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Review: Editor's Choice--Macromedia Director MX 2004
Posted May 7, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 2 next »

synopsis: In Director MX 2004 ($1199), Macromedia has made some major improvements to Director with DVD support, JavaScript, tighter integration with Flash, and a host of other enhancements. This is a major upgrade, and one that is definitely worth considering.

Cynical software buyers could look at the new release of Macromedia Director just one year after the last one and think "interim release," but Macromedia has done much more than fix a few bugs and add a couple of new features. Instead, they've made Director—the software choice of multimedia developers for years—more relevant than ever by incorporating more modern development choices. Macromedia began the slow advancement last year when they gave Director the MX interface update. This year they take it several steps further by adding new features that should make multimedia developers stand up and take notice.

Studio MX 2004 had some nifty new features like the cross-browser checker in Dreamweaver, but it didn't have a full set of new tricks to give users a sense of urgency to go and get it. In Director, by contrast, Macromedia has made some significant improvements starting with new DVD support—it's hard to believe that it took this long to include it—a choice between JavaScript and Lingo (their proprietary scripting language) to allow development team members to use the language they are most comfortable with, tighter integration with Flash, one-stop cross platform publishing, and a host of minor improvements that make the program easier to use. 

Managers who are looking for ways to cut multimedia development costs should find a lot to like in this program with pre-built components to reduce development time along with features that enable Flash and Director developers to work more closely together and combine skills with the potential to speed up the development cycle. This review looks at the key new features in Director MX 2004. 

Load it up 
After you insert the CD, Macromedia opens with a nifty installation front-end that allows you not only to install and explore the CD, but to access a host of features such as video training and a variety of online resources including What's New and Support. This enables you to learn about the program before you install, a nice touch, especially for those who are only trying the program.

Installation is pretty basic. They've included a combined Macintosh/PC installation CD this time, rather than going with separate disks as last year, simplifying installation and reducing the materials they need to include in the package. While there is a customization option, there are few available choices. After you install, make sure you take a look at the Goodies folder because there are a lot of free extras in there you should know about, especially the DVD Event Manager (discussed later).

While you're at it, check out the free video training (from www.lynda.com) for a decent overview of the key new features. Unlike the Studio MX videos, which had more of a marketing feel, the Director videos give you a good sense of the new features without the hype. They're not slick, and don't offer the level of detail of the Adobe Creative Suite's free video training, but they give enough information for the experienced developer to get started. In addition, you will find all of the Director product documentation including a detailed Lingo reference in PDF as well as HTML online help formats. Last year they included a couple of fat paper versions of these manuals, but this time around they opted to include only the Getting Started manual in print, drastically reducing the size of the box (and saving a few trees in the process). They also include several tutorials in HTML Help format to help new users get up to speed using the product.

Keep in mind that Director MX 2004 requires product activation, a source of consternation for some users. You can use the program without activating it for 30 days, but after that you have little choice but to go along.

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