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Generator 1.0 delivers Web content

Generator 1.0 delivers Web content

Using Macromedia's Flash Shockwave movies in your Web pages is a great way to deliver impressive, interactive animation. However, after visiting Flash-enhanced sites a few times, the novelty can wear thin due to the fixed nature of their layout and content.

Macromedia Generator helps solve this problem by assembling dynamic Flash Shockwave movies with variable content.

Generator is packaged as two separate products: The Dynamic Graphics Server and the Developer Studio, Flash edition. There are only minor differences between Flash 3.0 and the Developer Studio, so current Flash developers will find it simple to create templates.

Using the Developer Studio, developers insert placeholders and special template commands.

Once these Generator template files have been published, Generator's Graphics Server replaces placeholders with either text or graphics, processes template commands, and assembles new Flash Shockwave movies.

Other dynamic publishing solutions, such as Inso's DynaBase and Vignette's Story Server, go much further by offering complete dynamic Web development and content-management systems. Generator, on the other hand, is best suited for graphics and animation.

Creating dynamic content using Generator is a snap, and doesn't require programming. Unfortunately, this simplicity is also Generator's Achilles' heel.

The ability to include complex programming techniques is not available within the application. Instead, in order to create the most compelling and useful interactive sites, Web developers need to use JavaScript and Active Server Pages in conjunction with Generator template files.

Furthermore, Generator's lacklustre documentation and online help is woefully inadequate at explaining these advanced concepts.

I particularly liked new development features such as transparency and alpha channel support; shape morphing effects; enhanced JavaScript support; and better interactivity features.

Available commands include charts, plots, scrolling lists, JPEG files, symbols and Flash movies. You can also use variables to define colour attributes.

Static text files

I found that the easiest method for referencing data sources for my project was to use static text files. Generator can also derive values from the output of SQL statements (via ODBC and Java Database Connectivity), Active Server Pages, CGI scripts, URLs, and Java classes. Unfortunately, I found these methods particularly complex and error-prone.

Although Generator shows great promise, its documentation fails to detail many complex development features and functions. But for Web developers with the patience to work with it, Generator can help make Web sites containing Flash Shockwave content more informative and dynamic.

The Bottom Line

Macromedia Generator 1.0

This Web graphics automation solution leverages the power of Flash 3.0's vector animation capabilities to create dynamic data-driven Web graphics using template files with minor effort.

Pros: Simple creation of dynamic elements; usage of Flash 3.0 functions; two methods of template processing; sample sites and demos.

Cons: Poor documentation; scripting expertise required for best results; special version of Flash 3.0 required for creating template files.

Platforms: Windows 95,98, Windows NT 4.0 and Mac OS. Server: Microsoft Personal Web Server and IIS 3.0,4.0.

Price: Available on application.

Macromedia www.macromedia.com/generator

Firmware Design (distributor)

Tel (02) 4721 7215


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