What is ActionScript in Web Design?

actionscriptIf you’re beginning to get interested in programming, you’ve probably heard other developers talking about ActionScript in Web design. ActionScript is an object-oriented scripting language used to program Flash content, such as games and interactive Web pages. It’s very similar to JavaScript and performs most of the same functions. It was created by Adobe, the company that developed Flash and the highly popular design applications Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.

The Roles of Flash and ActionScript in Modern Web Design

Because Flash programming is becoming less popular as more open and robust alternatives, such as HTML5, become available, ActionScript is being used less often, and many developers argue that learning this language is unnecessary. It’s a good idea to create new Web media content using HTML5, because all browsers are compatible with it and don’t require a proprietary plugin as they do to play Flash content. Another problem with Flash is that it runs slowly on Apple and Linux computers because it doesn’t utilize the graphics processing unit for video processing.

ActionScript was a popular way to create Flash games, animations and interactive Web pages throughout the 2000s when websites began getting more dynamic and responsive to user input, according to InformIT. With ActionScript, you can easily program animated graphics and interactive 2-D games using object-oriented programming, or OOP, techniques. OOP software design is a way of organizing source code into classes of complex data types that include public programming interfaces for interacting with data. For example, in an ActionScript routine, you might have an object that contains a vector image of a game character, and its public interface might include functions for moving the character or colliding with other objects on the screen.

The Limitations of Flash and ActionScript

Flash only works with 2-D graphics, so 3-D game programming isn’t possible. All of the functionality of Flash and ActionScript is available in HTML5 and JavaScript, including canvas drawing, object collisions, transitions and animations, and most Web developers prefer using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript to Flash and ActionScript. Another major problem with Flash content is that it can’t be indexed by search engines, so optimizing a page for search traffic requires an additional effort. In contrast, search robots can easily crawl HTML5 code and index it in search results. Adobe has released a conversion tool that turns Flash code into HTML5 code, and Google has released a similar tool with experimental support.

Still, it’s better to write new Web media content with HTML5 rather than Adobe Flash, so that users don’t have to install a plugin. Another benefit of HTML5 over Flash is that the content is much more likely to be backward-compatible with new versions of HTML many years in the future, whereas Flash content will probably eventually become obsolete. For 3-D programming, additional libraries are needed, such as WebGL, the OpenGL implementation for the Web. With HTML5, JavaScript and WebGL, virtually any 2-D or 3-D animation or game programming is possible, as long as it’s lightweight enough to run on a server.

Related Resource: IT Jobs in Web Design

Web programming is one of the fastest-growing industries, and as more devices are able to connect to the Internet, it’s only going to grow faster. If you’re interested in creating interactive Web content, you probably shouldn’t use ActionScript in Web design, but it’s still a good idea to know what it is.