Web Design & Development Guide
Macromedia (Adobe Systems)
|Type of format:
Vector graphic image
SWF is a
proprietary vector graphics file format produced by the
Adobe (formerly Macromedia). Intended to be small enough for publication on the
web, SWF files can contain animations or applets of
varying degrees of interactivity and function. SWF is also sometimes used for
creating animated display graphics and menus for DVD movies, and television
The Flash program produces SWF files as a compressed and uneditable final
product, whereas it uses the .fla format for its editable working files.
The name is a
of sorts, standing for Small Web Format and Shockwave Flash.
According to Adobe, SWF is pronounced "S W F" (with each letter being
pronounced individually), but some people prefer to pronounce it as "swiff"
or "swaif". A file of this format is called a Shockwave Flash Object. SWF is
currently the dominant format for displaying animated vector graphics on the
web, far exceeding the W3C open standard SVG, which has met with problems over competing implementations.
Originally limited to presenting vector based objects and images in a simple
sequential manner, the newer versions of the format allow audio, video and many
different possible forms of interaction with the end user. Once created, SWF
files can be played by the
Adobe Flash Player, working either as a browser plugin or as a standalone
player. SWF files can also be encapsulated with the player, creating a
self-running SWF movie called a "projector".
The file format was first created by a small company called
FutureWave which was later acquired by Macromedia and had one main goal:
create small files for displaying entertaining animations. The idea was to have
a format which could be reused by a player running on any system and which would
work with slower network (such as a browser used with a modem).
Plugins to play SWF files in web browsers are available from Adobe for most
desktop operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux on
the x86 architecture. Adobe claims that over 97% of web users now have an SWF
plugin installed , based on an independent study conducted by NPD Research.
Sony PlayStation Portable consoles can play limited SWF files in its web browser
but this can only be found on the firmwares 2.71 and up. Nintendo's Wii console
can run SWF files through its Opera browser.
A free software implementation of a SWF player is gnash, which as of 2007 is undergoing intensive development.
Although a full specification of SWF is available, it is not an
open format, as implementing software that plays the format is disallowed by the
specification's license. Reverse engineering is therefore the only legal way to compete with the
official SWF player. Implementing software which creates SWF files is
permitted, on the condition that the resulting files
free in the latest publicly available version of Adobe Flash Player."
free software SWF player gnash is being
developed by GNU
GNU General Public License (GPL).
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