Open Letter to Macromedia
This is a copy of a letter I sent to Macromedia this morning. Their incompetence in terms of software design and apathetic attitude towards their loyal user base is unacceptable to me.
To whom it may concern:
Ordinarily, I am not an outspoken person. Few things irritate me to the point of actually taking action against any one person, any one company or any one cause. Call me apathetic, but I feel like there are precious few things on the planet that require me to voice my opinion. So it is no small accomplishment that your lack of forethought, basic understanding of functionality and, what would appear to be, an equally apathetic approach taken towards the stability of both Flash 4 and now Flash 5 has enraged me to the point of writing you this email.
First, let me say that I am NOT a 14 year old kid who has downloaded your software from a warez site and drools in amazement over the latest Mr. Wong episode on Icebox wondering, "How did they do that in Flash?". I am a professional full time Flash artist / programmer for one of the largest internet companies on the planet and, as such, I have designed games, applications, and entire web sites using your aforementioned "software" that are seen by literally thousands of users a day. Could you care any less? Probably not.. Based on the generic, automatic responses I receive each and every time I email your company with problems I am having with your software and your lackadaisical attitude towards fixing any bugs or interface problems with updates, I can’t imagine that your users and customers mean anything to you. Regardless of this fact, I am going to send you this laundry list of complaints about Flash 4 and Flash 5 that I have put together. Perhaps someday, when your stock officially hits rock bottom, you will realize that a company depends upon a strong and loyal customer foundation.
In general, if you are going to force an industry to conform to your way of thinking by imposing specific methods, procedures and functionality on them – defining the way in which they think and work by creating a piece of software that functions like Flash (which was apparently designed in complete defiance of already strong and existing standards in the industry), you should adhere closely to what you’ve defined as a "new standard" when you update the software. Apparently, this concept must have slipped your mind as Flash 5 is not so much an upgrade from Flash 4, as it is a completely different application. Forget the changes/innovations you’ve implemented in terms of the action scripting in Flash 5 for a moment and think about all the hot key shortcuts you’ve changed for no rational reason – especially the ones you CANNOT assign in the preferences. Think about all of the bugs, quirks and poor functionality of Flash 4 that you didn’t fix with this "update". Think about the entirely "new interface" that you so proudly touted at the Flash 5 demo at our company so many months ago and how completely unintuitive, dysfunctional, and counterproductive it is. And MOST OF ALL, take this moment to ponder the entirely new set of bugs in Flash 5 and the functionality that previously worked in Flash 4 and now appears to be completely broken and ask yourself.. "Can this HONESTLY be called an upgrade? A step in a forward direction?". Think about that as you read the following list of bugs and poor functionality we have found, so far, in Flash 5.
1. REVERSE FRAMES. It’s always nice when you offer up functionality, to have it actually work. This little gem would be an extremely useful piece of functionality to have at your disposal. Unfortunately, it never worked properly in Flash 4 and continues to amaze us with it’s aversion to logic in Flash 5. In addition, after you run the "reverse frames" feature on any given frames and realize that it has produced an undesirable result, you click undo only to realize that Flash has somehow corrupted the frames in that area so that simple things like tweens now don’t appear to work. You must now clear the area and start over from scratch.
2. HOT KEY STICKING. Without any rhyme or reason, the hotkeys in both Flash 4 and Flash 5 lock up to the point where none of them will work until you change tools from the tool palette manually with the mouse. This seems to "wake them up". It would’ve been nice to see this fixed with Flash 5.
3. COLOR PICKER. This is by far the single greatest travesty you have brought to the table with Flash 5. Let’s start with the basics. With the new color picker you have added an extra step whenever the user creates a color. Each and every time I create a color using your horrid interface, I must click an OK dialog in order to use it. In Flash 4, I could simply create a color and use it instantly – often times quickly going back and forth between the graphics I was working on and colors I was creating on the fly. This is now, of course, impossible and is most definitely a step back in terms of a functionality and user productivity. For the life of me I cannot imagine a rational reason for this change. Then we come to your "brand new" way of changing a fill color within a symbol whereby if I have a fill area selected on the stage and I simply click a color in the swatches window, it will automatically change the selected area to that color. Besides being completely unintuitive functionally, you cannot undo this procedure by clicking undo. You must first deselect the affected fill area to undo.
4. MAKING A GRADIENT. Although this is related to the color picker and Flash 5’s poor implementation in terms of "pop up" tab windows, this process proved to be such a tedious ordeal for us that we decided it should have it’s own number. In order to make a simple gradient, the user now has to click through a MINIMUM of THREE separate windows instead of simply doing it all in one place as in Flash 4 – most of the time, however, this process will actually take FIVE clicks through separate windows. First you must brave the ordeal of creating a color in the already flawed COLOR PICKER. Then you must click OK.
CLICK NUMBER ONE - Then, instead of simply being able to add the swatch in the aptly named SWATCH window, or the COLOR PICKER window, you must click into the MIXER window and click "Add Swatch".
CLICK NUMBER TWO - But in order to make a gradient, you need two colors. Well I guess that means I must go back into the COLOR PICKER and repeat this process. Create a new color in the COLOR PICKER.
CLICK NUMBER THREE - Click into the MIXER window and click "Add Swatch".
CLICK NUMBER FOUR - Now the finale.. I must click into the FILL window, select linear gradient and select the two swatches I have just created.
CLICK NUMBER FIVE – How this is in any way an improvement over being able to do everything in ONE floating window in Flash 4 (and not even having to click "OK", mind you) I have NO idea.
5. CANNOT UNDO SWAPPING SYMBOLS / CLIPS / BUTTONS. Once you’ve swapped them, you cannot undo this procedure. This never worked in Flash 4 and continues not to work in Flash 5. It’s inconsistent for undo’s to work with certain actions and for it not to work with others – especially without warning.
6. THE ZOOM IN OF MYSTERY. We’ve encountered an inconsistent bug where when the user is zoomed in on a multilayered clip or symbol, the option to select layers to be "invisible" (clicking the eyeball icon shut on the left hand side) ceases to work. Even if you turn ALL of the layers to "invisible," they all still show up. Once this happens, any work you do with any tool (brush, line, text, etc.) will NOT show up on the screen. It’s as if all of the tools freeze. Once you zoom out, all of the changes and/or work you’ve done and/or the layers you’ve selected as invisible all appear or disappear – as if this wakes Flash back up. This is an annoying bug that we’ve only encountered in Flash 5.
7. EDIT MULTIPLE FRAMES. While this option seems to work most of the time, it is extremely difficult to select the frames you wish to edit when you have this option selected. SELECT ALL doesn’t work and, partly because of your poorly implemented "new" way of selecting frames, it is extremely difficult to accurately select which frames you want to edit and which you do not. This should be looked at more carefully.
8. ABUSE OF POP UP / TABBED WINDOWS. The general consensus across the board from EVERYONE here is that there are far too many popped up, tabbed windows that you are forcing the user to have open at once. In a feeble attempt to emulate the incredibly well implemented, intuitive, unintrusive navigation that Adobe has used over the years, you have obviously missed the mark. Simply emulating the look of their navigation does not make your software function like theirs. What you failed to realize is that it is the logic, the forethought and the interaction of and between their popup tabbed windows that makes Adobe’s software some of the most intuitive and efficient graphic based software on the planet – not simply the look.
9. SELECT ALL. In Flash 4, you could lock layers and prevent them from being selected. This was a useful feature that came in especially handy when a user needed to move certain graphics on specific layers while keeping the other layers untouched. Unfortunately, in Flash 5, even with layers locked, periodically hitting Select All will select even those locked layers that you DO NOT wish to move. It is unclear whether this is a bug, an oversight or a conscious change with regards to the selection tool. Whatever the case, it seems completely counterintuitive to the standard you have already set forth in Flash 4.
As far as two suggestions that we, as users, would like to see in future versions (besides a more stable version of the software, of course), I have these to offer.
DYNAMICALLY IMPORTING BITMAPS. In Director you can link to an "external bitmap" – allowing you the option of constantly updating the bitmap without having to change the original main Director movie that the bitmap is being used in. You cannot do this in Flash. This would be an extremely useful option. At this point, the only way to do it is to purchase Macromedia Generator (a clever but annoying marketing ploy) and have it dynamically create swf files. This seems like an excessive and tedious procedure for, what should be, a relatively easy task.
BETTER SOUND CONTROL. The ability to trigger the beginning and an end of a Fade In/Out or Pan based on keyframe points similar to tweening a visual object between two keyframes. Yes you can now achieve a similar effect with some of the new Action Scripting commands in Flash 5, but it seems that there must be a clearer way of doing this without the need to have an action script loop or to have many keyframes one after another turning down the volume incrementally.
Overall I think Macromedia, as a software designing company, has a lot to learn from competitors such as Adobe and customers such as myself. The next time you decide to upgrade or design software that is going to be used predominantly by artists and by "Flash Designers" (the job that was created based around your software in the first place), I suggest you actually test it on them and get their feedback. At this point, your software is substandard at best and hardly up to the expectations of your "loyal user" base. What you’ve essentially done is attempted to make leaps and bounds in terms of appeasing Flash engineers, meanwhile alienating a good deal of artists by taking tremendous steps backwards in terms of the functionality, power and efficiency of the art based tools. Since the majority of your Flash users are artists, I would think you would take greater care to design your software to fit their needs instead of forcing them to look elsewhere.
Based on my previous experiences with your support and feedback department, I realize that not only will my suggestions be completely ignored, but I will be subjected to more condescending automated responses from Macromedia instructing me to "Uninstall and Reinstall my Flash 5 plugin" or some other unrelated piece of advice. Therefore, I will proceed to forward my email to my supervisors, my colleagues in the field and post this letter on every forum I have access to. My hope is that someone who means more to you than your "valued" customers reads this and sets some or all of these changes into motion.
Thank you for your time.
An Irritated Flash User
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