The Interface

This version of Flash includes a few upgrades to the interface, such as a better panel system and in particular, a better Library panel. But there is one feature that PC users enjoyed with Flash 2004 that Mac users can now enjoy as wellthe tabbed file system (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2. The Mac version of Flash Professional 8.

The tabbed file system makes it very easy to move from file to file without ever having to minimize a window, which is a major impro1vement for Mac developers and designers alike.

Beyond the new tab system, the first part of the interface you will notice is the large white rectangle in the middle of the screen, called the stage.

The Stage

This space represents the visible area of the file you create, and it is where you place all your visual elements. You can see the stage in Figure 2.2 and Figure 2.3. Figure 2.3 shows the PC version of Flash.

Figure 2.3. The PC version of Flash Professional 8.

Some default settings for the stage are as follows:

  • Dimensions 550x400

  • Match Default

  • Background Color #FFFFFF (White)

  • Frame Rate 12

  • Ruler Units Pixel

You can change these settings by choosing Modify, Document (PCCtrl+J, MacOpen Apple+J). This opens the Document Properties window shown in Figure 2.4, where you can change the settings mentioned in the preceding list as well as two others.

Figure 2.4. The Document Properties dialog box for setting certain stage properties.

New to Flash 8 is the capability to embed metadata in your SWF file so that search engines on the web can better index your files. The following two properties can be adjusted from the Document Properties dialog box:

  • Title The title of your projects, which does not have to match the title tag in your HTML document.

  • Description This field can contain anything from searchable keywords for your project to copyright information.


At any time, you can click the Make Default button in the Document Properties dialog box to make your current document properties the default. However, the Title and Description fields must be set for each individual file.

You can also use the Properties Inspector to open the Document Properties dialog box.

The Properties Inspector Panel

This interface panel can be found by default at the bottom of the screen (but can be moved, as you will see soon) and is used for almost everything.

The Properties Inspector panel was one of the best additions back in Flash MX because it changes based on what you are doing. For instance, if you use the Arrow tool and select the stage, the Properties Inspector will look like Figure 2.5, but if you choose the Text tool, the Properties Inspector will look like Figure 2.6. And if you choose a keyframe in the timeline, the Properties Inspector will look like Figure 2.7. The Properties Inspector was designed to be the central area for changing settings and properties of all visual elements on the stage, including the stage itself. And, if you are running the Professional Edition of Flash 8, you will also notice the Filters tab as part of the Properties Inspector. Remember from the previous chapter that filters are new to Flash 8. Although these filters can be set with ActionScript in the standard version as well as the pro version, only the pro version has the capability to manually set them at authoring time.

Figure 2.5. The Properties Inspector for the stage.

Figure 2.6. The Properties Inspector for the Text tool.

Figure 2.7. The Properties Inspector for a keyframe.

The Properties Inspector is one of many dockable panels in Flash. The next section covers a few other useful ones.

Flash Panels

In Flash, if you want to change settings such as size, rotation, or color or add ActionScript, you will have to use one of the panels. By default, most panels are on the right side of the screen. To drag and dock a panel, click and drag the top left part of the panel's title bar where it appears perforated. Then release it when you see a darkened black border around the panel. You can also group panels by either right-clicking (Ctrl+clicking on a Mac) the title bar of the panel or selecting the panel's drop-down options in the upper-right corner of the panel. Then select Group "Panel Name" With and select the group you want to assign that panel to. In Figure 2.8, you can see that both the Color Mixer and Color Swatches panels are grouped together.

Figure 2.8. Grouping panels has been brought back from Flash 5, and it is a welcomed return.

There are three basic categories of panels; all are found under Window in the menu system. The following list should help you navigate them with ease:

  • Design Panels These panels are used mostly for visual aspects of objects:

    • Align (PCCtrl+K, MacOpen Apple+K) This panel is used to assist in aligning objects either to the stage or to one another.

    • Color Mixer (Shift+F9) This panel is used to refine colors and gradients for shapes.

    • Color Swatches (PCCtrl+F9, MacOpen Apple+F9) This panel is for choosing colors from a set of color swatches.

    • Info (PCCtrl+I, MacOpen Apple+I) This panel is used to get information, such as size and position, about selected objects. It also keeps track of the mouse position in the authoring environment.

    • Transform (PCCtrl+T, MacOpen Apple+T) This panel is used to manipulate the size, rotation, and skew of selected objects.

  • Development Panels These panels focus more on the functionality side of Flash.

    • Actions (F9) This panel is for entering and editing ActionScripts associated with frames and objects.

    • Behaviors (Shift+F3) This panel is for applying certain actions directly to objects; it replaces the normal mode of the Actions panel.

    • Components (PCCtrl+F7, MacOpen Apple+F7) This panel holds all components used in Flash; select them and drag them directly onto the stage.

    • Components Inspector (Alt+F7) This panel is used to adjust certain parameters and properties of selected components.

    • Debugger (Shift+F4) This panel is used for debugging your application or Flash movie.

    • Output (F2) This panel displays errors in ActionScript or messages sent directly to it by use of the TRace command.

    • Web Services (PCCtrl+Shift+F10, MacOpen Apple+Shift+F10) This panel keeps track of all the web services that you have added at any point as well as what web methods are available in each of them.

  • Other Panels The name is self-explanatory; these are the panels that are left over.

    • Scene (Shift+F2) This panel is used to keep track of scenes as well as to add or remove scenes.

    • Accessibility (Alt+F2) This panel is used to control the accessibility features of Flash.

    • History (Alt+F10) This panel keeps track of everything you do on the stage, and you can use it to create reuseable commands.

    • Movie Explorer (Alt+F3) Use this panel to search your entire Flash document for anything including ActionScript, text, and objects.

    • Strings (Alt+F11) This panel is used for translating Unicode text into other languages.

    • Common Libraries This isn't really a panel; it's a library that holds a lot of premade objects you can use in your own documents.

The great thing about these panels is that even though there are quite a few of them, they can all be docked and grouped in different sections of your screen. Not only can you dock them in place, but you can also expand and collapse them to save screen space. Figures 2.9 and 2.10 show some of the panels. To expand and collapse a panel, you just click the black arrow on the panel's title bar.

Figure 2.9. Several panels docked and all collapsed.

Figure 2.10. Several panels with two of them expanded.

Now that you have seen how to control the panels, we are going to go over three of the most commonly used panels: the Align, Transform, and Info panels.


Many other panels are covered in later chapters, such as Chapter 8, "Welcome to ActionScript 2.0," and Chapter 16, "Components."

The Align Panel

The Align panel, as mentioned earlier, is used either to align and/or size objects to themselves or to the stage. It accomplishes this by means of five sets of buttons (see Figure 2.11):

  • Align This set is used to control the x and y coordinate of object(s) selected.

  • Distribute This set is used for distributing objects and spacing them out based on the objects' dimensions.

  • Match Size This set is used to create the same dimensions for at least two different objects.

  • Space This set is also for spacing out objects, but unlike the Distribute set, which spaces out items based on dimensions, Space makes sure that the items selected are evenly spaced.

  • To Stage This single button, when selected, will make all the previously listed features align selected objects using the boundaries of the stage as the reference.

Figure 2.11. The Align panel.

Here is an example of how to use the Align panel:


Create a new Flash document.


Draw three separate rectangles on the stage at random spots and at different sizes.


Choose Edit, Select All.


Open the Align panel, make sure the To Stage button is selected, and choose the Align Horizontal Center button (second from the left). The rectangles should look like those in Figure 2.12.

Figure 2.12. Aligning the rectangles horizontally.


While the rectangles are still selected, unselect the To Stage button and choose the Match Width and Height button from the Align panel. Now the rectangles should all be the same size and appear similar to Figure 2.13.

Figure 2.13. Using the Align panel, you can also match dimensions.

The Transform Panel

The Transform panel allows users to manipulate the size, rotation, and skew of an object, as you can see in Figure 2.14. Following are the Transform panel options and their uses:

  • Sizing Options Two text boxes enable you to put in a percentage for vertical and horizontal sizing. If you always want them to be the same proportions, check the Constrain check box.

  • Rotate In the Rotate text box, put a positive or negative integer showing, in degrees, how much you want the object to rotate.

  • Skew There are two text boxes that accept positive or negative integers for controlling both the vertical and horizontal skew of the selected object.

  • Copy and Apply Transform This button, on the left in the lower-right corner, takes the transform selected as well as the object and creates a copy on the stage.

  • Reset This button, the one on the right in the lower-right corner, resets an object's transform to its original state.

Figure 2.14. The Transform panel.

The Info Panel

The last panel we will discuss in this chapter is the Info panel. This panel can be very useful when you are trying to align objects in certain positions. It can also get the RGB settings of a given object, as you can see in Figure 2.15.

Figure 2.15. The Info panel.

Check Your Spelling

A much-needed feature that was added in Flash2004 is spell checking. You can start spell checking right out of the box, but you might want to set your spelling-check settings first. To do that, choose Text, Spelling Setup; the Spelling Setup window will appear as shown in Figure 2.16. You have to have it check something, or it will not work at all; instead you will get a pop-up error message as shown in Figure 2.17.

Figure 2.16. Choose what you want the spell checker to look at.

Figure 2.17. Pop-up error message if the Spelling Setup has not been completed.

When you have set the options you want, whenever you want to check spelling, just select Text, Check Spelling. The Check Spelling window will appear as shown in Figure 2.18.

Figure 2.18. The Check Spelling window.

Now that you have seen a lot of the interface elements and how to use them, the next step to familiarizing yourself with Flash is to see how to customize your preferences, and the view of the stage.

Macromedia Flash Professional 8 Unleashed
Macromedia Flash Professional 8 Unleashed
ISBN: 0672327619
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 319 © 2008-2017.
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