Wednesday, August 1, 2001

More insight into Flash and Domino

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

This month's letter to the editor harkens back to a series of articles on Macromedia Flash by Razzak Khan back in January of 2001. The first article, "Putting some Flash into your Domino applications," can be found at http://www.dominopower.com/issues/issue200101/flash001.html.

Loading at the speed of Flash

I have read your articles in DominoPower about using Flash with Domino and found them very inspiring. We are about to develop a new Web application and are considering developing it in Flash with Domino NSF (Notes Storage Facility) files. However, we don't have enough experience with Flash, and before we make up our minds, we would like to know the implications, especially regarding page loading speed. We would love to hear your advice about the following subjects:

Does an application with menus and graphics written in Javascript, DHTML (Dynamic Hyper Text Markup Language), or GIF files load faster than the same graphics only in Flash? How about connection to external data? Does using Flash to get or post data slow down the process?

Thanks in advance,
Hagit Oron
Project Manager
Net Knowledge

Razzak Khan responds

I'm glad you enjoyed my articles. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

First, let's look at the implications, especially regarding page loading speed.

I have certainly noticed a small delay in loading the initial .SWF file upload from the Lotus Domino image resource library.

I would recommend creating a preloader in your Flash file. Preloaders allow you to upload all of your working frames and not leave your users wondering if and when your page is going to be loaded. Refer to http://www.flashkit.com/tutorials/Utilities/Preloade-Ramsey_N-536/index.shtml or http://flashplanet.com/body_tutorials.html. Both these sites provide you with the complete .FLA source code.

Next, does an application with menus and graphics written in Javascript, DHTML, or GIF files load faster than the same graphics only in Flash?

Flash uses vector graphics. This is why the size of .SWF files is so small. Obviously these images will load faster than GIFs (depending on the resolution of your GIFs), and I have always found Javascript and DHTML a little slow with Domino. The coding behind DHTML is long and tedious. You'll be able to create similar functions within seconds using Flash.

In terms of menus, this will depend on your final intentions. You can use Domino framesets and create menu options via navigators (knowing that these navigators are then converted to GIF images on the fly by Domino), or you can create the whole site in Flash only.

My overall recommendation would be to use Flash in an introduction page and in some small animation for logo banners and the interactive field updates. This will provide the user with some eye-catching interaction. Flash is fun and easy to use overall, but it can get very time consuming and difficult to put together unless you've got some Actionscripting experience and a big imagination.