SWF is an Adobe Flash file format used for multimedia, vector graphics and ActionScript. Originating with FutureWave Software, then transferred to Macromedia, and then coming under the control of Adobe, SWF files can contain animations or applets of varying degrees of interactivity and function. Currently, SWF is the dominant format for displaying “animated” vector graphics on the Web. It may also be used for programs, commonly browser games, using ActionScript.
SWF files can be generated from within several Adobe products: Flash, Flash Builder (an IDE) and After Effects, as well as through MXMLC, a command line application compiler which is part of the freely available Flex SDK. Other than Adobe products, SWFs can be built with open source Motion-Twin ActionScript 2 Compiler (MTASC), the open source Ming library and the free software suite SWFTools. There are also various third party programs that can produce files in this format, such as Multimedia Fusion 2, Captivate and SWiSH Max.
Originally limited to presenting vector-based objects and images in a simple sequential manner, the format in its later versions allows audio (since Flash 3), video (since Flash 6) and many different possible forms of interaction with the end user. Once created, SWF files can be played by the Adobe Flash Player, working either as a browser plugin or as a standalone player. SWF files can also be encapsulated with the player, creating a self-running SWF movie called a “projector”.
A swf file refers to a project. Adobe makes available plugins, such as Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Integrated Runtime, to play SWF files in web browsers on many desktop operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux on the x86 architecture. As of 2007 intensive development had taken place on Gnash, a free-software implementation of a SWF player. Another FOSS implementation is Swfdec. Based on an independent study conducted by Millward Brown, over 99% of Web users now have a SWF plugin installed, with around 90% having the latest version of the Flash Player. Sony PlayStation Portable consoles can play limited SWF files in Sony’s web browser, beginning with firmware version 2.71. Both the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PS3 consoles can run SWF files through their Internet browsers.