I am interested in learning how to write Flash programs, but I'm not ready to shell out the big bucks for Flash CS3 Professional. What's the best compromise between affordability and education?

Edit: @sparkes: Given that this is for personal education only, and not something I'm likely to use for professional purposes anytime soon, I'm very unlikely to spend the $400 on the full version of CS3.

I'll clarify my question: What is the best alternative to CS3 for developing Flash applications?

+8  A: 

What type of Flash programs are you looking to write?

If you are planning to write applications that use a lot of controls like text boxes, lists, menus etc, I would recommend learning Flex (which runs in Flash Player 9+) (http://www.flex.org or http://www.adobe.com/go/flex).

Flex is open source so you can actually build Flex applications without having to pay for anything. However the purchase of Flex Builder from Adobe will most likely save you a lot of development time.

Flex Builder 3 Pro is also available free for educational use. (http://www.onflex.org/ted/2008/03/free-adobe-flex-builder-3-pro-for.php)

Here are a few Flex Application examples:





Does the Flash Trial version not last long enough (30 days) for you to evaluate if Flash is the right choice for you?

@Bill, no probs, reading between the lines isn't my strong point sorry for any confusion :)

+8  A: 

The Flex compiler is actually free, it compiles both MXML (the "language" flex applications are written in) and Actionscript 3. You can run it from the command line if you so please, but I really recommend using an IDE like the excellent Flash Develop. This method may be a bit daunting for people that never used a command line compiler before, but if you have, it should be pretty straightforward.

Also this isn't exactly ideal for making animations, graphics and such, then you're better of with Flash CS3. But for plain coding this is way better, AND free.

The sdk also provides ant tasks, so you can use ant to build your applications without an IDE.
I started using Flash Develop a couple months back and it's great; I've yet to set up my build process but FD does such a great job at getting you started all you'll want to do is learn as3!AS3 is so capable (never tried as2 but it just looked ugly) that you can forget drawing things by hand and do everything procedurally - you'll have a lot more control and you can animate your characters a lot easier, I tend to build things up using sprites and use offsets and rotations to pull it all together. FD is definately a good place to start! :-p
+2  A: 

You can try the OpenLaszlo Project. Though you have to learn their LZX programming to build your flash app.

+2  A: 

Assuming your using Flash as an interface rather than a video/animation player, I would suggest Adobe's Flex in a Week tutorials. They only have 3 days so far, but it's a great way to learn, especially if you have a programming background. The run through a flash video player for lessons, then there is an exercise to implement the features in a growing program you create.

as grapefrukt said, Once you've gotten your feet wet in flex, you may want to explore the open source side, since you're looking for inexpensive solutions.

+2  A: 

What is the best alternative to CS3 for developing flash applications?

Another compiler for ActionScript 3 exists(haXe), and for ActionScript 2. You'll need to combine compiled ActionScript resources into an SWF file using SWFMill. This system has the advantage over the Adobe Flex compiler of being easily redistributable - you can make an application that compiles its own Flash applications, for instance.

Otherwise, the best alternative to Flash CS3 (actually, now Flash CS4) is simply a previous version of Flash - the old Macromedia license agreement actually allowed you to resell your copy of Flash, all perfectly legitimately. This often comes as a surprise to those used to the Microsoft model of software licensing. You can find older versions of Flash on eBay and Amazon. They do still tend to attract quite high prices, though, as they can still be used as an upgrade route for the latest version.

David Hicks

I have a friend who volunteered at a science festival where they needed her to demonstrate "how control sequences can be used to make flexible animations" aka "Sweet! You poke his nose and he stops juggling!", and provided the tools with which to do so. One "free" copy of CS3 comin' up.

So consider getting involved with organisations like science museums that have much bigger worries than a $400 licence. Also, you'll help protect your country's valuable tech industry by raising the next generation of geeks.

+2  A: 

You can always try Flash Kit, which has been around a long time.

Looks like a lot of useful material, thanks for the link!