FlashPaper 2

FlashPaper 2, part of the Macromedia Studio 8’s version of Contribute 3 (   , February 2005 ), allows you to effortlessly convert Microsoft Office documents to Flash (SWF) files.

Incorporating FlashPaper 2 into Contribute makes sense, especially for business environments where content developers who create documents can export them to Flash without knowing the program: Contribute creates HTML pages for people who don’t know HTML; FlashPaper creates Flash files for people who don’t know Flash.

The resulting Flash files support copy-and-paste to other applications, are text-searchable, and preserve functioning links from the source documents. Content developers working with Dreamweaver-generated templates can plug content into both HTML and Flash documents without coding.

The Windows version of Studio 8 includes a stand-alone version of FlashPaper. But in the Mac version, FlashPaper exists only as a Print dialog option for installed applications, which makes using it similar to printing a PDF file. While Macromedia tested FlashPaper only with Microsoft Office applications, FlashPaper shows up as a Print option in many other applications as well.

There is no easier way to convert documents to SWF files than using FlashPaper 2: I tried jamming the FlashPaper driver by including images, odd line, paragraph, and word spacing, and multiple fonts in my Word files. FlashPaper stood up to the test, accurately incorporating links, colors, fonts, and images.

An obvious question is, why not just use the ubiquitous PDF format for sharing documents? PDF provides more options (for features like permissions, security, and interactive forms), but if you don’t need those features, the no-frills interface of the Flash Player 8 is cleaner and easier to read than a PDF.

I enjoyed searching and reading documents in Flash Player; Reading in Flash seemed cleaner and less distracting than the endless options that appear when I open and read PDF files in the Acrobat Reader. You can scale the document easily with a slider that enlarges type interactively. And FlashPaper, combined with Flash Player 8, provides the crispest small font type I’ve ever seen on my monitor.

FlashPaper 2 may be a more valuable addition to the Windows version of Studio 8 than it is to the Mac version, since Windows users also can use FlashPaper to convert Office files to PDF, as well as Flash (SWF) files. But Mac users, of course, can already generate PDF files from documents using the Print dialog. If you want to generate small, useful SWF files from your Office documents, FlashPaper 2 is the easiest way to go.

[ David Karlins is the author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flash 5 ( Alpha, 2000), and 20 other books on interactive Web design. He is also an instructor with San Francisco State University’s Multimedia Studies and Digital Video Intensive Programs. ]

The Print Dialog box in any Mac program gives you access to FlashPaper 2’s ability to convert documents to SWF format.
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