Publishing your animation is Flash shorthand for "using the editable .fla file you work with in Flash to generate a noneditable file your audience can play."
The kind of noneditable file Flash produces depends on how you decide to publish your animation. Your choices include:
A compiled Flash file (.swf). Flash Players, including the Flash Player plug-in that comes with most browsers, play .swf files. If you plan to include your Flash animation in a hand-coded HTML file (or to import it into a Web site creation program such as Microsoft's FrontPage), you want this option.
A Web page (.html, .swf). Choose this option if you want Flash to put together a simple Web page for you that includes your animation. (You can always tweak the HTML file later, either by hand or using another Web site creation program.)
An image file (.jpg, .gif, or .png). This option lets you display one of the frames of your animation as an image file or as an animated GIF file—useful for those times when your audience doesn't have a Flash Player installed because at least they can see part of your animation. (For more advice on using ActionScript to detect your audience's Flash Player at runtime and offer alternatives, see the box on Section 14.2.2.)
Flash gives you another way to turn your artwork into an image file: by exporting it (Section 14.3).
A standalone projector file (.exe, .hqx). A projector file is a self-contained Flash-player-plus-your-animation file. Your audience ...