Making Your Content Accessible
Many developers, especially those involved in government or education, need to make their multimedia content accessible under Section 508 (or other accessibility laws) for users with various disabilities including those who have trouble with seeing or hearing, or have mobility issues. Director MX includes a new Accessibility library containing various accessibility behaviors. You can drag and drop a behavior from the library onto the Stage, or if you prefer more control, you can use new Lingo commands to code the accessibility behavior yourself.
Director MX provides built-in accessibility, meaning that you won't need a third-party program to implement your accessibility features. This gives you more control over the accessibility behavior and makes it easier to implement. For example, when you design your accessibility option, you can control tab order from a drop-down list in the Parameters for the "Accessibility Group Order" dialog box, a feature not commonly available in third-party screen reader programs.
Each accessibility command in the library contains help text in a pop-up box that explains how to use it. While this pop-up provides quick access to the information you need to implement an accessibility behavior, the text is too lengthy for a pop-up box. It's an awkward implementation of on-screen help, especially for a company with the resources of Macromedia.
Better Lingo Tools
The Director MX scripting language, Lingo, has been greatly improved in Director MX, giving developers access to better debugging tools and a more streamlined design. Thus, it's easier than in previous versions for users to access commands and find problems. When Director encounters a script error, the Script Error dialog box appears. Clicking the Debug button opens the Debugging window. Among the new features in the debugger are line numbers and color coding of recently altered variables—hardly ground-breaking changes, but welcomed ones nonetheless.
Once you complete the debugging process, you can return to the script with a click of a button in the Debugging window toolbar. The Script window includes two new tools to make it easier to find the correct Lingo command. One tool lists the commands alphabetically and the other organizes them by category. If you ever spent time poring over the Lingo dictionary trying to find the right command, the addition of these two tools should please you and should make adding commands a much faster process.
Macromedia has also added a powerful new feature that detects any Xtras you are using, and lists any Lingo commands associated with the Xtras in your individual project in the Script toolbar. This makes adding Xtra-specific Lingo commands a snap and saves lots of time spent trying to find the correct commands.
To MX or Not to MX, That is the Question
Given that this is the first major upgrade to Director in some time, you might expect a bit more than the MX overhaul and a few new features. I can't help feeling that they should have done more for a major release. When all is said and done, you need to look at your own organization and decide if the upgrade is worth it to you. If you are in the market for a multimedia development tool, or if you have already upgraded to other Macromedia MX products, you should go with Director MX because it certainly contains enough ease-of-use features to justify the upgrade (or a new purchase), especially its smooth integration with Flash MX and (to a lesser extent) Fireworks MX. But if you're comfortable with your older version of Director, you may justifiably wonder if it wouldn't be better to just stand pat.