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InDesign is a great page layout tool and it's great that it lets you make buttons, and hyperlinks, and things, but that's just not nearly enough control when you are building really rich interactive documents. For that, Adobe says you should use Flash and the good news is that you can export your InDesign in a format that Flash can understand, it's called XFL. I will go the File menu and choose Export. Tell InDesign where I want to put it and choose Adobe Flash CS4 Pro XFL from the Format menu. When I save it, InDesign asks me some questions. Do you want to scale it? Sure, let's scale it down to 640x480, or you could any of these other presets, or just dial in a specific Height and Width if you have them. How many pages do you want to take out of this? It's a three page document. I am just going to take all three of them. If this were a facing pages document, it could merge those facing pages, the left hand and the right hand page, into a single spread. I am going to turn that off though. It doesn't really matter because this is a single sided document. Rasterize Pages will turn each page into a giant bitmap. I am not entirely sure why you would want to do that XFL. There might be some good reason for it, but in this case I will leave that turned off because I want each of those to be interactive and editable object in Flash.
Transparency is an interesting problem when it comes to InDesign and Flash because there is all kinds of transparency effects that you can do in InDesign that just cannot be reproduced in Flash. Flash doesn't have those features. So, what do you want have happen to transparency? For example, this logo in the background, that graphic there, has some interesting blending mode assigned to it. I am pretty sure that's not going to come across in Flash. So I have an option, I can flatten the transparency. In other words, it fakes the transparency effect by making lots and lots of little tiny new objects that look like they are transparent, but they are not really transparent or I could leave it alone and let that the Flash Developer handle that downstream. The choice of which to use really depends on, what's going to happen to those transparent objects? For example, if the Flash Developer was going to take this background graphic and have it fade in or something. Well, then I would not want to flatten it, I would want it to be an actual true editable object like a single object in the XFL file, but if it's just going to be sitting in the background, then flattening up might not be such a big deal.
Just as we saw with the SWF export, we have a choice of what's going to happen with text. Is it going to be converted to Flash Text or are we going to Rasterize it or just turn it into Vector Paths, in other words, convert everything to outlines. In most cases, I am going to leave it set to Flash Text because I want that text to be editable in Flash. When I click OK, InDesign gives me a Warning that the transparency attributes may not be preserved. So I need to be careful about what's going to happen here to that stuff. Basically is that, it's just an alert sign, watch out for those transparent effects.
I will click OK and it writes the XFL file to disk. Now I will switch over to Flash and open that XFL file. There it is up on my Desktop, I click Open. Flash starts opening the XFL file. The XFL file format is actually like a zipped up version of a whole folder full of lots of little files, the graphics, and all the objects, all the elements of the text, and so on and so the longer your document, the more objects there are in the document, the longer it takes to open it in Flash. There are a couple of things that you, the InDesign user, should know about how this file shows up in Flash? First of all, we can see that the graphics back here, because I did not flatten the transparency, came in very different than they are in InDesign. So once again, you or the Flash Developer needs to be aware that there could be issues for transparency.
Second, notice that each page showed up as a separate frame in the TIMELINE. There is page two, there is page three, each one of these is a separate frame. Next, even though we specify things like page transitions, and hyperlinks, movies, and all kinds of stuff, that stuff does not get quick into the XFL file. So Adobe is assuming that all your interactivity is going to be created in Flash, not InDesign. It basically strips all that out. Those features that we have talked about in the interactive chapter are all for SWF files, exporting SWF right out of InDesign, or for interactive PDF files, they are not for XFL files.
Now I will select the Selection tool and double click on this object and you can see we are going inside this page. It's basically a giant movie clip and inside page 3, there is lots of different objects. For example, here is this one object that we can move and change inside Flash. Now I am not going to pretend that I know much about Flash. This is not my strong point. At this point, what I will do with XFL is hand it off to a developer who knows Flash, who knows ActionScript, and they can take it and run with it.
If you want to learn more about Flash, I would definitely recommend you check out the Flash Essentials Training title here at lynda.com Online Training Library, but for now, we are just going to leave this alone. I would say one more thing about this Flash file, however, and that is, if you have a multi-page InDesign document and each one of these pages shows up on a different frame, you are definitely going to need to know ActionScript in order to create navigation links and all kinds of stuff. You are going to need to know a bunch about Flash to do that. On other hand, if you just had a single page InDesign document that you have exported as XFL and opened in Flash, well, then you probably don't need too much. You probably don't even need to know ActionScript to add some interactivity, especially because of Flash CS4's Motion Presets features.
Anyway, I am still hoping that in CS5, Adobe will give us more Flash-like features right inside of InDesign so that I can do more of this myself before I export to SWF, but in the meantime, go find a good ActionScript developer to partner with and you will be making amazing interactive files based on you InDesign layouts in no time.
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