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The Lingo Programmer's Reference

August 3, 1998
by Zac Belado

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate how good an idea something is until you actually use it the way it was intended.

The Lingo Programmer’s Reference (hereafter referred to as LPR) is a new Director reference crafted by the careful hands of Darrel Plant (with capable assistance from Doug Smith).In it you will find all the Director 4, 5 and 6 Lingo keywords with syntax, usage, examples, parameters, type of return values and supplementary references to other associated lingo keywords.

The main difference between the LPR and other books of this type, such as the Lingo Dictionary or Director Demystified, is that it is organized in the same fashion as the categorized Lingo popup menu in the Script window.

So, chapter 12 of the LPR is the "Casts Category" in which you will find all the relevant Lingo associated with casts, such as findEmpty. Now, you may be asking yourself just why this is any better than having three copies of the Lingo dictionary on your desk.

First, the LPR has examples for each Lingo entry that actually make sense and are more detailed than those in the Lingo Dictionary. For example, the definition for preLoad in the Director 5 Lingo Dictionary has two examples:

preload marker (1) 

and

preLoad 10,50

The LPR’s example is, while not much longer, at least more applicable and complete;

preLoad “start”, “end”
if label (“end”) v<> the result then
        alert “Not enough RAM to preload this section”
end if

Second, the idea of having Lingo keywords categorized by subject is actually much more useful than one would initially think. When I first talked to Darrel about the book I had some reservations about the usefulness of the organization but quickly rethought that after using the book during the course of the last week. IAt one pointI had to lookup a MIAW keyword but I couldn’t remember what the exact keyword was. One quick trip to chapter 32 later I had the answer. Want to bone up on behaviours? Chapter 33 has it all there.

There is also an alphabetical listing at the beginning of the book for those who want a more traditional (and at times more useful) way of accessing the book’s contents. One small complaint is that the index is rather hard to find (I had the book for two days before I even noticed it) and could have been made more prominent.

Third, the book catalogs all the Lingo from three incarnations of Director (no mean feat in itself) and also notes Shockwave only Lingo, URL enhanced keywords, Mac/Windows only commands and long dead commands that Macromedia hasn’t removed from the Categorized Lingo menu. All this information is displayed, next to the keyword’s entry, using small black and white icons.

The book isn’t going to win any awards for novelty or new content but it is a solid reference that makes it easy to store those separate Lingo Dictionaries away.

The book also ships with the obligatory CD and this is the weakest part of the package. I’d even suggest that Ventana consider shipping the book without the CD in order to cut the cost and make the book an even better value. My favourite part of the CD was when the Software folder on the CD opened on the second monitor on my Mac. Oops! Not a good introduction to the CD.

The CD has the regular slew of demo applications (Authorware, Director, Flash and Freehand) but they are all not the current shipping versions. In fact, the Flash demo that ships with the CD isn’t really even Flash but is FutureSplash Animator. The CD-ROM also includes HTML files that replicate all the content of the book which might be seen as a bonus to some but I was left rather puzzled by its inclusion. (Minor quibble, but the HTML files show up as BBEdit files on the Mac, meaning you have to either drag them onto your browser icon or open them from the application).

All in all, if you can ignore the fact that the CD is rather substandard then the Lingo Programmer’s Reference is a very commendable addition to your Director library.

The Lingo Programmer’s Reference
Darrel Plant and Doug Smith
Ventana
ISBN 1-56604-695-5
Price: US $39.99, CAN $55.99

Zac Belado is a programmer, web developer and rehabilitated ex-designer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He currently works as an Application Developer for a Vancouver software company. His primary focus is web applications built using ColdFusion. He has been involved in multimedia and web-based development, producing work for clients such as Levi Straus, Motorola and Adobe Systems. As well, he has written for the Macromedia Users Journal and been a featured speaker at the Macromedia Users Convention.

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