As a Flash developer, I'm always interested in products that can help me to extend my Flash applications with extra functionality. I've lost count of the number of times I've wished that Flash could manipulate files and folders within the file system or do something simple like checking whether a network connection is present.

Enter MDM Zinc 2.5! This product creates Projector files, Screen Savers and Installers from SWF files. However, it also extends the functionality of Projector files using its own scripting language, {mdm} Script, which works with both PCs and Macs. Zinc 2.5 includes over 800 commands that you can use to add a range of functions to your SWF files.

For developers who've used earlier versions of Zinc, the new version is compatible with Flash 8 and includes a major rewrite of its scripting engine. Zinc 2.5 provides both synchronous and asynchronous scripting, and is native on both Windows and Macintosh computers. You can find out more about this product at the developer's web site - http://www.multidmedia.com/.

The workflow for using Zinc 2.5 in projects is very simple:
  1. Create a file capable of generating a SWF using software such as Flash, Swish or LiveMotion. (I prefer to use Flash so I'll refer to that throughout this review.)
  2. Add {mdm} Script commands to the file
  3. Publish a SWF file
  4. Open the generated SWF file in Zinc 2.5
  5. Choose the appropriate settings and build the Projector
At first, it seems a little cumbersome to have to work in two different software packages but I found that this slight inconvenience is a small price to pay for the extra features available to my Flash files. Luckily, you can save the Zinc settings as a project so you don't have to re-enter them the next time you create the same Projector or Screen Saver.

I have seen Zinc in action several times but haven't had the chance to explore its features in detail. What a mistake on my part! After digging through the {mdm} Script API, I was very impressed with the range of features available. I found {mdm} Script to be very similar in construction to ActionScript and it's probably even easier to learn. This release seems to be a great improvement on the scripting required in earlier versions of Zinc.

Many people focus on Zinc's ability to control the appearance and other settings within a Projector file. While these features are powerful compared with the publishing capabilities in Flash, my interest lay in the additional features that Zinc could provide to Flash applications. As a developer, I was delighted to find the following features available:
  • working with the Clipboard,
  • creating and controlling web browser and Adobe Reader instances,
  • connecting to databases and executing SQL statements WITHOUT the need for a server-side file,
  • manipulating FileSystem folders and files,
  • communicating using HTTP and FTP, and
  • converting image formats.
There have been many occasions where I've needed access to functions in my Flash applications.

One of the great selling points of Zinc 2.5 is its ability to create extensions from existing DLL files. Once you've registered the DLL, you can access the range of included DLL functions. All you need to do is set the parameters and Zinc will generate the appropriate code for inclusion in your Flash file. If you need specific functionality for your Flash files, you can write a custom DLL and hook it up with Zinc 2.5. This gives you to ability to extend your Projector files in just about any direction.