INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Flash 5 in easy steps
By Nick Vandome
Published in 2001 by Computer Step
192 pp ISBN 1 84078 126 2 9.99

Flash 5 Weekend Crash Course
By Shamms Mortier
Published in 2001 by IDG Books (Hungry Minds)
380pp ISBN 0 7645 3546 3 15.99 (includes CDROM with Flash 5 Trial plus other resources)

Flash 5 Cartooning
By Mark Clarkson
Published in 2001 by Hungry Minds
232pp ISBN 0 7645 3547 39.99 (includes CDROM with Flash 5 Trial plus other resources)

Flash 5 in easy steps, Flash 5 Weekend Crash Course and Flash 5 Cartooning

Having seen the ICT applications created in Flash on the BT website (now at www.groupbt.com/ict/bt_toolbox/ict_tools/ict_tools.html - registration necessary) it looked as if Flash would be a useful tool for intending and practicing IT teachers. Having investigated further I'm now not so sure.

Flash isn't a 'traditional' programming environment but is an analogue of film/video production and editing. I have always found this medium difficult and those difficulties transfer all to easily to Flash. My failure to progress is not due to these books but to the nature of Flash itself. My son had none of these issues and within about 3 hours had completed his first independent flash project. He preferred the 'easy steps' book for its reference style with clear index and minimalist examples.

When you realise the video analogy it is not surprising that the other two books make use of cartooning to support the learning of Flash. My previous work with cartooning was with Iota's Complete Animator, a program which I still enjoy using (it's great for flick-book projects).

Clarkson's book is a very glossy production including a lot of colour images and would appear to make an excellent introduction to computer based cartooning for anyone with an art background. It truly does look at how you might produce professional-style animations and those vying for the role of the next Matt Groening would find it essential. Layout is clear and steps and stages are very obviously illustrated. Those little tips you need when moving from a flat to a layered medium are also given in the text. All the exercises and activities are included on the CD. An IT 'newby' artist could cope with this text.

Mortier's book is less glossy (but cheaper too) and as the title indicates, is intended to be tackled over a 48 hour period in 30 sessions. It claims success in 'only 15 hours'. Again the CD includes all the exercises. This book certainly feels more structured and this structure would let you easily re-use it as a reference guide; however it may be too structured for those of an artistic background, and the exercise order may not suit all.

None of these books meets my ICT teacher need head-on. Certainly my art teacher colleagues would love Clarkson, and if I needed to recommend a compact shelf reference then Vandome is the one. But Mortier feels too structured and lacks an introduction as to what Flash can do for you, and why you need to be able to do that in the first place.

Neil Stanley
Reviews Editor