Courses/DRIA.cfm.

More Stories By Simon Horwith

Simon Horwith is the CIO at AboutWeb, LLC, a Washington, DC based company specializing in staff augmentation, consulting, and training. Simon is a Macromedia Certified Master Instructor and is a member of Team Macromedia. He has been using ColdFusion since version 1.5 and specializes in ColdFusion application architecture, including architecting applications that integrate with Java, Flash, Flex, and a myriad of other technologies. In addition to presenting at CFUGs and conferences around the world, he has also been a contributing author of several books and technical papers.

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