Create Flash animations for free with Synfig Studio

Create animations with this capable, comprehensive freeware studio.

The last time we reviewed Synfig Studio, we were deeply impressed by this powerful freeware animation suite but more than a little daunted by the installation and setup process (make that processes). Synfig Studio is still totally free, but now it's also totally easy to install and easier than ever to use. Of course, creating digital animations is not exactly the same thing as applying the red-eye filter in your image editor; it's still a detailed process that involves a lot of steps. But Synfig offers tons of help, tutorials, examples, and extras, making it as easy or easier to use than other Flash animation tools, and it's fun to see your animations come to life.

Synfig Studio's user interface consists of three floating windows: the Toolbox, which serves as the main window and control panel; the Canvas, or working surface, which can be more than one instance; and Panels, which centralize access to a variety of project tools and information. Panels can be opened, closed, ragged around, and changed in various ways. The Toolbox looks like a cross between a calculator pad and a tool palette, with a variety of icons for accessing system features and tools. We started with the wiki-style Help file, though we could also view tutorials and a Reference page and access Web-based resources. The Canvas page opens with a default Root Canvas, "Synfig Animation 1," but its toolbar suggested doing various things to ducks, so we quickly retreated to the comfort of the Help file and tutorials. We got our feet wet in the Help file by clicking the heading labeled "Diving In." It turns out "ducks" aren't waterfowl at all but instead are simple means of controlling a parameter, such as the radius or diameter of a circle.

There's something to be said for the fact that Synfig Studio exists at all: you can download, for free, a full-featured animation creation studio that can create digital animations surpassing anything Hollywood could do not so long ago. Anyone who has used a video editor or similar tools should be able to learn the basics of this capable suite, with some time and effort, not to mention a little animation and some fun.

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