Macromedia's free Flash Player has improved more dramatically than the company's for-pay development suite.
Flash Player 8 Beta, Macromedia's free Flash player, demonstrates that the software has improved dramatically in speed and quality while also getting a dozen new video and graphics features that are "must-use" for developers.
With the major improvements to the Flash Player 8, Macromedia has made the best cross-platform multimedia player even better. Look at the list of improvements:
Better video compression encoders that still allow users to choose their own quality versus compression trade-off (for example, JPEG or GIF bitmap image files)
Better fine line and text rendering, including new anti-aliasing of small fonts, that improve readability
Much faster rendering and scrolling of large text blocks that make Flash even more responsive
Better ActionScript methods and compilation results for faster operations
About ten new graphic properties/filters -- such as blur, drop shadow, and glow -- that can also be controlled dynamically using ActionScript code, just like current color or transparency properties
New 8-bit alpha channels that allow for much more creative and dynamic compositing alternatives
The ability to dynamically import more media types, including GIF, progressive JPEG, and PNG files
Higher fidelity and more flexibility in imported graphics and use of gradients
To this list of performance and features, Macromedia has added more security and distribution improvements, securing the already strict sandlot model with limited remote access/usage, and adding more local file safeguards. Macromedia also established given dynamic updates in Flash Player, authenticity of download, and update payloads. Finally, there are more privacy controls.
On the distribution side, the Flash Player download and update process, including testing, is more seamless and secure. Flash Player is already one of the smallest downloads available, relative to, say, Adobe Reader, RealPlayer, or QuickTime. It also has about half the memory footprint of these other plug-ins and players.
And as for compressing media file content while retaining image, audio, font, and video quality, I have not found a product as versatile as Flash Player across all the platforms it serves.
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