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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Flash Enhancements

Flash has obviously been the format of choice for animation, games and big dollops of multimedia, but it’s also interesting how developers have used specific features to extend the browser’s capabilities, with varying degrees of success. Here’s a list of some of the enhancements I’ve spotted:

Images
swfIR can add shadows, corners, borders and rotation to images. There are some limitations, and most effects could be done with CSS, but it could be useful in some cases.
Sound
Audio support in browsers hasn’t improved over the years, so Flash is usually the most viable option. SoundManager gives JavaScript the ability to load and play sound files.
Accessibility
FlashAid lets JavaScript detect the presence of a screen reader.
Local storage
Cookies are limited to 4KB, whereas Flash movies can (by default) store up to 100KB in each Local Shared Object, a feature that’s exploited by things like Dojo Storage.
Typography
sIFR can replace ordinary text with Flash-rendered text in the designer’s chosen font. When used sparingly (e.g. for the page’s main heading) it works well.
File uploads
You can extend HTML’s capabilities with multiple files and progress indicators.
Pop-ups
When pop-up blockers started becoming popular, some advertisers resorted to using Flash to launch new windows. In response, some users/blockers resorted to preventing Flash from launching any windows, making it hard to view even more of those annoying artist portfolio sites that launch countless pop-ups.
Copy protection
Trying to prevent people from copying text or images from the web is generally a futile exercise, but that hasn’t stopped some site owners from disabling right-click and/or the user’s clipboard. Nowadays, even IE7 protects the clipboard from JavaScript tampering (with a confirmation dialogue), but Flash will happily overwrite it.
AJAX
Fjax lets JavaScript use Flash to handle server communication; I’m not convinced it’s a good idea to add another dependency for something JavaScript can handle itself.
Rich text editing
Creating a robust rich text editor in JavaScript is hard work; using Flash avoids many of the quirks and limitations, while introducing some new ones.
The browser’s rendering engine
Deng does a pretty good job of handling HTML, CSS, RSS and SVG, but development seems to have ground to a halt.

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