Review: Hype Animates the Web, No Flash Necessary
While the initial release of Hype is impressive, it’s far from a Flash replacement. Perhaps more disappointing is that animations created with Hype suffer some of the same drawbacks you’ll encounter when using Flash.
To create a more complete movie-like animation Hype uses scenes, which break up your content and allow you to create transitions. For example, to create a slideshow, just drag your images into Hype and then create a new scene for each image. Add some transitions and you’re on your way. (That’s not the only way to create a slideshow, but it’s one of the simplest.)
Hype doesn’t offer everything you’ll find in Flash. Most notably there is no concept of MovieClips — self-contained movies within movies. There’s also no equivalent to Flash’s customizable tweens and advanced filters for blending objects.
Hype does offers plenty of canned elements, like buttons, boxes, and text boxes, to speed up simple tasks like adding text and other elements to your animations. To add elements to your page you just head to the Insert menu, select what you want and then you can style it with the properties palette just like you would any other element in Hype.
Hype is simple enough to use that I was able to download a copy, watch the intro movie and five minutes later I generated the simple animation at the bottom of this post. Naturally to create something more interesting and useful will take you a bit longer, but it’s nothing compared to writing out the CSS and scripts by hand.
While Hype is primarily a visual editor, there are options to access properties like an element’s innerHTML and the Identity palette allows you to customize element IDs so you can target that element from other scripts. This is particularly handy if you want to create some custom CSS on top of what Hype generates.
Perhaps most disappointingly Hype doesn’t use the HTML5 History API. Because of the way Hype documents are embedded in a page, like Flash animations, Hype breaks the browser’s back button. What’s even more disappointing about Hype breaking the back button is that it’s not necessary. If Hype supported the History API, Hype documents could easily update the URL and not break one of the most fundamental elements of the web (see Mark Pilgrim’s excellent write up in the History API for more details on how to use it).
In some use cases that won’t matter, but if you’re thinking Hype would make a great slideshow creator, well, keep in mind that no one will ever be able to link to your individual photos without some extra effort on your part. Similarly, any transitions that happen in any Hype animation won’t be accessible via the back button.
Hype also makes some assumptions about your site structure when it generates HTML and JS. If you’ve got FTP access to your server then there’s nothing to worry about. But to embed my simple Hype animation in this post I had to change quite a few file references in the code. Hype assumes that all the resources it needs are in the resources folder it creates. Since I don’t have FTP access to this domain there is no way to get that folder on the server. Instead I uploaded the three required files through WordPress and then had to edit the generated Hype code to add the correct file paths. It wasn’t all that hard, but it did mean digging into the code, which at least partially defeats the purpose of Hype.
Despite some publishing hiccups and a few missing features, Hype is still one of the easiest ways I’ve seen to create Flash-free web animations. It’s like having most of what’s good about Adobe’s Flash app, without the downside of publishing to the Flash file format. Sadly Hype still falls prey to some of Flash’s weaknesses, but this is a 1.0 release and no doubt Hype will improve as time goes on.
Here’s a very simple example of an animation created with Hype. Use the WebKit Inspector or Firebug to see how it works.