Free technical help for digital creators - music, video, art, photography, graphic & web design

Director & Flash by Matt Ottewill 2003

For those new to multimedia authoring, the differences between Director and Flash can seem subtle, making it difficult to decide which is the best to learn. Both applications are effective authoring environments and each has its advocates, but because they require a substantial investment in time and effort to get the most out of them, it is usual for a developer to learn one or the other and not both. This page explains the differences and gives some advice on which to choose.


You should consider very carefully before using Director for web design, few end-users have the required plug-in installed (Shockwave player) and Director is no longer a popular choice for developers. At present (2010) we are expecting Adobe to discontinue it. It is still used for CD-ROM development but we would recommend web sites as a better interface solution.

Flash is still popular but many are predicting its demise as HTML 5 and alternative solutions are introduced.


Put simply, Director is a program for making programs. Whilst not as flexible and powerful as an application development language like C+, Java or Pascal, Director has been embraced by "non-programmers" and creatives. Director includes a powerful and mature scripting (programming) language called "Lingo" which uses many common word english phrases and is more user friendly than C+, Java or Pascal.

Director can create a wide range of interactive media rich applications such as ...

  • Games
  • CDROM's
  • Learning/teaching programs
  • Kiosks
  • Utilities
  • Media controllers
  • etc

There are many examples on this website.

Projectors and Shockwave

Director projects can be published in 2 formats ...

1. Self standing applications (so called "Projectors"). A Director projector appears as an application/program on the Mac and the PC (where it is an .exe executable file).

2. Shockwave format content for website's. A Director project can be published in Shockwave format and viewed in a web browser. Shockwave compresses images and audio and other media to make file sizes as small as possible, but not as small a Flash projects.

Director pros and cons

Pros ...

  • Mature and immensely powerful
  • Can make self-standing applications
  • Can be used to make project structures of linked elements called movies (similar to web pages)
  • Great web and Flash integration
  • Many, many tools and features
  • 3D features
  • Powerful scripting language for sophisticated interaction (Lingo and JavaScript)
  • Cross platform publishing (Shockwave, Mac & PC)
  • Pixel based imaging
  • Terrific video and audio control
  • Easy to understand interface metaphors (stage, cast, score etc)
  • Industry standard application for creating CDROM's and Enhanced music CDs

Cons ...

  • Steep learning curve
  • Director skills are not so in-demand in the commercial world as Flash skills
  • Video cannot be embedded, only linked in QuickTime format.
  • Shockwave file sizes are larger than Flash
  • Not suitable for creating complete website's
  • Although Director can control DVD video it cannot be used to author a DVD Video disc interface.
  • The Shockwave browser plug-in (which permits Shockwave to be viewed) is often not pre-installed on Macs & Pcs


Flash was originally developed as a way to create interactive web sites and content for web sites with smaller file sizes than Director/Shockwave. It has grown into a powerful program, much loved by a generation of designers too young to have been around when Director was the only option.

Flash imaging and animation is based on Vectors rather than Pixels. Therefore, it is possible to create interactive rich website's with small file sizes and faster download times than Shockwave content.

Flash creates so called .swf files ("swift") which are not self standing applications and require a browser plug-in or the Flash Player utility to run. Flash has been embraced by a generation of internet designers as a way of creating interactive rich web sites.

Projectors and .SWF files

Flash projects can be published in 2 formats ...

  1. Self standing applications (so called "Projectors"). A Flash projector contains a Flash project and the Flash Player code.
  2. .swf format content for website's. A Flash project can be published in .swf format and viewed either with the stand alone Flash player utility or with the Flash plug-in in a web browser. .swf compresses images and audio and other media to make file sizes as small as possible.

Flash pros and cons

Pros ...

  • Basic skills are easier to learn than Director.
  • The Flash browser plug-in (which permits Flash to be viewed) is pre-installed on all new Macs & PCs
  • Is more suitable for creating entire interactive website's than Director/Shockwave because file sizes are smaller and the Flash plug-in is more widely installed.
  • Video can be embedded in a Flash file, or linked to it and streamed.
  • Vector based imaging format means smaller file sizes than Shockwave
  • Scripting language "Action Scripts" is growing and becoming more powerful
  • Superb animation features
  • Flash skills (particularly Action Scripting) are more in-demand in the commercial world than Director (Lingo) skills

Cons ...

  • Not supported on iOS (iPods, iPad, iPhone) devices
  • The commercial world and surfers are tiring of Flash animated website's. The world is moving towards content driven sites delivered quickly in HTML or a CMS.
  • No immersive 3D features
  • A Flash website must download in its entirety before it can be viewed
  • Non-standard and proprietary terminology and concepts (primitive, symbols, targets???)

Which should I learn?

Consider the following ...

  • Do you know someone who can help you learn either platform and offer technical support?
  • Do you already know how to use one of the programs, you may not need to learn the other.
  • Do you want to get a job at a design company (Flash skills are more in-demand).
  • Is website development your main activity (Flash has the advantage)
  • Do you need to the advanced scripting and 3D features of Director.
  • Do you need compatibility on mobile devices?
  • As broadband take-up increases, Flash's file-size advantage is diminishing