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SWF, which originally stood for “ShockWave Flash” and now stands for “Small Web Format” is a file format developed for a simple drawing and animation tool for the web in 1996. Developers at FutureWave® began shipping it in 1996, but before the end of the year had sold it to Macromedia®, the makers of ShockWave®, who renamed it Flash® and developed it into a full-featured multimedia development environment. In 2005, Adobe® purchased Macromedia®, and have continued the development of Flash® with the work file extension being termed FLA (Flash Authoring) and the native export extension for viewing on the Internet on Adobe ® AIR™ software or Adobe® Flash® Player still being SWF. In addition, Adobe® has published the Flash® specification, enabling anyone to build a Flash® player. An SWF converter is a file converter that either converts an SWF file to a different type of file or converts a different type of file to an SWF file, although Adobe® states that the format was not intended to be used to exchange graphics between different editing programs.
The simplest and most obvious SWF converter to change SWF to another file type is the Adobe® Flash® program. Instead of exporting a movie to SWF format, it can be exported as a QuickTime® file (MOV), as an animated GIF, or as a sequence of GIF, JPEG, PICT, or PNG files. For a single image, one can export it as GIF, JPEG, PICT, PNG or an Adobe® Illustrator® file (AI). Not everyone who wants to convert SWF files has Flash®, however, and not everyone wants to convert from SWF to another format. The fact that an estimated 98% of desktop users whose computers are connected to the Internet as well as 800 million users of mobile devices and handsets have Flash® Player, is one reason why people who don’t have Flash® might well want an SWF converter.
There are several different ways to classify the types of SWF converter. In general, they only convert files in one direction, that is, some convert SWF files to a variety of other file types — such as DVD, MP4, and MOV — but they do not convert in the other direction, while others only convert files to SWF, but not from. Some convert between SWF and FLV on the one hand and only one other file type, like AVI, on the other. Some do not convert the most recent Flash® compression, and some allow for batch conversion, while others do not. Editing functionality varies, and finally, some are free, while others are available for purchase.