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Adobe Animate, formerly Adobe Flash, is a animation and multimedia authoring application by Adobe Systems.

Adobe Flash has previously been called Shockwave Flash and Macromedia Flash. Flash is a set of multimedia technologies developed and distributed by Adobe Systems since December 2005, when Adobe acquired Macromedia. Since its introduction in 1996, Flash technology became a popular method for adding animation and interactivity to web pages; Flash was commonly used to create animation, advertisements, various web page components, to integrate video into web pages, and more recently, to develop rich Internet applications.

Flash can manipulate vector and raster graphics and supports bi-directional streaming of audio and video. It contains a scripting language called ActionScript. It is available in most common web browsers and some mobile phones and other electronic devices (using Flash Lite). Several software products, systems, and devices are able to create or display Flash, including the Adobe Flash Player. The Adobe Flash Professional multimedia authoring program used to create content for the Adobe Engagement Platform, such as web applications, games and movies, and content for mobile phones and other embedded devices.

Files in the SWF format, traditionally called "Flash movies" or "Flash games", usually have a .swf file extension and may be an object of a web page, strictly "played" in a standalone Flash Player, or incorporated into a Projector, a self-executing Flash movie (with the .exe extension in Microsoft Windows). Flash Video (FLV) files have a .flv file extension and are utilized from within .swf files.


The program Flash is the brainchild of Jonathan Gay, who developed the idea in college and later while working for Silicon Beach Software and its successors.[2][3]

FutureSplash Animator box

FutureSplash Animator

Macromedia Flash 1 cover

Macromedia Flash 1.0

In January 1993, Gay, Charlie Jackson, and Michelle Welsh started a small software company called FutureWave Software and created their first product, SmartSketch. A drawing application, SmartSketch was designed to make creating computer graphics as simple as drawing on paper. At first, it didn't gain enough of a foothold in its market. As the Internet began to thrive, however, FutureWave began to realize the potential for a vector-based web animation tool that might easily challenge Macromedia's Shockwave technology. In 1995, FutureWave modified SmartSketch by adding frame-by-frame animation features and re-released it as FutureSplash Animator on Macintosh and PC. By that time, the company had added a second programmer Robert Tatsumi, artist Adam Grofcsik, and PR specialist Ralph Mittman. The product was offered to Adobe and used by Microsoft in its early work with the Internet (MSN). In December 1996, Macromedia acquired the vector-based animation software and later released it as Macromedia Flash 1.0.


  • Macromedia Flash 2 (1997) Features: Support of stereo sound, enhanced bitmap integration, buttons, the Library, and the capability to tween color changes.
  • Macromedia Flash 3 (1998) Features: Brought improvements to animation, playback, and publishing, as well as the introduction of simple script commands for interactivity. As of 2008, Macromedia had shipped 100,000 Flash products.
  • Macromedia Flash 4 (1999) Features: Achieved 100 million installations of the Flash Player, thanks in part to its inclusion with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5. Flash 4 saw the introduction of streaming MP3s and the Motion Tween. Initially, the Flash Player plug-in was not bundled with popular web browsers and users had to visit Macromedia website to download it; As of 2000, however, the Flash Player was already being distributed with all AOL, Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers. Two years later it shipped with all releases of Windows XP. The install-base of the Flash Player reached 92 percent of all Internet users.
  • Macromedia Flash 5 (2001) Features: Flash 5 was a major leap forward in capability, with the evolution of Flash's scripting capabilities as released as ActionScript. Flash 5 also saw the ability to customize the authoring environment's interface.
  • Macromedia Generator was the first initiative from Macromedia to separate design from content in Flash files. Generator 2.0 was released in April 2001 and featured real-time server-side generation of Flash content in its Enterprise Edition. Generator was discontinued in 2002 in favor of new technologies such as Flash Remoting, which allows for seamless transmission of data between the server and the client, and ColdFusion Server.

In October 2000, usability guru Jakob Nielsen wrote a polemic article regarding usability of Flash content entitled "Flash 99% Bad". (Macromedia later hired Nielsen to help them improve Flash usability.) In September 2001, a survey made for Macromedia by Media Metrix showed that out of the 10 biggest websites in the United States, seven were making use of Flash content.[citation needed]

  • Macromedia Flash MX was released on March 15, 2002, with the new Macromedia Flash Player 6 with support for video, application components, shared libraries, and accessibility.
  • Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX, also released in 2002, allowed video to be streamed to Flash Player 6 (otherwise the video could be embedded into the Flash movie).
  • Macromedia Flash MX 2004 was released in September 2003, with features such as faster runtime performance up to eight times with the enhanced compiler and the new Macromedia Flash Player 7, ability to create charts, graphs and additional text effects with the new support for extensions (sold separately), high fidelity import of PDF and Adobe Illustrator 10 files, mobile and device development and a forms-based development environment. ActionScript 2.0 was also introduced, giving developers a formal Object-Oriented approach to ActionScript. V2 Components replaced Flash MX's components, being rewritten from the ground up to take advantage of ActionScript 2.0 and Object-Oriented principles. Flash MX 2004 was the first release of Flash to be segmented into "Basic" and "Professional" versions. The Basic version was targeted at traditional Flash animators while the Professional version brought more advanced capabilities that developers would use, for example the data components.

In 2004, the "Flash Platform" was introduced. This expanded Flash to more than the Flash authoring tool. Flex 1.0 and Breeze 1.0 were released, both of which utilized the Flash Player as a delivery method but relied on tools other than the Flash authoring program to create Flash applications and presentations. Flash Lite 1.1 was also released, enabling mobile phones to play Flash content.

  • Macromedia Flash 8 (2005) is touted by Macromedia as the most significant upgrade to Flash since Flash 5. New features included filter effects and blending modes, bitmap caching, a new video codec called On2 VP6, an enhanced type rendering engine called FlashType, an emulator for mobile devices, and several enhancements to the ActionScript 2.0 spec, such as the BitmapData class, several geometric classes, and the ConvolutionFilter and DisplacmentMapFilter classes.
  • Macromedia Flash Lite 2 was also released in 2005, which brought its capabilities in line with Flash Player 7.

On December 3, 2005, Adobe Systems acquired Macromedia and its product portfolio (including Flash).

  • Adobe Flash Player 9 was released for Windows and Mac OS in 2006, which marked the first time a Flash Player major release occurred without a simultaneous Flash authoring program major release. Flex 2.0 was released in conjunction with Flash Player 9, and the player was continued when Flash Authoring 9 was released in 2007. For the first time in the history of Flash, the Flash Player had an opportunity to become widely installed before the release of the equivalent Flash program. Adobe Flash Player 9 was released for Linux in January 2007.
  • Adobe Flash 9 Public Alpha was released in 2006, and was a preview of ActionScript 3.0.
  • Adobe Flash CS3 in 2007, originated from Flash 9 Public Alpha with several updates for integrating into other Adobe products, is released as a bundled software of the Adobe Creative Suite 3. This currently-newest version also brings ActionScript 3.0 and a new xml engine to the Flash authoring tool. It also has an improved and optimized GUI like the rest of the CS3 suite.

Authoring tool version history[]

Release Year Icon Description


1996 Future Splash Desktop Icon Initial version of Flash released in May, 1996 with basic editing tools and a timeline.[1][2]

Flash 1

1996 Macromedia Flash 1 Desktop icon A re-branded version of the FutureSplash Animator, released on December 18, 1996, under the name Macromedia Flash 1.0. The name "Flash" was created by blending the words Future and Splash.[3][4]

Flash 2

1997 Released with Flash Player 2, new features include synchronized WAV and AIFF sound support, enhanced bitmap editing, Macromedia FreeHand integration, TrueType and PostScript fonts support, color transformations, auto-trace and the object library.[5][6]

Flash 3

1998 Released with Flash Player 3, new features include shape tweening, the movie clip element, JavaScript plug-in integration, PNG support, sprite animation, vector & bitmap transparency, bandwidth profiling and an external stand-alone player.[7]

Flash 4

1999 Released with Flash Player 4, new features include a redesigned user interface, internal variables, an input field, improved timeline (smart guides, outline color mode), advanced ActionScript, publish settings panel and MP3 audio streaming.[8]

Flash 5

2000 Released with Flash Player 5, new features include pen and sub-selection tools, ActionScript 1.0 (based on ECMAScript, making it very similar to JavaScript in syntax), XML support, Smartclips (the precursor to components in Flash), HTML text formatting added for dynamic text.[9]

Flash MX (6)

2002 Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Desktop Icon Released with Flash Player 6, new features include context-sensitive properties panel, timeline folders, improved color mixer, a video codec (Sorenson Spark), Unicode, v1 UI Components, compression, ActionScript vector drawing API.[10]

Flash MX 2004 (7)

2003 Released with Flash Player 7, new features include screens (forms for non-linear state-based development and slides for organizing content in a linear slide format like PowerPoint), small font size rendering, timeline effects, updated templates, high-fidelity import and video import wizard.[11]

ActionScript 2.0 was released with this version, enabling object-oriented programming but lacking the easier "Script assist" method of writing code. JavaScript for Flash (JSFL) allowed users to write scripts to automate tasks within the Flash editor. New programming features included: web services integration, MP3/FLV media playback components, XML data service components, data binding APIs, the Project Panel, V2 UI components, and Transition libraries.[12]


Flash 8

2005 Macromedia Flash 8 Desktop Icon. Released with Flash Player 8, new features include graphical filters (blur, drop shadow, glow, etc.) and blend modes, easing control for animation, enhanced stroke properties (caps and joins), object-based drawing mode, run-time bitmap caching, FlashType advanced anti-aliasing for text, On2 VP6 advanced video codec, support for alpha transparency in video, a stand-alone encoder and advanced video importer, cue point support in FLV files, an advanced video playback component, and an interactive mobile device emulator.[13]

Macromedia Flash Basic 8, a "lite" version of the Flash authoring tool targeted to new users who only wanted to do a basic drawing, animation, and interactivity. The Basic product was eventually stopped.

Adobe Flash Professional CS3 (9) 2007 Adobe Flash Professional CS3 Desktop Icon Flash CS3 is the first version of Flash released under the Adobe brand name, and features improved integration with Adobe Photoshop, enhanced QuickTime video export, filter and motion tween copy-paste support, improved vector drawing tools becoming more like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Fireworks.[14]

ActionScript 3.0 was released with this version, along with ActionScript Virtual Machine 2.0 (AVM2) for faster code execution and garbage collection.[15] New programming features included: strongly typed variables with type safety, runtime errors, improved events, display list instead of "depth" system, and many new classes (Socket, ByteArray, Loader, RegExp, etc.). [16]AS3 allowed entire applications to be written in code, without needing the Flash timeline.

Adobe Flash Professional CS4 (10) 2008 Adobe Flash Professional CS4 Desktop Icon. Flash CS4, released on September 23, 2008, introduces a new object-based motion-tween, renaming the former frame-based version as classic tween. Additions include basic 3D object manipulation, inverse kinematics (bones), a vertical properties panel, the Deco and Spray brush tools, motion presets and further expansions to ActionScript 3.0 (Vector arrays). CS4 allows the developer to create animations with many features absent in prior versions.[17][18]
Adobe Flash Professional CS5 (11) 2010 Adobe Flash Professional CS5 Desktop Icon Flash CS5 was released on April 12, 2010, and launched for purchase on April 30, 2010. Flash CS5 Professional includes support for publishing iPhone applications.[19] However, on April 8, 2010, Apple changed the terms of its Developer License to effectively ban the use of the Flash-to-iPhone compiler [20] and on April 20, 2010, Adobe announced that they will be making no additional investments in targeting the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5.[21]

Other features of Flash CS5 are a new text engine (TLF), new document templates, further improvement to inverse kinematics, new Deco tool effects, live FLV playback preview, and the code snippets panel.[22][23]

Adobe Flash Professional CS5.5 (11.5) 2011 Flash Professional CS5.5 was released in 2011. It includes improved support for publishing iPhone applications, following Apple's revision of their iOS developer terms. Flash CS5.5 also contains several features to improve mobile app workflows across devices. Some examples are content scaling and stage resizing, copy and paste layers, sharing symbols across FLA files, symbol rasterization, incremental compilation, auto-save and file recovery, and integration with CS Live online services.[24]
Adobe Flash Professional CS6 (12) 2012 Adobe Flash Professional CS6 Desktop Icon Adobe Flash Professional CS6 was released in 2012. It includes support for publishing files as HTML5 and generating sprite sheets. This is the last 32-bit version and last perpetually licensed version.[25]
Adobe Flash Professional CC (13) 2013 Adobe Flash Professional CC Desktop Icon Flash Professional CC was released in June, 2013, as part of Adobe's Creative Cloud rebrand. Changes include a native 64-bit scene rendering engine, HiDPI user interface with Dark/Light themes, unlimited pasteboard size, live preview in shapes, fills and strokes, new distribute to keyframes option, full-screen mode, center stage button, multiple selection support for layer properties, guides, masks, etc. Minor performance improvements and bug fixes, and the removal of legacy features such as ActionScript 2 support, as well as the removal of the bone tool, deco tool and spray brush tools. As part of the Creative Cloud suite, Flash CC offered users the ability to synchronize settings and save files online.[26]
Adobe Flash Professional CC 2014 (14) 2014 Flash Professional CC (2014) was released on June 18, 2014. It includes variable-width strokes, SVG export, and WebGL publishing for animations, as well as a redesigned Motion Editor.[27]
Adobe Flash Professional CC 2014 (14.1) 2014 Flash Professional CC (2014.1) was released on October 6, 2014, featuring expanded WebGL publishing abilities, brush custom settings (angle, flatness), and the ability to import external SWFs. Also, a new software development kit (SDK) enabling extensibility for custom platforms without depending on the Flash runtime, to reach more viewers.[27]
Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 (15) 2015 Flash Professional CC (2015) was released on June 15, 2015, with the return of the bone animation tool (inverse kinematics), import H.264 videos with audio, export bitmaps as spritesheet for HTML5 Canvas, brush scaling with stage zoom, universal document type converter, improved audio workflows, improved Motion Editor, panel locking, faster saving of FLA files, auto-recovery optimizations, organize imported GIFs in a library, library search by linkage name, invert selection, paste and overwrite frames. Programming features include code snippet support for WebGL, improved Custom Platform Support SDK, latest Flash Player (version 17.0), AIR SDK (version 17.0) and CreateJS libraries.[28]
Adobe Animate CC 2015 (15.1) 2016 Adobe Animate CC 2015 - 2020 Desktop Icon Adobe Animate CC 2015 (15.1) was released on February 8, 2016, shifts away from the "Flash" branding signifying the ability to animate content and publish to video, HTML5 and Flash. It includes tagged color swatches, Adobe Stock and Creative Cloud Libraries, vector art brushes, 360° rotatable stage and stage resizing with proportional content scaling, export video up to 4K resolution (for HiDPI or Retina Displays), HTML5 Canvas improvements (TypeKit support, text as outlines, custom templates).[29][30]
Adobe Animate CC 2015 (15.2) 2016 Adobe Animate CC 2015 (15.2) was released on June 20, 2016. Introduces the frame picker, layer opacity, expanded vector art brushes (pattern brushes, vector brush smoothing and tiling), improved web publishing options, custom colored onion skinning, advanced PSD and AI import options, HTML5 Canvas improvements (support for HiDPI and Retina Displays), updated Adobe Stock libraries panel. Latest Flash Player (version 21), AIR SDK (version 21).

A sub-release was launched in August (15.2.1) adding Google Fonts support for HTML5 Canvas, brush size customization to up to 200 instead of the original 8 and important bug fixes.[31][32]

Adobe Animate CC 2017 (16) 2016 Adobe Animate CC 2017 was released in November 2016. Introduces a built-in camera tool, easing presets, stage clipping and stage outline, SWF archive format for layered file support in After Effects, pressure and tilt support for vector art brushes, timeline enhancements (display time along with frame numbers, extend or reduce the time for a selected frame span, scale frame span with frames per second (fps)), reusable components in HTML5 Canvas. Latest Flash Player (version 25), AIR SDK (version 25).[33][34]
Adobe Animate CC 2018 (18) 2017 Adobe Animate CC 2018 was released in October, 2017. Introduces advanced layers, layer depth, camera improvements, timeline improvements (animation scrubbing on stage, time-based markers, tween span conversion to 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s or custom from the contextual menu), actions code wizard for HTML5 canvas, component parameters panel, conversion to other document types (WebGL, ActionScript 3.0, Adobe AIR (Desktop, Android, iOS)), texture atlas enhancements (support for color effects and masks in Unity), enhanced ease presets (property-wide custom easing).[35]
Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19) 2018 Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19.0) was released in October, 2018, features a new home screen, layer parenting, auto-lipsync, layer effects, VR authoring and publishing (Beta), vector and bitmap deformations with the asset warp tool, texture publishing for HTML5 canvas, improved integration with After Effects, export to WebGL-glTF formats (standard and extended).[36]
Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19.1) 2018 Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19.1) was released in December, 2018, features pressure / tilt support for the eraser tool, paint bucket drag fill, SVG export improvements, Adobe Fonts support (formerly Typekit).[37]
Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19.2) 2019 Adobe Animate CC 2019 (19.2) was released in April, 2019, features layer blend modes, Google AMPHTML Ad support (Beta), frame picker enhancements (pin symbol), brush-eraser sync settings, texture atlas enhancements (set resolution, optimize dimensions, export to multiple sprites and j.son file optimizations), faster save times, audio effects (right / left channel settings, fade in / out, fade to right / left, custom) enhanced asset warping and image handling improvements.[38]
Adobe Animate 2020 (20.0) 2019 Adobe Animate 2020 (20.0) was released in November, 2019, features a redesigned user interface, basic and expert workspaces, enhanced properties panel (tool, object, frame and doc tabs), customizable toolbar, advanced settings for onion skinning, timeline layer coloring, new GPU fluid brush, integrated hands-on tutorial, enhanced video export with Adobe Media Encoder, faster save times and timeline play.[39]
Adobe Animate 2020 (20.0.3) 2020 Adobe Animate 2020 (20.0.3) was released in April, 2020, features stream/split audio and blend modes support for HTML5 Canvas, Windows Ink support (Beta) and custom range video export.[40]
Adobe Animate 2020 (20.5) 2020 Adobe Animate 2020 Desktop Icon Adobe Animate 2020 (20.5) was released in June, 2020, features auto-keyframe option, introduction of the assets panel, quick social share, hands-on tutorial creator and selective texture publishing.[41]
Adobe Animate 2021 (21.0) 2021 Adobe Animate 2021 (21.0) was released in October, 2020, adds quick publishing for video, animated GIF and HTML5 canvas formats, improved assets panel (default and custom tabs), timeline and symbol enhancements (customizable timeline tools, convert layers to symbol and break apart symbol options via the context menu, reverse play and loop support for graphic symbols and new copy-paste tween options), advanced rigging (Beta), Windows Ink support, bone tool enhancements (leaf-node constraints and split / merge armature spans), latest Flash Player (version 32), AIR SDK (version 32).[42]
Adobe Animate 2021 (21.0.7) 2021 Adobe Animate 2021 (21.0.7) was released in June, 2021, features an enhanced Paint Fills Only brush mode, last frame looping option for graphic symbols and important bug fixes.[43]
Adobe Animate 2022 (22.0) 2021 Adobe Animate 2022 (22.0) was released in October, 2021, adding scale, skew and flip propagation to layer parenting.[44]
Adobe Animate 2022 (22.0.2) 2021 Adobe Animate 2022 (22.0.2) was released in December, 2021, features an improved asset warp tool with bone rigging capabilities. Additions include soft and hard bones, freeze joints, a mesh density slider, warp background processing and minor bug fixes.[44]
Adobe Animate 2023 (23.0) 2022 Adobe Animate 2023 (23.0) was released in October, 2022, adds rig edit mode, flexi bone and envelope deformations to the asset warp tool. Warp objects can now be managed from the library panel.[45]
Adobe Animate 2024 (24.0) 2023 Adobe Animate 2024 (24.0) was released in October, 2023, adds native Apple Silicon support, warped asset pose reset, a more compact user interface and important bug fixes.[46]

Development at Adobe[]

Adobe Flash CS4 icon+shadow

Flash CS4 icon

Adobe Labs (previously Macromedia Labs) is a source for early looks at emerging products and technologies from Adobe-Macromedia, including downloads of the latest software and plugins. Flash 9, Flex 2, and ActionScript 3.0 are discussed on the website.

An important new development in Flash (as of 2007) was its increasing use in providing the presentation layer in handheld devices. Adobe is courting cell phone and PDA vendors, and partnering to deploy Flash Lite as the user interface.

As of November 2007 Adobe Labs was developing the Adobe AIR Project[6] which is a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to reuse their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

The next version of Flash had two additional components designed for large scale implementation. Adobe is adding in the option to require an ad to be played in full before the main video piece is played. This would be most useful for large scale video sites. Also, Adobe has announced plans to add DRM into the new version of Flash. This way Adobe can give companies the option to link an advertisement with content and make sure that both are played and that they are not changed.[7]

Programming language[]

Main article: ActionScript

Initially focused on animation, early versions of Flash content offered few interactivity features and thus had very limited scripting capability.

More recent versions include ActionScript, an implementation of the ECMAScript standard which therefore has the same syntax as JavaScript, but in a different programming framework with a different associated set of class libraries. ActionScript is used to create almost all of the interactivity (buttons, text entry fields, pick lists) seen in many Flash applications.

New versions of the Flash Player and authoring tool have striven to improve on scripting capabilities. Flash MX 2004 introduced ActionScript 2.0, a scripting programming language more suited to the development of Flash applications. It is often possible to save a lot of time by scripting something rather than animating it, which usually also enables a higher level of editability.

Of late, the Flash libraries are being used with the XML capabilities of the browser to render rich content in the browser. This technology, which is currently in its nascent stage, is known as Asynchronous Flash and XML, much like AJAX.

This technology can be used in players like those on MySpace and YouTube, to provide protection for the content that the Flash calls, like MP3s and videos. The content called is streamed - or passes - through the Flash files, making downloading for storage a difficult task for most people. Programs such as Real Player Downloader and browser extensions like Firebug can trace the XML files.

Content protection[]

Often, Flash authors will decide that while they desire the advantages that Flash affords them in the areas of animation and interactivity, they do not wish to expose their images and/or code to the world. However, once an .swf file is saved locally, it may then quite easily be decompiled into its source code and assets. Some decompilers are capable of nearly full reconstruction of the original source file, down to the actual code that was used during creation.[citation needed]

In opposition to the decompilers, SWF obfuscators have been introduced to provide a modicum of security, some produced by decompiler authors themselves. The higher-quality obfuscators use traps for the decompilers, making some fail, but none have definitively been shown to protect all content.


Format and plug-in[]

Compared to other plug-ins such as Java, Acrobat Reader, QuickTime or Windows Media Player, the Flash Player has a small install size, quick download time, and fast initialization time. However, care must be taken to detect and embed the Flash Player in (X)HTML in a W3C compliant way. A simple and widely used workaround is provided below:

<object data="movie.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="500">
    <param name="movie" value="movie.swf" />

More Information on how to detect and embed Flash Objects in a W3C compliant way is provided in the xSWF description.

The use of vector graphics combined with program code allows Flash files to be smaller, or streams to use less bandwidth, than the corresponding bitmaps or video clips. For content in a single format (such as just text, video or audio) other alternatives may provide better performance and consume less CPU power than the corresponding Flash movie, for example when using transparency or making large screen updates such as photographic or text fades.

In addition to a vector-rendering engine, the Flash Player includes a virtual machine called the ActionScript Virtual Machine (AVM) for scripting interactivity at run-time, support for video, MP3-based audio, and bitmap graphics. As of Flash Player 8, it offers two video codecs: On2 Technologies VP6 and Sorenson Spark, and run-time support for JPEG, Progressive JPEG, PNG, and GIF. In the next version, Flash is slated to use a just-in-time compiler for the ActionScript engine.

Market share[]

Flash as a format has become very widespread on the desktop market. Adobe claims that 98 percent of US Web users and 99.3 percent of all Internet desktop users have the Flash Player installed,[8] [9] with 45%–56%[10] (depending on region) having the latest version. Numbers vary depending on the detection scheme and research demographics.

Flash players exist for a wide variety of different systems and devices. Flash content can run consistently on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and Linux (Macromedia has created or licensed players for the following operating systems: Windows, Mac OS 9/X, Solaris, HP-UX, Pocket PC, OS/2, QNX, Symbian, Palm OS, BeOS, and IRIX). See also Macromedia Flash Lite for Flash compatibility on other devices.

Open standard alternatives[]

A full end-to-end implementation of the W3C SVG and SMIL specifications would offer close competition for most of the features of Flash in an open, standard way. Adobe used to develop and distribute the 'Adobe SVG Viewer' client plug-in for MS Internet Explorer, but has recently announced its discontinuation.[11] It has been noted by industry commentators that this is probably no coincidence at a time when Adobe has moved from competing with Macromedia's Flash, to owning the technology itself.[12] Meanwhile, Opera has supported SVG since version 8,[13] and Firefox's built-in support for SVG continues to grow.[14]

Third-party implementation[]


In October 1998, Macromedia disclosed the Flash Version 3 Specification to the world on its website. It did this in response to many new and often semi-open formats competing with SWF, such as Xara's Flare and Sharp's Extended Vector Animation formats. Several developers quickly created a C library for producing SWF. In February 1999, the company introduced MorphInk 99, the first third party program to create SWF files. Macromedia also hired Middlesoft to create a freely available developers' kit for the SWF file format versions 3 to 5.

Macromedia made the Flash Files specifications for versions 6 and later available only under a non-disclosure agreement, but it is widely available from various sites.

In April 2006, the Flash SWF file format specification was released with details on the then newest version format (Flash 8). Although still lacking specific information on the incorporated video compression formats (On2, Sorenson Spark, etc.), this new documentation covered all the new features offered in Flash v8 including new ActionScript commands, expressive filter controls, and so on. The file format specification document is offered only to developers who agree to a license agreement that permits them to use the specifications only to develop programs that can export to the Flash file format. The license forbids the use of the specifications to create programs that can be used for playback of Flash files. The Flash 9 specification was made available under similar restrictions.[15]


Since Flash files do not depend on an open standard such as SVG, this reduces the incentive for non-commercial software to support the format,[citation needed] although there are several third party tools which use and generate the SWF file format. IrfanView is capable of playing SWF files. There is a large and vibrant open source community. Flash Player cannot ship as part of a pure open source, or completely free operating system, as its distribution is bound to the Macromedia Licensing Program and subject to approval.

There is, as of late 2007, no complete free software replacement which offers all the functionality of the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. Gnash, based on GameSWF, is a Flash player replacement that is under development and has the support of the Free Software Foundation - see High Priority Free Software Projects. Gnash supports Flash 7 and below, but not files that require version 8 or 9 features.[16] Swfdec is another open-source flash player available for Linux and FreeBSD and SWFOpener is a quite good program if functionality is needed.


Open Source projects like Ajax Animator, and UIRA aim to create a flash development environment, complete with a graphical user environment. Alternatively, programs such as swfmill, SWFTools, and MTASC provide tools to create SWF files, but do so by compiling text, actionscript or XML files into Flash animations. It is also possible to create SWF files programmatically using the Ming library, which has interfaces for C, PHP, C++, Perl, Python, and Ruby. haXe is an open source, high-level object-oriented programming language geared towards web-content creation that can compile Flash files.

Many shareware developers produced Flash creation tools and sold them for under US$50 between 2000 and 2002. In 2003 competition and the emergence of free Flash creation tools, most notably Impress, had driven many third-party Flash-creation tool-makers out of the market, allowing the remaining developers to raise their prices, although many of the products still cost less than US$100 and support ActionScript. As for open source tools, KToon can edit vectors and generate SWF, but its interface is very different from Macromedia's. Another, more recent example of a Flash creation tool is SWiSH Max made by an ex-employee of Macromedia. Toon Boom Technologies also sells traditional animation tool, based on Flash - Toon-Army. Anime Studio is a 2D animation software specialised for character animation which creates SWF files. Express Animator is similarly aimed specifically at animators.

Users that are not programmers or web designers will also find on line tools that allows to build a full Flash-based web site. One of the oldest services available (1998) is FlashToGo. Such companies provide a wide variety of pre-built models (templates) associated to a Content Management System that empowers users to easily build, edit and publish their web sites.

Adobe wrote a software package called Adobe LiveMotion, designed to create interactive animation content and export it to a variety of formats, including SWF. LiveMotion went through two major releases, but failed to gain any notable user base.

In February 2003, Macromedia purchased Presedia, which had developed a Flash authoring tool that automatically converted PowerPoint Files into Flash. Macromedia subsequently released the new product as Breeze, which included many new enhancements. Since that time, Macromedia has seen competing PowerPoint-to-Flash authoring tools from PointeCast (not to be confused with PointCast) and PresentationPro among others. In addition, (as of version 2) Apple's Keynote presentation software also allows users to create interactive presentations and export to SWF.


In April 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs criticized the Flash platform and stated that the company would not allow it to run on its iOS devices.[47] Developers of third-party web browsers began to blacklist the Flash plugin by default due to security issues.[48] In July 2017, Adobe announced that it would phase out support for Flash by the end of 2020.[49]


Many usability concerns regarding Flash are due to the fact that Flash breaks with many of the conventions associated with normal HTML pages. Things like selecting text, scrollbars,[17] form control and right-clicking act differently than with a regular HTML webpage, and it is argued that this contributes to a usability issue. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen published an Alertbox in 2000 entitled, Flash: 99% Bad[18] which listed many of these issues. Much of this criticism is due to poor implementation. For example, bookmarking could be handled, but is often not implemented due to time, cost, or lack of knowledge.

Web pages which make heavy use of Flash can also cause difficulties for some users, such as those using old hardware or who cannot install or use Flash Player. As Flash elements often include a lot of graphics and sound, dial-up internet users are also affected by higher page load times, although there is a more general trend toward larger websites as high-speed internet becomes more common.

Accessibility issues[]

The US Justice Department has stated in regard to the Americans with Disabilites Act:

"Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well."

Although long since fixed with accessibility functions since Flash Player 6, Internet users who are visually-impaired, and who may rely on a screen reader, braille display, or using larger text sizes and/or high-contrast color schemes may find sites that make extensive use of Flash difficult or impossible to use.[19]

Using Flash to restrict access to content[]

Many content producers use Flash as a way to limit user's access to the media displayed in their browsers, and/or gain clicks by forcing extra steps to display. For example, in Windows, Shockwave/Flash (.swf) files cannot be right-clicked and saved. Famously, YouTube furnishes all video in flash video format (.flv), requiring users to turn to third-party solutions to store the content locally. The usage is now spreading to photo sharing websites such as Webshots. A Flash overlay exists over the initial photo displayed, requiring a second click to retrieve the photo, slowing the experience considerably. However, if Flash is not installed, the image displays normally.

Local Shared Objects[]

Main article: Local Shared Object Flash Players since version 6 can store and retrieve persistent data without offering any visible signs to the user, similarly to cookies. It is possible to clear the temporary files that Flash stores on a computer either through the Flash website, or manually. The default storage location for LSOs is operating-system dependent. For Windows XP, the location is within each user's Application Data directory, under Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects. For Windows Vista it is in each user's AppData directory under Roaming\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects. For Mac OS X it is in each users Library directory under Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/#SharedObjects. On Linux it is in each users directory: ~/.macromedia/Flash_Player/#SharedObjects.

Security issues[]

Specially crafted files have been shown to cause Flash applications to malfunction, by allowing the execution of malevolent code. Users who have not updated their Flash Player to the most recent version may be vulnerable to such an attack.

In addition to entries in the Open Source Vulnerability Database, security advisories published in August 2002[20], December 2002 [21] and November 2005 [22] highlight three examples of reports about various Flash Player versions that allowed remote code execution.

Flash Player on various platforms[]

The Adobe Flash Player is mainly optimized for the Windows 32 bit platform. 32 bit editions of version 9 are also available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris. Adobe, so far, has not optimized its products on non-Microsoft platforms. This has led to poor web surfing performance on Macintosh and Linux computers with Flash prior to version 9, since many websites use Flash animations for menus and advertisements. Flash Player 7 for Linux was very CPU hungry in fullscreen mode, resulting in low frame rates.

Adobe has rewritten the bitmap drawing routines in Flash Player 8 for Mac, using OpenGL planes via Quartz to draw the surfaces. The new drawing code is reported to be actually faster than its Windows counterpart[citation needed], where JPEG, TIFF or other bitmap images are composited into the animation.

The Linux version of the Flash Player requires the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) to output sound. ALSA was introduced in Linux 2.5 and may be difficult to use with very old sound hardware. Users of the legacy Open Sound System must either compile and install the abstraction layer flashsupport provided by Adobe, run the Windows Flash Player in a Windows browser through WINE, or switch to ALSA, which may involve recompiling or upgrading the kernel and/or installing additional drivers.

On Flash Player 7 for Linux, the sound could lag about a second behind the picture; this issue was resolved in Flash Player 9. Flash Player 8 was never released for Linux, Adobe stated that they would skip that version and instead focus on preparing Flash Player 9. Flash Player 9 for Linux was released in January 2007.

On Linux, it is generally not possible to scroll a web page while the mouse cursor is held over a flash animation (On some distributions, it is possible by using the arrow keys after a mouse click on the page outside the flash). Long news sites may be troublesome to scroll through, as they often contain flash animations spread out all over, so that one must slalom the cursor around the flash content while scrolling.

As of February 2008, Adobe has yet to release a Flash Player for the x86-64 architecture on any operating system.[23] There is to date no Linux Flash Player for non-x86 compatible processors (e.g. x86-64 native, PowerPC, ARM, etc.). Adobe employees have said the Flash implementation is very 32-bit specific and porting to 64-bit systems would require a lot of effort.[24] Adobe claims to be currently working on a 64-bit version.[25] Adobe has not yet released any of their development software for any UNIX-like operating system except Mac OS X.

Since Adobe has declined to support the PPC architecture, the latest Flash fails not only for Linux, but also for Sony Playstation 3, whose CELL processor is based on the PPC architecture. As a result the PS3 web browser uses an obsolete version of Flash (licensed from Macromedia) that is not compatible with most modern websites.

Search engine indexability[]

Flash files are binary data, and as a result are not as easily indexable as other document formats. Also, due to their dynamic nature, often it's not possible for a search engine to link to a specific section in an all-Flash site.

Some methods have emerged to try deal with this problem. Adobe has a Flash Search Engine SDK, and Flash CS3 creates additional meta information that is indexable by search engines.[26] One approach which has become popular is creating a base HTML page with indexable content, and adding an additional flash layer. This method of 'progressive enhancement' has become more popular in recent years.[27]

Digital rights management[]

The latest iteration of Flash allows copyright holders to embed ads within videos, as well as control how those videos are used.[7] With this latest piece of software, companies will be able to quickly remove any video that they feel violates copyright and force advertisements to play prior to the start of the video.

Wikimedia projects and Flash[]

The Wikimedia Foundation has partnered with Kaltura to experiment with user-created Flash animation in a wiki environment.[28]

Related file formats and extensions[]

Ext. Explanation

.swf .swf files are completed, compiled and published files that cannot be edited with Adobe Flash. However, many '.swf decompilers' do exist. Attempting to import .swf files using Flash allows it to retrieve some assets from the .swf, but not all.

.fla .fla files contain source material for the Flash application. Flash authoring software can edit FLA files and compile them into .swf files.

.as .as files contain ActionScript source code in simple source files. FLA files can also contain Actionscript code directly, but separate external

.as files often emerge for structural reasons, or to expose the code to versioning applications. They sometimes use the extension .actionscript

.swd .swd files are temporary debugging files used during Flash development. Once finished developing a Flash project these files are not needed and can be removed.

.asc .asc files contain Server-Side ActionScript, which is used to develop efficient and flexible client-server Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX applications.

.flv .flv files are Flash video files, as created by Adobe Flash, ffmpeg, Sorenson Squeeze, or On2 Flix.

.f4v .f4v files are standard mp4 files that can be played back by Flash Player 9 Update 3 and above.[29]

.f4p .f4p files are mp4 files protected with digital rights management.[29]

.f4a .f4a files are mp4 files that contain only audio streams.[29]

.f4b .f4b files are mp4 audio book files.[29]

.swc .swc files are used for distributing components; they contain a compiled clip, the component's ActionScript class file, and other files that describe the component.

.jsfl .jsfl files are used to add functionality in the Flash Authoring environment; they contain Javascript code and access the Flash Javascript API.

.swt .swt files are 'templatized' forms of .swf files, used by Macromedia Generator

.flp .flp files are XML files used to reference all the document files contained in a Flash Project. Flash Projects allow the user to group multiple, related files together to assist in Flash project organization, compilation and build.

.spl .spl files are FutureSplash documents.

.aso .aso files are cache files used during Flash development, containing compiled ActionScript byte code. An ASO file is recreated when a change in its corresponding class files is detected. Occasionally the Flash IDE does not recognize that a recompile is necessary, and these cache files must be deleted manually. They are located in %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash8\en\Configuration\Classes\aso on Win32 / Flash8.

.lmv These files are created by the freeware program called liveswif.They are used to save the animation in an editable file , but can also be converted into an .swf file to produce online content for the web. This file has nothing to do with adobe flash Fla file , with the only similarity being that they both hold editable data that can be converted into a swf file.

Video in web pages[]

Flash is increasingly used as a way to display video clips on web pages, a feature available since Flash Player version 6. The key to this success has been the player's wide distribution in multiple browsers and operating systems, rather than any superior video quality or properties. It is available for many popular platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Flash is used as the basis for many popular video sites, including YouTube and Google Video. One major flaw with multimedia embedded through Flash, however, is the considerable performance penalty placed on playback hardware as compared with a purpose built multimedia playback system. Many files that drop frames and skip audio when embedded within Flash play without any issues using other multimedia formats on the same hardware.

Flash Video (.flv files) is a container format, meaning that it is not a video format in itself, but can contain other formats. The video in Flash is encoded in H.263, and starting with Flash player 8, it may alternatively be encoded in VP6. The audio is in MP3. The use of VP6 is common in many companies, because of the large adoption rates of Flash Player 8 and Flash Player 9.[10]

On August 20, 2007, Adobe announced on its blog that with Update 3 of the Flash Player (currently in beta), Flash Video will also support the MPEG-4 international standard.[30] Specifically, Flash Player will have support for video compressed in H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10), audio compressed using AAC (MPEG-4 Part 3), the MP4, M4V, M4A, 3GP and MOV multimedia container formats (MPEG-4 Part 14), 3GPP Timed Text specification (MPEG-4 Part 17) which is a standardized subtitle format and partial parsing support for the 'ilst' atom which is the ID3 equivalent iTunes uses to store metadata. Adobe also announced that they will be gradually moving away from the proprietary FLV format to the standard MP4 format owing to functional limits with the FLV structure when streaming H.264. The final release of the Flash Player supporting MPEG-4 is expected to be available in Fall 2007.[31]


In February 2016, the authoring application was re-branded as Adobe Animate with support for web-based standards such as HTML5.[50]


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External links[]

Adobe Flash
FutureSplash Animator · 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · MX · MX 2004 (Pro) · 8 (Pro 8) | CS3 · CS4 · CS5 · CS6 · CC
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ActionScript: 1 · 2 · 3   |   Flash Builder: 1 | 2 · 3 · 4 (4.5 · 4.6 · 4.7)   |   Flash Cast   |   Flash Catalyst: CS5 (CS5.5)
Flash Lite: 1 · 2 | 3 · 4   |   Media Server: MX (1.5) · 2 | 3 (3.5) · 4 (4.5) · 5   |   SWF   |   Adobe Animate