What Is an SWF File?

Learn the basics of Shockwave Flash files

What to Know

This article explains what SWF files are and how to open the different kinds that you might have.

What Is an SWF File?

An .SWF file (pronounced as "Swiff") is a Shockwave Flash Movie file created by an Adobe program that can hold interactive text and graphics. These animation files have a history of being used for online games played within a web browser.

Adobe has officially discontinued Flash, meaning it's no longer being developed or supported. Other web technologies, such as HTML5 video support and CSS3 animations, have largely replaced SWF.

Although they're likely not used anywhere anymore since Flash is no longer supported, an SWF file could be an interactive game or a non-interactive advertisement or tutorial.

SWF Files

SWF is short for Small Web Format but is also sometimes called a Shockwave Flash file.

How to Play SWF Files

While you can still find SWF files online, and download lots of games in this format, you'd be hard-pressed to dig up a program that will let you play the game or view the file.

The only one we found is from Adobe itself and available from their support center. Download Adobe Flash projector content debugger, and use the File > Open menu to select the SWF file.

Adobe Flash Player 32 Open box

Before Adobe ended Flash support, you used to be able to play these files directly in your web browser and with other programs like SWF File Player. Now, however, the "normal" edition of Flash Player is no longer available, which third-party programs require before you can open it.

Some other software that used to support this format include SWF File Player, GOM Player, and, of course, Adobe's own products including Animate, Dreamweaver, Flash Builder, and After Effects.

How to Convert an SWF File

Some free video file converters used to support saving an SWF file to video formats like MP4, MOV, HTML5, and AVI, and some could even let you convert to MP3 and other audio file formats.

However, just like with the SWF openers, most converter tools no longer have access to Flash, so they can't convert the file. That said, you might have luck using Xilisoft SWF Converter.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you make an SWF file? Since Adobe ended Flash support, you'll need to download a third-party app like Sothink SWF Quicker to create an SWF file. Research any apps before downloading, as some third-party programs can present security risks, such as leaking your personal data or infecting your device with malicious malware.
  • How do you download an SWF file? If the URL ends in ".swf," you can enter the address into your web browser, and when it loads, select Save web page as and choose the location where you want to save the SWF file. For an embedded SWF file, right-click the page containing the file and select View page source. Press Ctrl+F and type .swf to find the URL of the file, then copy it and paste it in the browser to download the file. 
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