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Macromedia Director

Interactive animation and authoring tool. Director began life as an animation program on the Macintosh called VideoWorks. A scripting language called Lingo was then added to the product and the name changed to Director. The program rapidly became the tool for creating interactive presentations, demos, educational programs and CD-ROMs. With the release of Director 4, Macromedia released a Windows version which made it much easier to create cross-platform titles (though there is still some work required when creating a title that performs well on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms.)
Director movies can be turned into self-contained executable applications called Projectors. These can be distributed to others without them having to have a copy of Director. If you want to create a version that runs on both Macintosh and Windows computers then you must have a copy of both versions of Director (Mac and PC.)
Macromedia has continued to improve the program, and have released ShockWave, a browser plug-in that plays Director movies that have been saved in the Shockwave format.
Because of it's animation history, it can seem awkward to learn and use for new users. Also, Director files are called "movies" which can cause confusion when talking about a Director project which plays QuickTime movies! (This is a hang over from the programs history.)

Pros: Cross-platform, flexible, extensible and widely used. There's also several third party Xtras available which extend the program.

Cons: Can be difficult to learn, and because it's not really object oriented, reusing parts of a Director file in another file can be difficult. It's expensive (and expensive to upgrade.)

Lingo is the scripting language that is used in Director. It is a fairly simple language to learn; the most difficult part is learning how the language interacts with the different elements of Director movie.
The following code fragment is executed when a user clicks on an graphic on the screen. The script hides the graphics for 1/4 second, then jumps the movie to another frame.

on mouseDown
put the clickon into me
put the memberNum of sprite(me) into myNum
put the name of member (myNum) into theframe
set the visible of sprite me to false
put the ticks into x
put x + 15 into x
repeat while the ticks < x
end repeat
set the visible of sprite me to true
go to movie theframe


Director can be extended using external programs calling Xtras. These are like plug-ins, and must be placed in the xtras directory. Xtras make it easy to add functionality to Director (Macromedia used Xtras to add support for QuickTime 3.0 and the Save As Jave feature for example) however it also means that when you create a Projector or a Shockwave file, that functionality won't be available unless you also distribute the Xtra. Several third-party companies offer Xtras for everything from database functions to advanced graphics utilities.
The same architecture is used for expanding other Macromedia tools such as Authorware, and some Xtras can be used with more than one tool, though this is not always the case.

An earlier method for expanding Director functionality. This also involved files that acted as plug-ins to Director, but has been replaced by Xtras.


Product Info

Macromedia website
General product info

Third Party Add-ons

Multimixer Xtra 1.5 May 28, 1998
Multimixer Xtra 1.5 is a scripting Xtra that can mix and pan multiple audio tracks of any QuickTime file. This release is cross-platform, and support has been added for the Access Key functionality of QuickTime 3 which can encode a password into QuickTime media that prevents access without the password. Other features include:

  • Independently set the volume and balance of any audio track
  • Enable and disable any media track
  • Register Quicktime Access Keys

Windows users must have QuickTime 3 installed; Macintosh users must have at least QuickTime 2.1The Xtra costs $300.
More information and a fully functional demo are available (
Multimixer info page at Turntable Media)

XtrAgent Xtra May 18, 1998
DirectXtras has posted a beta of XtrAgent, an Asset Xtra for Macromedia Director which enables the use of Microsoft's "Agent" technology in Director applications.
XtrAgent adds a new type of cast member - Agent - an interactive animated character that can be drawn on top of all other sprites and windows and even outside of the stage area. It can talk using a built-in Text-To-Speech engine, and understand voice using a speech recognition engine.
XtrAgent is for Windows 95 & NT only. DirectXtras also offers a cross-platform Text-To-Speech Xtra called 'Xpress'.
The final version will be available on the first of June at a list price of $399. Until then pre-orders receive a discounted price of $299.
Information about Microsoft Agent technology can be found at Microsoft's web site.

PhotoCaster 1.2 is a Director Xtra that creates cast members from Photoshop layers. It costs $199 On-line; $249 Packaged.
A demo version is available (the demo version draws a line across the imported graphics.)

Red Eye Softwares Xtras are distributed by updateStage:
Popup Xtra - Displays native system hierarchical popup menus with fully-customizable properties
Audio Xtra - Records and plays sound, and includes the ability to graphically represent a sound's waveform.
Dialogs Xtra - Displays native system Open and Save file dialogs for applications that must access or store data.
InstalledFonts Xtra - Assesses the system's installed fonts.

V12-DBE 2.1 is a database engine for Director which features:

  • data can now be imported from Dbase V or earlier and FoxPro 5.0 or earlier files
  • Virtual CR property enables the direct importing of text files that contain Carriage Returns as part of their data

Developers can now create database-driven user interfaces without writing Lingo script. V12-DBE can be implemented into a project by dragging and dropping behaviors. Behaviors are special cast members designed to help users having limited or no knowledge of Lingo, to implement the most popular functions of V12-DBE.

New users can purchase the cross-platform version of V12-DBE 2.1 for $469.00(US) and the single platform version for $349.00(US). The V12-DBE Director/Authorware cross-platform bundle is offered at $699.00(US).

A free evaluation copy of V12-DBE 2.1 with complete documentation is available for free at their website

Composite Xtra lets you allocate an image buffer in memory with a specified DPI resolution, and composite text, scaled images (from external graphics files), and graphics primitives (lines, rectangles, and ovals) in that image buffer. You can also render text on a curve, or rotate text by 90-degree increments. Then you can save the image buffer as a bitmap castmember or as a PICT or BMP file.

You can download a free trial version, which is identical to the retail version except that it renders a red 'X' through images before saving.

DirectEmail 1.5 Xtra is a Scripting Xtra for Macromedia Director and Authorware that lets you compose and send e-mails, with attachments, from within Director, Authorware and Shockwave applications. A fully functional trial version of DirectEmail Xtra 1.5 (9X/NT and MacOS PPC)can be downloaded from their website.

Tips & Help

Update Stage
A website maintained by Gretchen Macdowall which specializes in tips, tricks and reporting bugs and problems. Also sells a range of third party Xtras.


last updated: 11/25/98

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