Using Flash and Shockwave on a Mac

Shockwave and Flash are both multimedia players for the Mac. Knowing the difference between the two and keeping up to date with the the right version of each for your Mac, however, can be tricky. TMO sorts it all out.

According to Adobe, there are significant differences between the older but more capable Shockwave and the more modern but lightweight Flash media players:

"Both Flash and Shockwave are multimedia players. They can give you extended and predictable abilities across a range of browser brands, versions, and platforms.(Sometimes you might hear someone refer to "Shockwave Flash", but these are actually two different multimedia players.)

"Flash has a small player which gives it a wider distribution. Flash is included in every Netscape download. Flash also has a very fast startup time. The way the Flash format interleaves media and instructions also helps it start quickly.

"Shockwave has a deeper player. It offers multiuser chat, XML parsing, HTML manipulation, an extensive and fast scripting language, distant file retrieval, programmatic control of vector shapes, and bitmap manipulation. It can do many amazing things which browsers cannot do. Its files also stream, but it does not start instantly like Flash does."

Both are likely installed on your Mac by default. To find out, look in the main Mac OS X Library:

/Library/Internet Plug-Ins

There youill see the "Flash Player.plugin" and "NP-PPC-Dir-Shockwave (v10) or "DirectorShockwave.plugin" (v11).

The latest version of the Flash player is 9.0 r124, and because it is not automatically updated by Mac OS Xis System Preferences -> Software Update and has had some security updates in the past, you should check on your current version manually. Updates are available form the Adobe Flash Player Support page.

Unfortunately, Adobe didnit deliver an Intel native version of the Shockwave until March of 2008, and if you have version 10 on an Intel Mac, it isnit going to work properly unless you force Safari to launch in Rosetta mode.

"Get Info" for Safari

In March, Adobe published a tech note explaining how do all that, if necessary, but also pointed out that Shockwave version 11 is now native on Intel Macs.

You can get version 11 at Adobeis Shockwave Player Support Center.

Many users probably havenit noticed that theyire still using version 10 on their Intel Mac because there is relatively little content on the Web that uses Shockwave compared to Flash. No wake up call there. And when something odd does happen at a Shockwave site, it can sometimes be chalked up to a system glitch, the user shrugs and moves on.

Itis a good practice to frequently check to make sure you have the latest version of both applications, both for security and features, because there is no automatic update mechanism for these two Internet media tools.