Foundation XML for Flash

8 comments | Posted: 6 February 06 in Books, by Nathan Smith

Foundation XML for Flash My to-do list has just become a little bit lighter. This past week I read through Foundation XML for Flash, written by first time author Sas Jacobs. For being her debut book, this one turned out to be pretty helpful. It is full of insightful tips and tutorials on how to harness the versatility and simplicity of XML for use in your interactive projects. While XML itself is simple, it is not always understood.

Far too often, we see Flash abused through intrusive advertisements. Sas gets back to wielding it redemptively to enhance the user experience. According to Macromedia, the original purpose of Flash was to produce Rich Internet Applications, dubbed RIA. If you have ever been to Flickr, you have probably seen this in action. Other examples are SlideShowPro and anything at Airtight.

My only qualm with this book is that it bears the “Mac/PC Compatible” mantra on the back cover, typical of most Friends of ED books. While you certainly don’t need a PC to work with Flash or XML, most of the examples in this book center around using Office 2003. Additionally, she makes extensive reference to ASP.NET and Altova XML Spy which is available only for Windows.

To be fair, she does make mention of some PHP, Mac and even Linux alternatives. However, if you’re the type of person who likes to follow along step-by-step with the examples, expect to do so in a Microsoft environment. I think this book could have benefitted from instructions on how to do comparable things with OpenOffice, because it can read and write Office 2003 XML format.

Generally, most tech-savvy users will probably already have their own way of dealing with XML, such as Notepad++ on Windows or Textmate on the Mac. Anyway, I will not belabor the point, but it would have been nice to see a more platform agnostic / neutral approach, especially considering that XML is considered to be such a universally applicable and open-standard format.

That being said, this book is quite a valuable resource for a variety of possible XML applications. There are example tutorials on making a Photo Gallery, MPEG Layer 3">MP3 Player, RSS Reader, as well as consuming web services to display data like current weather. This book got me to thinking about the possibility of making a robust, dynamic environment that could be powered by an open-source CMS.

I remember seeing a restaurant site that was quite classy and well done, the front end of which was presented in Flash. To my surprise, I found that the admin side of things was handled through Textpattern. It is this type of thing that interests me, using Flash’s potential in conjunction with dynamic content.

If that intrigues you too, along with the possibility of having rich multimedia that is easy to update, you might want to consider reading this book. As W3C standards continue to gain momentum, the popularity of XML is only bound to increase. As designers, we must stay abreast of these advancements in Flash.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Yannick

    While XML itself is simple, it is not always understood.

    You are right about that. I would have to admit, I don’t fully understand it. Guess I will have to do a bit more reading up when I have the time.

    This book got me to thinking about the possibility of making a robust, dynamic environment that could be powered by an open-source CMS.

    That definitely sounds like an interesting idea.

    Thanks for the review Nathan.

  2. 2 Nathan Smith

    XML in it simplest form is “anything you want it to be,” according to the way it was described in the book. Think of it in the way that TXP tags are written. As long as you stay within that syntax of closing everything, it’s very flexible.

  3. 3 Yannick

    Hmm..okay but how does it recognize say < item > < /item > as a tag and determine what it means?

  4. 4 Nathan Smith

    Yannick: No, it’s not like Textile, where it can replace certain syntax. In Textpattern, that’s done because of PHP. XML simply is the structure of the document, such as < my:tag > Stuff Here < /my:tag > (without spaces). Note the colon (:) is allowed, but other than that, it’s the same as XHTML, requiring elements to either be closed or self closing. Also valid: < mytag />.

  5. 5 Tank

    I have to agree that XML is very useful in a lot of applications. We primarily use it to interface between the database and Flash as a easy means of sending data into flash. Flash has an incredible XML parser that is head and shoulders above bringing dynamic variables in, an other way.

    The power is it’s flexability. Say I want to send a title of an article to flash… I just call it: < title> TITLE GOES HERE < / title > (without the spaces) and thats it. I have also used XML to talk between servers without giving the 3rd party direct access to my database. I can create an XML file of whatever data they need and they pull the data from there without once having to connect to my database. It’s powerful.

  6. 6 Nathan Smith

    Yannick: Yep, it would recognize < item > as a valid tag, because it’s well formed (aside from spaces). The XML doesn’t interpret anything though, that’d be up to whatever you’re using to display it. XML is simply a storage container.

  7. 7 Adam Spooner

    Nathan: great review…expecially for us mac users. I was wondering, do you happen to remember that TextPattern site with the Flash front end?

  8. 8 Nathan Smith

    Adam: I searched around for it, but couldn’t find the address. I’d originally seen that site featured on TXP Magazine, but they recently redesigned and many of their articles have gone missing. The URL is:


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