Our editors say:
Macromedia Flash lets you combine vector graphics with bitmaps, audio, animation, and interactive elements to create multimedia content for the Web. It also boasts extensive scripting capabilities, and is tightly integrated with other Macromedia products such as Dreamweaver and Generator. You can use Flash to create anything from cartoons to Web-based applications, and the widespread popularity of the Flash Player means few will be barred from viewing your creations. Advanced optimization features let you deliver rich media without sacrificing speed or reliability.
As with most Macromedia products, Flash combines powerful tools with a highly efficient, intuitive user interface. There are large palettes of vector shapes and drawing tools to tinker with, and it is relatively easy to set up simple animations with sound and interactive features. Flashs scripting capabilities may seem less accessible to new users, but they are not as complicated (or as extensive) as those found in Macromedia Director.
Easy to learn but difficult to master, Flash is easily the best program in its class, and indeed many competing Web animation apps use Flash technology themselves. The price tag is a bit steep for casual users, but if you work professionally with Web animation, this program is a must-have.
Note: This trial version times out 30 days from download. The full version is $399, and the upgrade for previous owners of Flash 4.0 is $149.