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Designing the Perfect Flash Detection Experience

Designing the Perfect Flash Detection Experience

Using the detection script discussed earlier, you will now be able to make sure that users have the correct player to view your content. If users do not have a version of Flash Player adequate to view your content, or they have browser scripting disabled, you will now have much greater control over the experience of upgrading users to the latest player.
In the past the installation of the player differed between browsers and platforms, but now Macromedia has made a seamless process for developers to upgrade users. This new method is called Flash Player Express Install. Express Install is available for users who already have Flash Player 6.0r65 and above. This new installation process prompts users to upgrade to Flash Player 8 if they do not have it already and, when installation is complete, returns the user back to the page that started the process. If you really want your users to see the latest Flash 8 features in your Flash content, this is a great new way to upgrade them without a lot of pain.

Macromedia has enabled the new Flash Player Express Install mechanism with the release of Flash Player 8. This mechanism means that by sticking another small bit of HTML into your page, you can use the player itself to prompt the user to upgrade (see Figure 1) and automatically return the user to your page upon successful completion of the installation. If the user chooses not to upgrade through the inline prompt, an event is fired that you can use to display alternate content. If you want to implement Flash Player Express Install, the full details and sample files are contained in the Flash Player Detection Kit.

Flash Player prompting an upgrade through the new Flash Product Install process.

Figure 1. Flash Player prompting an upgrade through the new Flash Player Express Install process.

So how can you implement the perfect Flash detection experience? Here’s a quick synopsis, which combines the Flash 8 detection script and Flash Player Express Install.

  1. In your HTML page, detect the player version required for your page by implementing Flash 8 detection script, as described previously.
  2. Implement Flash Player Express Install, using the Flash Player Detection Kit and the tutorial in the next section.

    If version 6.0r65 or higher is found, but the player version is still not high enough for your content, the Flash Player Express Install will prompt the user to upgrade. If the user upgrades, the plug-in installs, the browser restarts, and the user is returned to your page automatically.

  3. If the user chooses not to upgrade, capture the event (with a bit of ActionScript, detailed in the next section), and either display alternate Flash content, redirect the user to another page (through a getURL() call), or perform an inline replacement of your Flash content through JavaScript. Either way, the user’s experience continues seamlessly, and you earn yourself another happy customer.

For instructions on how to see each of the approaches described above in action, refer to the Readme.txt file included with the sample files you downloaded at the beginning of this article. Several versions of the same HTML page are included in the download, each of which uses a different Flash detection approach. To see the Flash 8 script solution in action on a real website, visit (used for the sample page in the Captivate demo), which also includes examples of the new Flash Player 8 text rendering and drop shadow filters included with the Flash 8 authoring tool.

Finally, tell every web developer you know about this article. The sooner Flash Player Express Install becomes standard, the sooner we can stop frustrating users and start handling Flash experiences in an effective manner and improving user experiences on the web.