The Text Tool Flash

The Text Tool is used to create and edit text. Although Flash is neither a drawing program like FreeHand, nor a page-layout program, its text-handling capabilities are well thought-out and implemented. The Text Tool, shown below, delivers a broad range of control for generating, positioning, tuning, and editing text. Although the basic Text Tool is located in the Flash Toolbox, the controls for working with Text are located in three text panels: the Character, Paragraph, and Text Options Panels.

Flash handles text as a group. This means that when you create type, you can use the Text Tool to edit the individual letters or words inside the text area at any time. But if you click once anywhere on the text, the entire text block is selected.

The Text Tool has no options in the Toolbox.

Text Tool has no options in the Toolbox.

Working with Flash text boxes
Flash now generates three flavors of text in three kinds of text boxes: Label Text (A), Block Text (B), and Editable Text (C), shown below. The bottom example shows an Editable Text box as it is being resized (D). Each of the three kinds of text blocks has its own characteristics:

  • Label Text: With Label Text, Flash creates text blocks that widen as you continue to add text. As shown in the top example of below, Label Text has a round handle at the upper-right corner. To create a Label Text box, click once in the movie area with the Text Tool and then commence typing. If you keep typing without making line breaks in Label Text Mode, the Label Text box continues beyond the right edge of the movie area. When this happens, the text is not lost. To regain view of this off-movie text, add line breaks, move the Label Text box, or select View➪Work Area from the Menu Bar, to make the off movie area Label Text box entirely visible.
  • Block Text: Flash creates Block Text when you drag out the text box as you create it in the movie area. As shown in the second example below, a Block Text box has a square handle at the upper-right corner. The Block Text box has a fixed width, and wraps words automatically. You create a Block Text box by simply selecting the Text Tool, clicking, and then dragging out a box of the desired width in the movie area. When you commence typing, the text wraps automatically and the box extends downwards as you add more lines of text.
  • Editable Text: With Editable Text fields, the content is variable. This means that the page viewer can change the contents of an Editable Text field: for example, when used in a password entry box or a form field. As shown in the third and bottom examples below, an Editable Text box has a square handle at the lower-right corner that can be dragged in or out to resize it. Create Editable Text by choosing either Dynamic or Static Text from the Text Behavior dropdown of the Text Options Panel, and then click in the movie area to drag out and define the text box.

Shown here are examples of Flash text in three kinds of text boxes, from top to bottom: Label (or Extending) Text, Block (or Fixed) Text, and Editable (or Dynamic or Input) Text.

Shown here are examples of Flash text in three kinds of text boxes

A Label Text box can be converted into a Block Text box. Place the cursor over the round text handle at the upper-right corner of the Label Text box. A double-ended arrow appears, indicating that you can modify the Label Text box’s width. Drag to reshape the Label Text box. When you release the mouse, the text handle at the upper-right corner will now be square (formerly, it was round), indicating that this is now a Block Text box. To revert back to Label Text, double-click the square text handle.

Using the Character Panel
The Character Panel, shown in Figure below, is readily accessed from the Launcher Bar, or from the Window Menu with Window➪Panels➪Character. The main feature of this panel is the Font Name drop-down, which is use to select fonts.

The Character Panel is one of three panels used to select and modify manipulated text.

Character Panel is one of three panels used to select and modify manipulated text.

  • No options: There are no options for this panel. The options button here is vestigial.
  • Font Name drop-down: When the Text Tool is active, this displays the name of the current font. Click the button (which is a downward-pointing triangle) to invoke a scrolling menu of available fonts. Choose a font from this scrolling menu to set the font for the next text element that you create. Or, to change the font of existing text, first select the text in the movie area, and then choose a different font from the scrolling menu. When selecting a font from the Character Panel, the currently highlighted font is previewed in its typeface.
  • Text Color button: Click this button to invoke the Current Swatches, which— in addition to current and temporary swatches also enables you to acquire a color from anywhere within the interface.
  • Kern Check box: If the font includes built-in kerning information, which evens out the spaces between letterforms, check this to activate automatic kerning.
  • Bold and Italic: The Bold option is a simple button that toggles selected text between either Normal or Bold. The Italic option is another simple button. It toggles selected text between Normal and Italic.
  • Font size: This is both a pop-up and a text entry field. When the Text Tool is active, it displays the current font size in a text entry field. You can change the font size by entering a specific font size in this text entry field. If you click the arrow to the immediate right of the text entry field, a pop-up displays a slider of available font sizes.
  • Tracking: In addition to the other controls that Flash affords for the arrangement and adjustment of text, text can be manually tracked. Tracking is the process of adjusting the space between two or more text characters. To track characters from the Character Panel, first select the characters that you want to adjust, and then either enter a numeric value in the read out, or drag the interactive slider. The Text menu also has its own Tracking menu suboptions. Menu tracking has the additional advantage that it can be applied either: (a) to selected (highlighted) text characters or (b) to the pair of text characters on either side of the cursor:
    • Decrease Spacing by One Half-Pixel: To decrease text character spacing by one half-pixel, press Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow (Command+Option+Left Arrow).
    • Decrease Spacing by Two Pixels: To decrease text character spacing by two pixels, press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Left Arrow (Command+Shift+Option+Left Arrow).
    • Increase Spacing by One Half-Pixel: To increase text character spacing by one half-pixel, press Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow (Command+Option+Right Arrow).
    • Increase Spacing by Two Pixels: To increase text character spacing by two pixels, press Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow (Command+Shift+Option+Right Arrow).
    • Reset Spacing to Normal: To reset text character spacing to normal, press Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow (Command+Option+Up Arrow).
  • Baseline shift: There are three options in this drop-down menu. Normal resets text to the baseline, while Superscript and Subscript shift the text either above or below the baseline.
  • Link entry: This is used to link selected text as a hyperlink to another URL. To do this, first select a text block on Stage, and then enter the URL in this Link entry field.

Several uses of the Character Panel, such as previewing and selecting fonts, and adjusting the font size shows below. On the left, this composite image shows selected Block Text as the font is being changed from the _sans device font to Lithos Regular. Note that the font preview displays the selected text, rather than the font name, which is the default display when no text is selected. On the right, the point size is being adjusted by dragging the Font size slider. As the text resizes, the Block Text box, which has a constrained width, forces the text to break and stack vertically, leaving only the M visible on stage.

Using the Character Panel

Using the Character Panel

Using the Style submenu
Some of the settings of the Character Panel are also available from the Style submenu that appears when you choose Text➪Style from the Menu Bar. These include:

  • Plain—Ctrl(Command)+Shift+P
  • Bold—Ctrl(Command)+Shift+B
  • Italic—Ctrl(Command)+Shift+I
  • Subscript
  • Superscript

Using the Paragraph Panel
The Paragraph Panel, shown below, can be directly invoked from the Window Menu with Window➪Panels➪Paragraph. If you use the default panels layout, you can click the Character Panel button on the Launcher Bar and then select the Para-graph tab to bring it forward in the panel stack. This Panel features alignment controls that can be used to align selected text. When entering new text, if you predetermine the alignment settings before text entry, subsequently entered text will be aligned accordingly.

The Paragraph Panel is used to set, edit, and adjust the alignment of selected characters and paragraphs.

Paragraph Panel is used to set, edit, and adjust the alignment of selected characters and paragraphs.

  • No Options: There are no options for this panel. The options button here is vestigial.
  • Alignment Options: The top area of the panel displays four buttons for the arrangement of text: Left, Center, Right, and Full Justification. When editing, alignment affects the currently selected paragraph(s) only. When entering text, use these options to predetermine the alignment before text entry, and all subsequent text will be aligned accordingly.
  • Right Margins: Use this numeric entry field (or click the arrow button to invoke the interactive slider) to define the space between the text and the right border of the text box. By default, this space is described in pixels.
  • Line Spacing: Use this numeric entry field or associated slider to adjust line spacing. By default, Line Spacing is described in points. Regardless of settings for individual fonts, the largest font on a line will always determine line spacing for that line.
  • Indentation: Use this numeric entry field or associated slider to adjust the indent, also described by default in pixels, of the first line of a paragraph. The indent is relative to the left margin.
  • Left Margins: Use this numeric entry field (or click the arrow button to invoke the interactive slider) to define the space between the text and the left border of the text box. By default, this space is described in pixels.

How selected text can be realigned, formatted, and edited for size, color, and other attributes shown below. Here, the lower line of text is selected; it’s point size reduced; and, as shown, its alignment set to Center.

Using the Character and Paragraph Panels to format selected text.

Using the Character and Paragraph Panels to format selected text

Using the Alignment submenu
Some of the settings of the Paragraph Panel are also available from the Alignment submenu that appears when you choose Text➪Align from the Menu Bar:

  • Align Left: Ctrl(Command)+Shift+L
  • Align Center: Ctrl(Command)+Shift+C
  • Align Right: Ctrl(Command)+Shift+R
  • Justify: Ctrl(Command)+Shift+J

Using the Text Options Panel
The Text Options Panel can also be directly invoked from the Window menu with Window➪Panels➪Text Options. Or, if you use the default Panels layout, you can click the Character Panel button on the Launcher Bar and then select the tab to bring Text Options forward in the panel stack. This is the most varied of the text related panels. Depending upon your choice of Text Behavior, it displays three option sets: Static, Dynamic, or Input Text. As shown below, when the Text Behavior is set to Static Text, the Text Options Panel has only two options (left). To choose another behavior, click the Text Behavior drop-down (right).

The Text Options Panel

The Text Options Panel

Static (noneditable) text behavior
The default behavior for any text block created in (or pasted into) Flash is static. So, for display text and many of the more ordinary implementations of text in Flash, it’s unnecessary to use the Text Options Panel. Nevertheless, you may encounter a situation that requires a text field to display information, but also enables users to select and copy the information. Or you might want to fine-tune the display quality of some text. That’s when the Static Text Behavior of the Text Options Panel becomes indispensable:

  • Selectable: Check this box to make selected text, or text that’s entered subsequently, selectable when displayed on users’ machines.
  • Use Device Fonts: This little check box is the secret to a poorly documented, yet extremely powerful enhancement to the way in which Flash 5 handles text. It is not a substitute for selecting one of the three_ device fonts that appear at the top of the Font Menu. Rather, it’s an innovative way in which Flash enables you to use many common fonts without embedding the characters. It also provides a mechanism that improves text display at small point sizes.

As shown below, the chosen font is present on the system. The variations are the result of different settings in the Text Options Panel for Static Text. At the top, Use Device Fonts was unchecked. For the following two examples, Use Device Fonts was checked. However, in the middle example, Global Activation of the Type Manager was on, whereas for the bottom example, Global Activation of the Type Manager was off.

Using various Device Font settings

Using various Device Font settings

Editable Text fields
All Flash Text is created in text blocks or text boxes. Editable Text is no different except that Editable Text boxes are referred to as text fields, or Input Text boxes that’s probably because they are often used as empty fields in which users can input text, as with a form or a password entry. Think of an Editable Text field as an empty window with a variable which is a name attached to it. When text or data is sent to the Flash Movie, it is sent to the variable, which ensures that it will be displayed in the proper window. Flash 5 supports two kinds of editable text fields: Dynamic Text and Input Text.

Dynamic Text fields
Dynamic Text fields are often fed data from a server. Common uses for this are stocks, sports scores, or weather updates. Creative uses might include a daily memo, frequently updated statements, an introduction, journal, or a randomly selected poem. This content can be supplied from a database, read from a serverside application, or be loaded from another movie or another part of the same movie. The Text Options Panel when Dynamic Text is chosen from the Text Behavior drop-down list shown below.

Dynamictextfields

Dynamic text fields

  • Line Display: Use this drop-down to choose between a Single Line and a Multiline field.
  • HTML: By enabling this check box, Flash preserves rich text styles when displaying Dynamic Text. This includes font, font style, hyperlink, paragraph, and other formatting consistent with permissible HTML tags. You can also enable HTML in Text Options so that the entry field will accept formatting that has been assigned to it in the Actions Panel.
  • Border/Background: Use this to draw the text field with a border and a background.
  • Word wrap: With a Multiline text field, Word wrap will break lines at the end of the box.
  • Variable: This is where you name the text field, so that your dynamic data will know where it is supposed to go.
  • Embed Fonts: When embedding a font, Flash 5 gives you have control over how much of the font is actually embedded. Choose one or more character categories for the font by clicking buttons for Full Font, Uppercase, Lowercase, Numbers, and/or Punctuation. Or, simply enter specific characters in the text field.

Input Text fields
When users fill out forms and answer Web surveys, or enter a password, they are using Input text fields. The Text Options Panel when you choose Input Text from the Text Behavior drop-down list shown below.

The Input Text Behavior has many of the same options as Dynamic Text. In addition to Single Line and Multiline, there is also an option to display the text as a Password.

Input Text Behavior

Here are the options for Input Text fields:

  • Line Display: In addition to Single Line and Multiline, there is also an option to display text as a Password.
  • HTML: By enabling this check box, Flash preserves rich text styles when displaying Dynamic Text. This includes font, font style, hyperlink, paragraph, and other formatting consistent with permissible HTML tags.
  • Border/Background: Use this to draw the text field with a border and a background.
  • Maximum Input Characters: Use this to limit the number of characters that a user can enter in this particular text field. Simply enter the maximum number of characters. This is most common when working with passwords.
  • Variable: This is where you name the text field, so that your dynamic data will know where it is supposed to go.
  • Embed Fonts: When embedding a font, Flash 5 gives you have control over how much of the font is actually embedded. Choose one or more character categories for the font by clicking buttons for Full Font, Uppercase, Lowercase, Numbers, and/or Punctuation. Or, simply enter specific characters in the text field.

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