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What is ActionScript's Flashy history? It may be for you....

ActionScript may not be a household name, but some of its associated products are. Who hasn’t heard of Flash?

ActionScript is an object oriented language used to create Flash multimedia. It is related to Java and JavaScript. Flash was developed by Macromedia and is now controlled by Adobe; the language, though, is open source. Adobe provides Flash Builder and Flash Professional for writing code, but notes that there are also third party text editors.

ActionScript is an object oriented language used to create Flash multimedia.

Some people associate the language with dancing web page intros, the sort that have gone out of fashion. Flash is still used for web design -- and can be put to very good use there -- but there are other purposes besides bling. Web advertisements, for example, are often flash-based.

Of course there's also game development. Flash is used to create games for both educational and entertainment purposes. Some Flash-based educational programs have gone mobile. ActionScript can also be used for more “adult” e-learning programs. Upside Learning has called Adobe Flash Professional the most popular tool for creating customized e-learning applications.

ActionScript is often used in conjunction with XML. It is possible to do an asynchronous XML/ ActionScript technique that resembles AJAX.

Flash is used to create games for both educational and entertainment purposes.

Another application of ActionScript: teaching computer science. Colorado State University's Stewart Crawford and Elizabeth Boese have called the language a "gentler approach" to learning programming. ActionScript is sometimes introduced in beginning computer classes because it's easier to wrap one's head around. Animations are also a good way to get students excited about programming. Ultimately, though, students are learning a language that has commercial application and that is related to industry-leading languages like Java and C++.

How valuable is ActionScript in a developer’s career? It is not a "hot" or "up and coming" languages, but it has a strong base. The TIOBE index placed it at 44 in October 2012.

History of ActionScript

Although the history of ActionScript is entwined with the history of Flash, ActionScript was not used in the early versions of Flash. It was introduced with Flash 5.

ActionScript continues to see improvements. Version 2 introduced a new layer, but was a comparatively minor revision. Class-based syntax was among the additions. Version 3 had major revisions which went along with a rewrite of the ActionScript Virtual Machine.

Adobe boasts that the new version makes it much easier to render visual objects in movies. Adobe continues to support the previous version but reports some technologies like Adobe AIR need the newer one.

TIOBE Community Popularity Index ranked ActionScript #44 in October 2012.

The modeling tool UML4AS – UML used to model and synchronize ActionScript, was released in late 2011.

Learning Action Script

Beginners and serious developers alike will find a resource in the ActionScript Technology Center, which is part of the Adobe Developer Connection.

There are plenty of other resources to help you learn the language: Flash Wonderland starts with the most basic concepts. offers educational videos. offers a number of tutorials organized in broad categories like basics/ animation, drawing and design, and game development.

If you are particularly interested in game development, you might check out the set of tutorials on Pelfusion. [You may also want to check out undergraduate programs in software engineering or computer science if you haven't already earned your bachelor's and game development is of interest.]

You'll also find some interesting articles on; some even focus on the business side of things. There are more than 400 tutorials, but they aren't arranged in order or in theme-based groupings. They are marked with basic descriptors like beginner or intermediate.

There are also some good books for learning the language. Adobe recommends Learning ActionScript 3.0 to beginners and offers three sample chapters through the Developer Connection. Their recommendation for more advanced users is Essential ActionScript 3.0 -- you can peruse sample chapters of that one as well.

Certificates and Certifications

Certificate programs are an option for those who are serious about the language and want a credential. There are some well-known schools offering them. Even the University of Washington offers a certificate in ActionScript and related Adobe products (Flex, Flash) through its continuing education program.

It’s also possible to earn Adobe certifications. One option is Adobe Certified Expert in Flash.

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