The Library and Its Features Flash

The Library is the repository of all recurring elements, known as symbols, that are placed as Instances within a Flash movie. Imported sounds and bitmaps are automatically placed in the Library. Upon creation, both Buttons and Movie Clips are also stored in the Library. It’s a smart practice to make nearly every item within a Flash movie a symbol, and to develop every item within a Flash movie from component symbols.

The Library is also a true window, not a panel. As shown in Figure below, the Library Window (left) Window➪Library is not the same as the six default asset Libraries (right) that are accessed from the Menu at Window➪Common Libraries. However, they are related. When you choose Window➪Library, you open a Library specific to the current movie, while Common Libraries are available whenever Flash is open. Choose Window➪Common Libraries to open the submenu of Common Libraries that ship with Flash. The Libraries menu is the one menu over which the user has real control. That’s because in addition to the Library items that are placed there in the process of a default installation of Flash you can place your own items there, too.

The default Libraries contain a selection of buttons and symbols to get you started. These are located in the Libraries folder of the Flash application folder. (And when you’re tired of them, you can remove them!) To add your own buttons, symbols, or libraries for specific projects, first save them in a Flash file with a descriptive name, and then place that Flash file in the Libraries folder within the Flash Program folder on your hard drive. Because these default Common Libraries have such obvious names, we won’t waste valuable pages to describe them here. They are Buttons, Graphics, Learning Interactions, Movie Clips, Smart Clips, and Sounds.

The Library window is specific to the current movie, while the other windows, known as the Common Libraries, are available whenever Flash is open.

Library window is specific to the current movie, while the other windows

Working with the Library
Every Flash movie has its own Library, which is used to store and organize symbols, sounds, bitmaps, and other assets such as video files. As shown below, the item highlighted or selected in the Sort Window is previewed in the Preview Window.

If the item selected in the Library is an animation or sound file, you’ll see a controller in the upper-right corner of the Preview window. This Preview Stop/Play controller pops up to facilitate previewing these items. It’s almost equivalent to the Play option that’s found in the Options menu. The Options menu is accessed by clicking the Options triangle, which is located at the upper right of the Library window. As shown below, the Library options pop-up menu lists a number of features, functions, and controls for organizing and working with items in the Library.

The Library window as viewed in Normal state.

Library window as viewed in Normal state.

  • New Symbol: Choose this item from the Options menu to create a new symbol.When a new symbol is created, it is stored at the root of the Library Sort window. To create a new symbol in a folder, select the desired folder first the new symbol will be placed in the selected folder.
  • New Folder: Items in the Library can be organized in folders. The New Folder button simply creates a new folder within the Sort window.
  • New Font: Use this option to invoke the Font Symbol Properties dialog, which is the first step in creating a Font Symbol for use within a Shared Library.
  • Rename: Use the Rename option to rename an item.
  • Move to New Folder: Use the Move to New Folder to open the New Folder dialog.
  • Library window and the Options pop-up menu Library items can also be moved between folders by dragging.

    window and the Options pop-up menu Library items can also be moved between folders by dragging.

  • Duplicate, Delete: Click Duplicate to duplicate an item and Delete to delete an item.
  • Edit: Click Edit to access the selected symbol in Symbol Editing Mode.
  • Edit With: Provided that you have appropriate external applications installed, most imported assets (such as sounds, bitmaps, and vectors) will have this command available to jump to the external editing environment.
  • Properties: Click to invoke the related Properties dialog for the particular symbol type Sound Properties, Bitmap Properties, Symbol Properties, or (for QuickTime) Video Properties.
  • Linkage: Use this command to invoke the Linkage Options menu. Linkage means that you can assign an identifier string to a Font symbol or to a sound so that it can be accessed as an object with ActionScript. This is an aspect of Shared Libraries.
  • Define Clip Parameters: With Flash 5, you can now assign clip parameters to a movie clip to create a Smart Clip. This control invokes the Define Clip Parameters dialog, which is used to assign variables with values to movie clips.
  • Select Unused Items: Select Unused Items to find unused items within the Library.
  • Update: Use this option if you’ve edited items subsequent to importing them into Flash. Items will be updated without the bother of reimporting.
  • Play (or Stop, if currently playing): If the selected asset has a timeline or is otherwise playable (such as a sound), click this to preview the asset in the Library Preview window. If the asset is currently playing, this option is updated to Stop in which case, click to stop playing.
  • Expand Folder/Collapse Folder: Use this command to toggle the currently selected folder open or closed.
  • Expand All Folders/Collapse All Folders: Use this command to toggle all folders open or closed.
  • Shared Library Properties: Use this command to invoke the Shared Properties dialog, which is another aspect of Shared Libraries.
  • Keep Use Counts Updated: Use this command to tell Flash to continuously keep track of the usage of each symbol. If you are working with multiple, complex graphics and symbols, this feature generally slows things to a crawl.
  • Update Use Counts Now: Use this option to tell Flash to update the usage of each symbol. This command is a one-time check, and is probably less of a drain on system resources than the previous command, which checks continuously. As shown in Figure below, the Library can also be expanded. Expand the Library by clicking the Wide State button. When displayed in this manner, all of the column headings are visible in the Sort Window. Click any heading to sort the window by Name, Kind, Usage Count, or Date.

Selecting New Symbol, Duplicate, or Properties from the Options Menu launches the Symbol Properties dialog, shown below. Use this dialog to give the symbol a unique name and assign it a behavior (as a symbol type graphic, button, or Movie Clip). However, if the Properties Option is chosen for a sound asset, then the Sound Properties dialog appears.

The Library deployed in Wide State with the waveform of a sound shown in the Preview window.

Library deployed in Wide State with the waveform of a sound shown in the Preview window.

Symbol Properties dialog (top), and the Update Media dialog (bottom)

Symbol Properties dialog (top), and the Update Media dialog (bottom)


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