The Movie Explorer Flash

The Movie Explorer Panel is a powerful new tool for deciphering movies and finding items within them. It can be opened from the Launcher Bar, or from the Main Menu by choosing Window➪Movie Explorer (Ctrl+Alt+M/ Option+Command+M).

The Movie Explorer is an especially useful tool for getting an overview and for analyzing the structure of a Flash movie. This means that you can now see every element in its relationship to all other elements, and you can see this all in one place.

However, it’s also useful for troubleshooting a movie, for finding occurrences of a particular font, and for locating places where you refer to a certain variable name in any script throughout a movie. As an editing tool, you can use it as a shortcut to edit any symbol, for changing the properties of an instance, or even for doing multiple selections and then changing the attributes of the selected items. Furthermore, the Find function is an incredible timesaver.

The new Movie Explorer has so many features that it may be difficult to get used to however, it’s well worth the effort to become familiar with this organizational powerhouse. The Movie Explorer as well the Movie ExplorerSettings dialog shows below, which you can open by clicking the Customize Which Items to Show button in the Movie Explorer.

The Movie Explorer displays the file structure for Jake Smith’s Flash Clock

The Movie Explorer displays the file structure for Jake Smith’s Flash Clock

Filtering Buttons
There are several icon buttons across the top of the Movie Explorer Panel. These are called Filtering Buttons and they have icons representative of their function. Click any button to toggle the display of those elements in your file. Note, however, that the Movie Explorer’s display becomes more crowded as you select more buttons and that it performs more slowly because it has to sift more data. From left to right, the buttons filter the display of the following kinds of content:

  • Text
  • Buttons, Movie Clips, and Graphics (placed instances)
  • ActionScripts
  • Video, Sounds, and Bitmaps (placed instances)
  • Frames and Layers
  • Customize which Items to Show
  • Note also the Find entry field, which enables you to search for movie items by name.

The Display List
Below the icons is a window with the Display List. Much like Windows Explorer, or the Mac Finder, the Movie Explorer displays items hierarchically, either by individual scene or for all scenes. These listings are expandable, so if you have selected the Text button, a plus sign will appear beside the name of any Scene that includes text. Clicking the plus sign (or right-pointing arrow on the Mac)displays all of the selected items included in that Scene. At the bottom of the Display List, a status bar displays the Path for the currently selected item.

Below, two buttons have been selected: Text, and ActionScripts. As shown, clicking the plus sign beside the ActionScript icon displays the entire ActionScript. Note, too, that the complete text appears, including basic font information.

The contextual menu
Select an item in Movie Explorer and right-click/Ctrl+click to invoke the contextual menu related to that particular item. Irrelevant commands are grayed-out, indicating that functionality is not available in context with the item.

The contextual menu of the Movie Explorer shows below. Among the most useful commands is the Goto Location option at the top. When you can’t find an item (because it’s on a masked layer or is invisible), this command can be a lifesaver. Next, we cover the Movie Explorer Options menu.

The Movie Explorer for one of Jake’s Clocks.

The Movie Explorer for one of Jake’s Clocks.

The Movie Explorer’s contextual menu

The Movie Explorer’s contextual menu

The Movie Explorer Options menu
The Options menu is accessed by clicking the Options triangle, which is located in the upper-right corner of the Movie Explorer Panel. These commands are the same as the commands that are found in the Movie Explorer’s contextual menus:

  • Goto Location: For a selected item, this transports you to the relevant layer, scene, or frame.
  • Goto Symbol Definition: (For this to work, both Show Movie Elements and Show Symbol Definitions must be toggled on.) This jumps to the symbol definition for the symbol that’s selected in the Movie Elements area. (At the time of this writing, this feature was not functional.)
  • Select Symbol Instances: Jumps to the scene containing instances of the symbol that is selected in the Symbol Definitions Area. (For this to work, both Show Movie Elements and Show Symbol Definitions must be toggled on.)
  • Find in Library: If the Library Window is not open, this opens the Library and highlights the selected item. Otherwise, it simply highlights the item in the Library.
  • Panels: Click this to open all relevant panels (or panel) for the selected item.
  • Rename: Enables you to easily rename selected items.
  • Edit in Place: Use this to edit the selected symbol in context on the Stage.
  • Edit in New Window: Use this to edit the selected symbol in Symbol Editing Mode.
  • Show Movie Elements: One of two broad categories for how filtered items are viewed in the Display List, Show Movie Elements displays all elements in the movie, organized by scene.
  • Show Symbol Definitions: This is the other category of the Display List, which shows all of the components that are related to each symbol. Both Show Movie Elements and Show Symbol Definitions may be displayed simultaneously.
  • Show All Scenes: This toggles the display of Show Movie Elements between selected scenes, or all scenes.
  • Copy Text to Clipboard: Use this command to copy selected text to the clipboard.Text may then be pasted into a word processor for editing, spell checking and other textual operations not found in Flash.
  • Cut: Use this command to cut selected text.
  • Copy: Use this command to copy selected text.
  • Paste: Use this command to Paste text that has been copied from Flash or another application.
  • Clear: Use this command to clear selected text.
  • Expand Branch: This expands the hierarchical tree at the selected location; it’s the menu equivalent of clicking the tiny + sign/right-facing arrow.
  • Collapse Branch: This collapses the hierarchical tree at the selected location; it’s the menu equivalent of clicking the tiny – sign/down-facing arrow.
  • Collapse Others: This collapses the hierarchical tree everywhere except at the selected location.
  • Print: The Movie Explorer prints out, with all of the content expanded, displaying all types of content selected.

Make sure to use Movie Explorer! When planning or looking for ways to improve a project, this tool can provide an excellent map to the structure and function of what you’ve already accomplished. Whenever relevant, print out the Movie Explorer; this document can function as a project file for finished work, providing a reference of all scripting and Movie Clip placement. As such, it can make it much easier to return to a project months later. It can also facilitate collaboration amongst developers, whether they share the same office or are geographically distributed. Finally, for all of the reasons listed previously, the Movie Explorer can also be used as a tool for both learning and teaching.

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