Toon Boom Animate 2 is the gold-standard tool for creating Flash animations. As there’s some confusion surrounding the word “Flash,” you should know that it’s both a file format (used to display animations—and other kinds of multimedia presentations—on the Web and other platforms) and also a program used to create those files. The full name of the Adobe Flash-file-creating program is Adobe Flash CS5. It creates Flash animations but you can create Flash animations with other programs, too.

While Adobe Flash CS5 gives you the basic tools you need to tween images, it lacks many tools pro animators have come to expect from higher-end animation apps. Toon Boom Animate 2 not only fills that gap, it also includes much-needed features like Xsheets, advanced rigging (with inverse kinematics), a rich set of drawing tools, TWAIN support for in-app scanning, advanced color palettes, and virtual cameras.

If you’ve already been using Toon Boom Animate, what you’ll enjoy most about this new version is its speed. The developers have made more than 100 optimizations, using multithreading, disk caching, and optimized OpenGL support. Animate 2 also includes goodies such blend modes, velocity controls, and, thankfully, the ability to auto-distribute individual parts of a drawing to multiple layers.

If you’re an ActionScript programmer, or if you’re creating simple animations, you should probably stick with Adobe products. But if you’re creating a movie for the Cartoon Network, you owe it to yourself to check out Toon Boom Animate 2.—Marcus Geduld

Company: Toon Boom Animation Inc.
Price: $699.99 (Upgrade: $299.99)
Rating: 5
Hot: Speed; ability to auto-distribute individual drawing parts