Macromedia’s Flash 5, the newest version of their vector Web application, allows you to fuse vector graphics with bitmaps, audio, animation, and advanced interactivity to create unique and effective Web sites. It’s come a long way from its beginning in 1977 as Future Splash Animator, a program for creating and animating vector art. In 1996, Macromedia acquired the program, changed its name to Flash, and has developed it into a sophisticated tool for the Web that incorporates in one program all of the tools you need: tools for creating graphics, tools for animating those graphics, tools for creating interface elements and interactivity, and tools for creating the HTML necessary to display your graphics, animations, and interface elements as a Web page. Each new version of Flash, has provided users with added features and functions that expand the program’s capabilities, and this version excels in this regard. It has a little something for everyone. Animators and graphic designers will appreciate the inclusion of new tools such as the Bezier Pen tool, Shared Symbol Libraries, and an Improved interface, beefier import options, and better integration with other Macromedia products. Coders will like the new HTML rendering, built-in XML parser, and advanced scripting engine. Flash 5 is available for Macintosh and Windows. Price: $399, Upgrade $149, Academic $99. Macromedia has an excellent site to visit, with all sorts of information, freebies, and tutorials: http://www.macromedia.com The Flash 5 interface now conforms to the common Macromedia User Interface so that it now resembles the look and feel of Fireworks and Dreamweaver. Most of the information that was available in the Inspectors and Modifier trays has now been put into individual panels. Panels can be separated or docked, and you can create customized panel sets for specific tasks. Flash 5 even allows you to save or even share layout arrangements with other developers in your team. You can also use the new Launcher bar at the bottom of the application window to quickly open and close some of the frequently used panels. Draggable guides and the new selection highlights make it even easier to arrange objects. Source.