Flash Generator

It used to be that simply having a regularly updated stock quote on your site was pretty cool. You had real, live, constantly changing information available to anyone who stopped by to take a look.

Then Java tickers came into vogue. (Not the JavaScript status bar thingies nobody’s ever liked those monstrosities). Now some sites offer updated stock history graphs, pie charts of your portfolio changes, and web-cam pictures from the home office.

Yippie.

The fact is, while dynamically-changing data technologies have progressed pretty well in the text arena – database-driven sites are becoming the norm, not the exception — dynamically changing graphical data has lagged pretty far behind the curve.

Sure, there are more than a few online charting packages out there, but that seems to be about it. If you want to create high-powered animations, diagrams, and other graphic presentations on the fly, you’d better be prepared to shackle those slacker developers to their desks and keep ’em stocked with Cheetohs and Jolt all night.

Not a pretty picture.

But now, there’s no reason for those kind of drastic measures-though you can still try it for your own amusement. Now there’s Flash Generator.

Operating as a server-side application, Flash Generator lets you use the power of Macromedia Flash through scripts and database hooks, allowing you to create Flash animations on the fly, showing your constantly changing data in real time, not some time when you actually get around to converting it to a Flash movie.

Don’t like plug ins? No problem – Flash Generator can also serve up GIFs, JPGs, and even PNG files. Just tell it what to crank out and it’ll serve ’em up quicker than that sweaty guy slings hash at that joint down the street.

To create Generator output, you use Flash 3 and some Generator Templates to set up the basic template, telling Generator what data is static and what’s going to change. You can then command Generator to do everything from changing colors to inserting other movies to inserting sounds to creating charts to. You get the idea. Anything you can do with Flash offline you can now do automatically online with Generator.

I’m not going to lie to you – the learning curve is a little steeper than your average animated GIF program. Not only do you have to learn Flash (a non-trivial but highly rewarding experience), but you must get down and dirty with Generator, too.

Not a job for you necktie-knotted marketing types. But if you’ve got the folks who like to roll up their sleeves and do way cool stuff, Generator’s the way to put a cool new tool into your repertoire.

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