Using the Menu Bar Flash

Now that we’ve introduced most of the major elements of the Flash interface, we begin at the far left of the Menu Bar and work through the major points of all the drop-down menus, submenus, and panels. It’s a gruesome, tedious job, but someone has to dive in and make sense of all these interrelated and (sometimes) seemingly duplicate or parallel operations.

The File Menu
The Flash File Menu is like the front door of the program. Most of what comes into or out of Flash passes in some fashion through the File Menu.

File Menu on the PC

File Menu on the PC

  • New: By default, Flash opens a new Flash document whenever the program is launched (unless Flash is launched from an extant movie). But once the program is open, File⇒New generates all new documents
  • Open: File⇒Open launches the Open dialog, which is used to browse and locate a Flash-compatible file. Compatible formats are:
    • Flash Movie—.FLA
    • Futuresplash Movie—.SPA
    • SmartSketch Drawing—.SSK
    • Flash Player Movie—.SWF
  • Open as Library: Use File⇒Open as Library to launch the Open as Library Dialog and browse for the Flash Movie whose Library you want to open. This makes the components of that Movie available for use within another movie.
  • Open as Shared Library: Use File⇒Open as Shared Library to launch the Open as Shared Library dialog and browse for the Flash Movie that you want to open as a Shared Library, which is a powerful new functionality of Flash 5.
  • Close: Close any open movie with File⇒Close.
  • Save: Save an open movie with File⇒Save.
  • Save As: To save an open movie to another location or with another name, use File⇒Save As.
  • Revert: Made a big goof that Edit⇒Undo can’t undo? Use File⇒Revert to revert to the previously saved version of the current movie. Of course, this won’t spare you much grief unless you save often and incrementally.
  • Import: Many compatible formats can be opened directly into Flash. Use File➪Import to launch the Import dialog for these formats:
    • Adobe Illustrator—.EPS, .AI
    • AIFF Sound—.AIF
    • AutoCAD DXF—.DXF
    • Bitmap—.BMP, .DIB (Mac with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • Enhanced Metafile—.EMF
    • Flash Player—.SWF, .SPL
    • FreeHand—.FH7, .FH8, .FH9, .FT7, .FT8, .FT9
    • GIF Image—.GIF
    • JPEG Image—.JPG
    • Macintosh PICT Image—.PCT (Windows with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • MacPaint Image—.PNTG (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • MP3 Sound—.MP3
    • Photoshop 2.5, 3 Image—.PSD (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • PNG Image—.PNG
    • QuickTime Image—.QTIF (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • QuickTime Movie—.MOV
    • Silicon Graphics Image—.SGI (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • Sun AU—.AU
    • TGA Image—.TGA (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • Tiff Image—.TIFF (only with QuickTime 4 installed)
    • WAV Sound—.WAV
    • Windows Metafile—.WMF
  • Export Movie: Flash can also directly export to several compatible formats.
  • Use File⇒Export to write your movie to any of these formats:

    • Adobe Illustrator Sequence—.AI
    • Animated GIF—.GIF
    • Bitmap Sequence—.BMP
    • DXF Sequence—.DXF
    • EMF Sequence—.EMF
    • EPS 3.0 Sequence—.EPS
    • Flash Player—.SWF
    • Futuresplash Player—.SPL
    • Generator Template—.SWT
    • GIF Sequence—.GIF
    • JPEG Sequence—.JPG
    • PNG Sequence—.PNG
    • QuickTime—.MOV
    • WAV Audio—.WAV
    • Windows AVI—.AVI
    • WMF Sequence—.WMF
  • Export Image
    • Adobe Illustrator—.AI
    • AutoCAD DXF—.DXF
    • Bitmap—.BMP
    • Enhanced Metafile—.EMF
    • EPS 3.0—.EPS
    • Flash Player—.SWF
    • FutureSplash Player—.SPL
    • Generator Template—.SWT
    • GIF Image—.GIF
    • JPEG Image—.JPG
    • PNG Image—.PNG
    • Windows Metafile—.WMF

Publishing
One of the most celebrated features of Flash 4 was the Publish feature, which replaced Aftershock. This is a powerful, robust aspect of Flash that required no changes in this upgrade to Flash 5. So if you’re familiar with Flash 4, you’ll be thoroughly at home with the Publish workflow. The areas of the File Menu which pertain to the Publish feature are:

  • Publish Settings
  • Publish Preview
  • Publish

Printing
Although Flash is considered a Web and animation program, it fully supports printed output. The functionality and specific dialogs vary slightly from the Mac to the PC while other variations are subject to which printers and printer drivers are installed on your machine. The Flash Page Setup dialog is the most standard aspect of the program and the choices for paper size, margins, center positioning, and orientation are pretty intuitive. However, the Layout area of the PC Page Setup Dialog deserves a little more attention. The options here are:

  • Frames: Use this drop-down menu to choose to print either All Frames of the animation or the ecological default, which is to print the First Frame Only.
  • Layout: There are three basic options:
    • Actual Size: This prints the Frame at full size, subject to the accompanying Scale setting: At what scale do you want to print your frames? Enter a percentage.
    • Fit on One Page: This automatically reduces or enlarges the Frame so that it fills the maximum printable area, without distortion.
    • Storyboard: This enables you to print several thumbnails per page in the following arrangements: Boxes, Grid, or Blank. There are accompanying settings for Frames Across, Frame Margin, and Label Frames. This is a great tool for circulating comps and promotional materials.
  • Print Margins (Mac Only): Refer to the prior discussion (immediately preceding) of Frames, Layout, and Actual Size for an explanation of these equivalent options on the Mac. Note the Disable PostScript check box.
  • Print Preview: Use Print Preview to see an onscreen preview of how the printed output looks, based upon the options you’ve chosen in the Page Setup and Print Margins (Mac Only) dialogs.
  • Print: Just print it!
  • Send (PC only): This is a new command that invokes the default e-mail client so that that you can readily send the Flash file as an attachment.
  • Exit/Quit: Finally, at the very bottom of the File Menu is the command to close Flash. On the PC, it’s File⇒Exit; the Mac equivalent is File⇒Quit.

The Edit Menu
The Edit Menu isn’t nearly as complex as the File Menu. Still, it’s an important menu because many of these commands are central to so many Flash operations.

Edit Menu on the PC with the Equivalent Mac Menu Inset

Edit Menu on the PC with the Equivalent Mac Menu Inset

  • Undo: When you make a mistake, before you do anything else Do the Undo.
  • Redo: The anti-Undo, this undoes what you just undid.
  • Cut: This removes any selected item(s) and places it on the clipboard.
  • Copy: This copies any selected item(s) and places it on the clipboard, without removing it.
  • Paste: Disabled if nothing has been copied or cut, this pastes items from the clipboard into the currently active frame on the currently active layer. You can also paste into panel controls.
  • Paste in Place: This is like Paste, except that it pastes the object precisely in the same place (with regards to X and Y coordinates) from which it was copied.
  • Paste Special (PC only): This is like Paste on steroids, with version control. It pastes or embeds contents from the Clipboard in a specified format; it can also paste and simultaneously generate a link to information in another movie. The Paste Special Dialog has these fields:
    • Source: This displays the local path to the source of the item that is on the clipboard.
    • Paste: This pastes the data on the clipboard.
    • Paste Link: This pastes data on the clipboard, maintaining a link to the original document, but is generally not available.
    • As: This field may have several choices, depending both on the nature of the item (including the application that created it) that is on the clipboard, and also on which radio button is activated.
    • Result: This indicates the result of the selected combination of the Paste / Paste Link and As options.
    • Display as Icon: This check box is enabled when any combination of the options permits the selected item to be pasted as an Icon.
    • Change Icon: This button is evoked when Display as Icon is enabled. Click this button to open the Change Icon dialog (complete with browse capability), which facilitates selection of an alternate icon.
    • OK: Once these settings have been determined, click OK.
  • Clear: This removes a selected item(s) from the Stage without copying it to the Clipboard.
  • Duplicate: This command duplicates a selected item or items, without burdening the Clipboard. The duplicated item appears adjacent to the original.
  • Select All: Does what it says.
  • Deselect All: Does what it says.
  • Cut Frames: Cut a selected Frame or Frames with this command.
  • Copy Frames: Copy a selected Frame or Frames with this command.
  • Paste Frames: Pastes the Frame(s).
  • Edit Symbols: Select an instance of a symbol and choose this command to edit in symbol-editing mode.
  • Edit Selected: This is only enabled if a group or symbol is selected on the Stage. It opens a group or symbol for editing in a separate tab while dimming the rest of the Flash Stage similar to Edit in Place with symbols.
  • Edit All: When editing a group, Edit All is used to go back to editing the normal Flash scene.
  • Preferences: The Preferences item of the Edit Menu invokes a tabbed dialog.A full explanation of this dialog follows.

Preferences
The Preferences dialog is one of the places where you get to tell Flash how you want it to behave. After you’ve established your preferences, this is how the program will be configured for every movie that you make. Nearly all options are identical on both platforms with the exception of the clipboard settings, which are a reflection of the different ways that the two platforms handle their clipboards.

As shown below, options for the General tab of the Preferences dialog are:

  • Undo Levels: This sets the number of undos that Flash holds in memory to cover your mistakes. The maximum combined number of undos is 200. The default is 100. Undo levels devour system memory, so if you work smart and save incrementally, you can set your undos between 10 and 25. The only limitation here is the RAM on your machine.
  • Printing Options (PC only): As discussed previousl, in context with the Printing commands of the File Menu, when printing single large areas of color surrounded by complex borders, problems may occur on Post- Script Printers. If you encounter such problems, try checking this option to Disable PostScript. The equivalent option is available on the Mac by choosing File⇒Print Margins.
  • The General tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

    The General tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

  • Selection Options:
    • Shift Select: Shift Select controls how Flash accumulates multiple selections.When Shift Select is ON, Flash behaves normally: Hold down the Shift key to select and acquire additional elements. When OFF, simply click, click, click to continue adding elements to the selection. (Veteran users of Flash may recall that this is also how Flash implemented Select when it was Futuresplash and Flash 2.)
    • Show Tooltips: Tooltips are little labels that appear adjacent to the cursor when the cursor is held over a tool, prior to clicking the tool. These labels tell the name of the tool and related keyboard shortcut. Deselect this option to turn this feature off.
  • Timeline Options:
    • Disable Timeline Docking: This option prevents the timeline from attaching to the application window once it’s been deployed as a floating panel.
    • Flash 4 Selection Style: Flash 5 introduced a new methodology for selecting frames in the timeline. This option toggles that functionality back to Flash 4 Selection Style.
    • Flash 4 Frame Drawing: Flash 5 also introduced a new methodology for drawing frames in the timeline. This option toggles that functionality back to the Flash 4 style.
  • Highlight Color: This preference controls the highlight color for selected objects: groups, symbols, or text but not shapes.
    • Use this color: Check this option to choose a highlight color for selections from the Swatches pop-up.
    • Use layer color: Check this option to use the layer color as the highlight color for selections. This option enables you to distinguish selected items according to their associated layer color.
  • Actions Panel: This drop-down menu has two options that configure the Frame Actions Panel each time you launch Flash. The options are Normal or Expert Mode.
  • As shown below, options for the Editing tab of the Preferences dialog are:

    The Editing tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

    The Editing tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

  • Pen Tool: With the release of Flash 5, Macromedia added a robust Pen Tool to the Flash Toolbox. Three preferences to control the performance of the Pen Tool are located here. Because fine, accurate use of the Pen Tool often involves the use of selection tools in order to move and adjust control points, we’ve chosen to introduce the Pen Tool.
    • Show Pen Preview: With this option checked, Flash will display a preview of the next line segment, in response to moving the pointer, prior to clicking to make the next end point and create the line segment.
    • Show Solid Points: Check this option to display selected anchor points as solid points, and unselected points as hollow points. The default, which is unchecked, displays anchor points in the opposite manner: The default is for selected points to be hollow and for unselected points to be solid.
    • Show Precise Cursors: This option toggles the Pen tool cursor between the default Pen Tool icon and a precision crosshair cursor. We advise that you check this option to use the precision cursor.
  • Drawing Settings: Previous versions of Flash had a drawing control that was referred to as the Assistant. It controlled the performance of one of Flash’s most celebrated features, the “automated helpers” that aid drawing, which include Line Processing and Shape Recognition. With Flash 5, these controls have been relocated intact here as the Drawing Settings. For all assistants, the options range from off, to lax, to moderately aggressive, to aggressive. Only one assistant has an option that’s equivalent to always on. Regardless of the particular assistant, here’s a universal translation for these somewhat quirky settings:
    • Connect lines: Controls snapping between an extant line and a line that’s being drawn. If the line that’s being drawn is within the threshold, it snaps to the nearest point of the other line. This setting also controls vertical and horizontal line recognition, which is the aspect of Line Processing that makes nearly vertical or horizontal lines absolutely vertical or horizontal.
    • Smooth curves: When drawing with the Pencil Tool, with the mode set to either Straighten or Smooth, this setting controls how much smoothing will be applied to curved lines.
    • Recognize lines: This setting determines how nearly straight a line segment needs to be in order for Flash to make it perfectly straight.
    • Recognize shapes: In Flash, roughly drawn circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, and arcs of either 90 or 180 degrees can be recognized as geometric shapes and automatically redrawn with absolute precision. This is called Shape Recognition, and this setting controls the degree of what is “permissible.”
    • Click accuracy: This setting controls how close the cursor must be to an item before Flash recognizes the item. A tolerant setting means that you either inadvertently select an item, which is a bother, or that you can be close and easily select an item, which may be cool. We think Normal is the best setting for this. As shown below, options for the Clipboard tab of the Preferences dialog are:

    The Clipboard tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

    The Clipboard tab of the Preferences dialog for the PC

  • Bitmaps (PC) / PICT Settings (Mac):
    • Color Depth (PC): Choose None if you are only pasting back into Flash.This only copies the Flash vector format, which is faster and conserves system memory. Otherwise, if you want to copy bitmaps to the clipboard (in addition to the default Windows Metafile), choose a bitmap format which is only useful when pasting to and from bitmap applications, such as Photoshop. In which case, choose the appropriate bit depth for your use.
    • Type (Mac): As with the PC, choose Objects if you are only pasting back into Flash. This only copies the Flash vector format, which is faster and conserves system memory. Otherwise, choose a bitmap format if you want to copy bitmaps (in the PICT format) to the clipboard which is only useful when pasting into bitmap applications, such as Photoshop. As with the equivalent setting for the PC, chose the appropriate bit depth for your use.
    • Resolution: Choose the resolution at which you want to capture bitmaps.
    • Size Limit (PC): Use this entry box to limit the amount of RAM (memory) that will be gobbled up by bitmaps on the clipboard.
    • Smooth (PC): Smooth is antialiasing, which means that the edges of shapes and lines are dithered to look smooth on screen. Check Smooth to turn antialiasing on.
    • Include PostScript (Mac): Although mostly unused now, the original Pict format had the capability to include postscript items.
    • Gradients on Clipboard (PC): The Quality drop-down controls the quality of the gradient fills that are created when copying to the Windows Clipboard. Copying higher quality gradients can be slow and consumes system RAM. If you’re only pasting back into Flash, choose None, because full gradient quality is preserved regardless.
    • Gradients (Mac): As with the PC, the Quality drop-down controls the quality of gradient fills that are created when copying to the Mac Clipboard. Copying higher quality gradients can be slow and consumes system RAM. Choose None if you’re only pasting back into Flash, as full gradient quality is preserved regardless.
  • FreeHand Text: This command confirms the marriage between Flash and FreeHand.
    • Maintain Text as Blocks: When pasting text from a FreeHand file, if this option is checked, the pasted text remains editable.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: This final item of the Edit Menu invokes the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog, which is a powerful new feature of Flash 5. As shown in Figure below, the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog enables you to customize your Flash keyboard shortcuts to maintain consistency with other applications or to develop a personalized workflow. Not only can you choose keyboard shortcuts developed from other applications, you can also save your modifications and custom settings. A full explanation of this dialog follows.

Keyboard shortcuts
There is one major reason to applaud the inclusion of this feature in Flash 5: It enables the disabled. Imagine how wonderful this facility might be for someone who has lost the use of one of his or her hands. For other disabilities, this feature could make the difference between the ability to work effectively in Flash or not. We have a friend who is a quadriplegic; having the use of neither his hands nor his feet, this intrepid fellow accomplishes amazing feats in Flash with a mouth stick! These keyboard commands enable him, and others with disabilities, to use the program with a little more ease.

Another reason to celebrate this feature is that it facilitates the development of a custom workflow for example, drawing tablet with one hand, keyboard with the other. The disadvantage of this feature is that, in a busy studio where artists are swapping seats like musical chairs, irresponsible keyboard changes can lead to team grief. In a studio, Keyboard Shortcuts must be implemented with regard for others working in the same environment. But this is a small detraction from the greater value of this feature. We hope that Macromedia will build upon their example and continue to lead the way, and will offer greater accessibility for the disabled with subsequent releases.

The Keyboard Shortcuts dialog

The Keyboard Shortcuts dialog

To create a new keyboard shortcut, you must first duplicate an existing set, from which you can then add or subtract existing shortcuts to form your custom shortcut set. Here’s the process:

  1. Select a shortcut set from the Current Set pop-up menu. This is now the active set.
  2. Duplicate the active set by clicking the Duplicate Set button. The Duplicate dialog appears. Enter a new name for this set in the Duplicate Name field and click OK.A similar procedure is employed to rename a shortcut set. Simply click the Rename Set button and enter the new name in the ensuing dialog. (But you cannot rename the built-in sets that ship with the program.)
  3. Select a commands list from the Command pop-up menu (Drawing Menu Commands, Drawing Tools, or Test Movie Menu Commands) either to add a command or to modify it.
  4. Next, in the Command list, choose either a grouping or a command from one of the previously chosen commands lists. Note that some lists have sublists.Click the Plus sign (or small arrow on the Mac) to expand a particular category.
  5. Now choose a command that you want to add (or subtract) a description of the selected command appears in the Description area.
  6. To delete the existing shortcut, click the (–) Shortcut button.
  7. To add a shortcut for this command, click the (+) Shortcut button, and then enter the shortcut key combination in the Press Key entry box. Click Change, and then OK to close the dialog.
  8. Or, to change an existing command, select the command and click the Change button.
  9. To delete a shortcut set, click the Delete set button, then select the set to be deleted from the ensuing Delete Set dialog and click the Delete button.(Because you cannot delete the built-in sets that ship with the program, they do not appear in the Delete Set dialog.)

The View Menu
The View Menu is dedicated to controlling how movies and some tools are viewed in Flash. There are also a few controls that toggle functionality.

  • Goto: The Goto command leads to a Pop-up menu of scenes in the current movie, including four handy shortcuts to the First, Previous, Next and Last scenes.
  • Zoom In: This increases the view by 50 percent.
  • Zoom Out: This decreases the view by 50 percent.
  • Magnification: This command leads to eight preset magnification levels.
  • View Menu

    The View Menu

  • Outlines: Use this command to display all shapes as outlines, and to show all lines as thin lines. This command is useful for reshaping graphic elements, and for getting the general timing and sense of a movie. It also speeds up the display of complex scenes. It is a global equivalent of the outlines toggle of individual frames.
  • Fast: This command also speeds up display. It turns off both antialiasing and dithering. Although the default is Off, the recommended setting is On. Unfortunately, this setting is not saved as a preference it must be set for every movie.
  • Antialias: Not to be confused with the wife of your outlaw cowboy uncle, antialiasing dithers the edges of shapes and lines so that they look smoother on screen. It also slows the display. It works best with fast, 24-bit video cards.This is really a toggle in opposition with the Fast command: turn this On and Fast goes Off. The setting we recommend for Antialias is Off.
  • Antialias Text: As with Antialias, this is also a toggle in opposition to the Fast command. It smoothes the edges of text only and works best with large font sizes it can be dreadfully slow when there’s a lot of text.
  • Timeline: Use this toggle to show or hide the timeline.
  • Work Area: This command makes the light-gray area that surrounds the Stage (or Movie Area) visible. This can be useful when your movie has items that are either partially or completely off stage as, for example, when you have something move into or out of a scene. To work with these items (to place or manipulate them) off stage, use View➪Work Area. To see the maximum Stage/Work Area, use View➪Work Area, and then use View➪Show All.
  • Rulers: This command toggles the Rulers (which display at the top and left edges of the Work Area) on or off use Modify➪Movie to change units of measurement.
  • Grid: Click this command to access three commands that control the parameters and use of both Snapping and the Flash Grid.
    • Show Grid: This command toggles the Drawing Grid on or off.
    • Snap to Grid: This command toggles the Snap to Grid function on or off. Snap to Grid works regardless of whether the Grid has been made visible with View➪Grid➪Show Grid if the Grid has not been made visible, it just snaps to the invisible Grid.
    • Edit Grid: Use this command to invoke the Grid dialog, where you can change Grid Color, Spacing, and the settings for Snap accuracy. Snap accuracy controls how close an item, symbol, or while drawing the end of a line must be to a Grid intersection before the item, symbol, or line endpoint snaps to the Grid. Both Show Grid and Snap to Grid check boxes are also included in this dialog. Edited Grid settings can be saved as the default by clicking the Save Default button, which enables you to have these setting as presets for all subsequent Flash movies.
  • Guides: When Rulers are turned on, Guides, a new feature for Flash 5, can be dragged onto the Stage from either ruler. These four commands control the parameters of these Guides.
    • Show Guides: This is a simple toggle to either show or hide the Guides.
    • Lock Guides: This is a toggle that either locks or unlocks all current Guides.
    • Snap to Guides: This is a toggle that extends Snap behavior to Guides.It works independently of the other Snap toggles so, if Snap to Grid is turned off in the Edit Grid dialog, and Snap to Objects is also turned off, Snap to Guides is still active, unless, of course, it, too, is toggled off.
    • Edit Guides: This command invokes the Guides dialog box, where Guide Color and Guide-specific Snap accuracy can be adjusted. Also included are check boxes for the other three Guide commands: Show Guides, Snap to Guides, and Lock Guides. This enables you to establish Guide settings and then click the Save Default button to have these setting as presets for all subsequent Flash movies.
  • Snap to Objects: Due to the recent trend among high-end Flash developers to structure their Flash authoring as Object-Oriented Flash, it’s advisable for the sake of future clarity to think of this command as a Snap to Items command.Snap to Items means that, when moving or manipulating an item, the item snaps into alignment with items already placed on the stage.
  • Show Shape Hints: This toggles Shape Hints to make them visible or invisible.It does not disable shape hinting. Shape Hints are used when tweening shapes.
  • Hide Edges: Use this command to hide selection highlights, so that you can edit items without the added confusion of their selection highlights.
  • Hide Panels: This command hides all visible panels. However, it is not a toggle because repeating the command does not return the panels to visibility. To return the panels to visibility, you must invoke them from either the Launcher Bar or the Window Menu. However, pressing Tab hides and returns your currently visible set of panels.

The Insert Menu
As shown below, the Insert Menu is used to insert Symbols, Layers, Guides, Frames, and Scenes into the current Movie.

Insert Menu

Insert Menu

  • Convert to Symbol: Use this command to convert a selected item (or items) on stage into a new Symbol and evoke the Symbol Properties Dialog.
  • New Symbol: Use this command to create a new symbol in Symbol-editing Mode. To use this command, first make sure that nothing is selected by using Edit⇒Deselect All.
  • Layer: This command creates a new layer directly above the currently active layer. The new layer becomes the active layer.
  • Motion Guide: Use this command to add a Motion Guide layer (also referred to as a Motion Path). The Motion Guide layer appears above the selected layer.Frame:Use this command to insert a new frame at any selected point on the timeline. If a frame is selected, then that selected frame (together with all frames to the right on that layer) are shifted to the right to accommodate the new frame other layers are left alone. But if no layers (or frames) are selected, then all layers get a new frame at the current position of the Play head (indicating the active frame) and preexisting frames on all layers shift right.
  • Remove Frame: This command deletes the selected Frame.
  • Keyframe: Use this command to convert a selected Frame into a Keyframe.
  • Blank Keyframe: This command inserts a new Keyframe at a selected point on the timeline. If a frame is selected, then that selected frame (together with all frames to the right on that layer) shift to the right to accommodate the new frame other layers are left alone. If no layers (or frames) are selected, then all layers get a new frame at the current frame marker’s position and preexisting frames on all layers shift right.
  • Clear Keyframe: This command changes a Keyframe back into a simple Frame, whereupon the contents of the former Keyframe are replaced with copies of the Keyframe immediately previous in the timeline.
  • Create Motion Tween: This command is one step in the process of creating a tweened animation.
  • Scene: This command inserts a new, empty Scene immediately following the currently active Scene. By default, new Scenes are numbered use the Scene panel to rename and to organize Scenes.
  • Remove Scene: This command deletes the currently active Scene.

The Modify Menu
The Modify menu is thick with commands that invoke popups, submenus, and panels. Not shown are the pop-ups for the first five items on the menu: Instance, Frame, Layer, Scene, and Movie. Although all of these are introduced here, substantial discussion of these items has been deferred until they can be handled in context with the Flash workflow.

  • Instance: The Modify➪Instance command evokes the Instance Panel, which is used to control independent behaviors of Symbol Instances. In its default configuration, the Instance Panel is accompanied by the Effect Panel. Together, they have fields for Instance Behavior, Options, Name, and Color Effect.
  • Frame: The Modify⇒Frame command, opens the Frame Panel. In its default configuration, the Sound Panel accompanies the Frame Panel. Together, they have fields for the control of frame labels, tweening, and sound.
  • Layer: The Modify⇒Layer invokes the Layer Properties dialog, which is used to control and edit the properties of the active layer of the timeline.
  • Scene: Modify⇒Scene opens the Scene Properties panel, which has only one function: to rename the current scene.
  • The Modify Menu

    The Modify Menu

  • Movie: Modify⇒Movie leads to the Movie Properties dialog, which is used to change Frame Rate, Movie Dimensions, Background Color, and Ruler Units.
    • Frame Rate: Changes the Frame Rate.
    • Dimensions: Establishes the Dimensions of the Movie.
    • Match: The Match Printer button matches the Movie Dimensions to the currently selected printer’s maximum printable dimensions. The Match Contents button adjusts the Movie Dimensions to include all activenitems, from the upper left-hand corner to the lower right-hand corner of the entire movie (including animation, and the space it may cover during such movements). The expanse includes a narrow zone of white (stage) around it.
    • Background Color: Click the chip to choose a color from the Swatches pop-up.
    • Ruler Units: Use this drop-down menu to specify units for the movie.Remember, Ruler Units also changes Grid Units and impacts Snap to Grid behavior.
    • OK: Applies changes to the current movie only.
    • Save Default: Click this button to add these settings to the preferences.They become the default for all subsequent movies created with File⇒New.The next group of commands replaces the prior grouping of commands that were located within the Curves submenu. These commands aren’t only for manipulating curves they’re useful for manipulating other things, too. These commands are as follows:
  • Smooth: Reduces curves and bumps.
  • Straighten: Straightens out lines and curves.
  • Optimize: Lessens the number of curves in a shape. Use this command to reduce the size of Flash files.
  • Shape: Lets you convert lines to fills, expand and shrink fills, and soften the edges of fills.
  • Trace Bitmap: Use this command to convert an imported bitmap into a vector graphic with editable, discrete areas of color.
  • Transform: Use Modify⇒Transform to access the Transform submenu, home to the following commands: Scale, Rotate, Scale and Rotate, Rotate 90 ° CW, Rotate 90 ° CCW, Flip Vertical, Flip Horizontal, Remove Transform, and Edit Center.
  • Arrange: Use Modify⇒Arrange to open the Arrange submenu, which is used to move selected items, symbols, and groups either forward or backward in the stack of items that are layered in the currently active Layer. The options which are intuitive are:
    • Bring to Front: This moves the selected item to the absolute front of the active layer’s stack.
    • Bring Forward: This moves the selected item one step forward in the stack.
    • Send Backward: This moves the selected item one step backward in the stack.
    • Send to Back: This moves the selected item all the way back to the hinterlands of the stack.
    • Lock: Use this to lock the selected item in its current position in the stack.
    • Unlock: Use this to release the selected item from its locked status in the stack.
  • Frames: Modify➪Frames yields the Frames submenu, with four commands:
    • Reverse: To reverse an animation sequence, first check that there’s a keyframe at the beginning and end of the sequence. Next, select the entire sequence keyframe to keyframe and choose Modify⇒Frames⇒Reverse.
    • Synchronize Symbols: Sometimes an animation sequence is encapsulated as a symbol and used as a graphic instance in a movie. If the number of frames occupied by this graphic instance doesn’t jive with the number of frames in the original sequence, erratic looping occurs.
    • Although this command is supposed to adjust timing and ensure synchronous looping, it rarely works. The optimal solution is to synchronize the animations manually.
    • Convert to Keyframes: Use this command to convert a range of selected frames into keyframes. This command is an obvious candidate for a custom keyboard shortcut.
    • Convert to Blank Keyframes: Use this command to downgrade a range of selected keyframes to blank keyframes. This command is another obvious candidate for a custom keyboard shortcut.
  • Group: Use this command to Group two or more selected items.
  • Ungroup: This command ungroups items that have been grouped
  • Break Apart: This command is used to separate groups, blocks of type, instances, bitmaps, and OLE items. It can be used to reduce the file size of imported graphics. However, it may not be reversible, and it also has some unintuitive effects. Furthermore, because this command turns blocks of type into graphics, applying it to type increases file size sometimes significantly.

The Text Menu
This menu contains duplicate commands for text controls that are available in one of the three Text Panels.

The Text Menu

The Text Menu

These commands are:

  • Font: Although this command duplicates the Font drop-down menu located at the top of the Character Panel, it’s much easier to work with if you know your fonts. That’s because Text➪Font invokes a scrolling pop-up menu that extends from top to bottom of your screen. The only disadvantage of this menu is that it lacks the additional display that the Text Panel offers, which shows the font name in the character set of the highlighted font.
  • Size: This command offers 13 preset sizes ranging from 8 points to 120 points.Although it’s quick and easy, it lacks the infinite precision of the Size control located on the Text Panel, which presents both a numeric entry field and a slider bar for the selection of point size.
  • Style: This command gives you the easiest access for changing the style of selected text. The options are Plain, Bold, Italic, Subscript, and Superscript.
  • Align: This command duplicates the function of the upper pane of the Paragraph Panel. Here the options are Align Left, Align Center, Align Right, and Justify.
  • Tracking: This command offers abbreviated control of text tracking. It isn’t nearly as robust or as precise as the lower pane of the Paragraph Panel. That’s because the options are limited to Increase, Decrease, and Reset.
  • Character: This command invokes the Character Panel.
  • Paragraph: This command invokes the Paragraph Panel.
  • Options: This command invokes the Text Options Panel.

The Control Menu
Despite the Control Menu’s alluring title , this is not the menu for Type A personalities. Rather, like the VCR controller, which Type A’s always seem to finagle onto their armrest, the Control Menu displays buttons that control the movie playback features within Flash.

The Control Menu

The Control Menu

  • Play: This command plays the movie in the authoring environment.
  • Rewind: This command returns the movie back to frame 1.
  • Step Forward: Use this command to step the movie forward one frame.
  • Step Backward: Use this command to step the movie one frame backward.
  • Test Movie: Some interactive functions will not work when the movie is played within the Flash playback environment. This command uses the settings established in the Publish Settings dialog to export the current movie and instantly play it within a new Flash Player window. The exported movie is not a temporary file; it is saved to the same folder as the parent .FLA file. The Keyboard Shortcut for this command is Ctrl+Enter/Command+Return.
  • Debug Movie: This is a new feature of Flash 5 that enables developers to debug a Flash movie for problems in their code. It launches the Debugger Panel.
  • Test Scene: This command is similar to the Test Movie command; the only exception is that it tests the current scene only, whereas Test Movie runs the whole shebang.
  • Loop Playback: This command is a toggle that enables looping with all subsequent implementations of the Play, Test Movie, and Test Scene commands.
  • Play All Scenes: The default within the Flash Movie Controller is to play the current scene only. So, like Loop Playback, this is another toggle it overrides the default single-scene playback and enables all scenes to be played with subsequent implementations of the Play, Test Movie, and Test Scene commands.
  • Enable Frame Actions: This is a toggle that controls whether Frame Actions are enabled. Use Enable Frame Actions only during tests and playback within Flash; otherwise, it may be difficult to edit a movie.
  • Enable Simple Buttons: Like Enable Frame Actions, this toggle controls whether buttons are enabled. It would be impossible to edit, move, or manipulate buttons if they were continually enabled. So, enable buttons only during tests and playback within Flash. This is limited to simple buttons because complex buttons cannot be effectively tested within the Flash Editor environment.
  • Mute Sounds: This command toggles sound on or off, within the Flash Editor environment.

The Window Menu
The Window Menu, shown in Figure below, is the launch pad for a number of key panels and dialogs. It has several commands that are used to arrange the display of multiple movies.

  • New Window: This command opens the currently active movie in a new window.
  • The Window Menu

    The Window Menu

  • Toolbars (PC Only): This command opens the Toolbars subpanel, which contains the following commands.
    • Main: The Main Toolbar is the just the Standard Toolbar from Flash 4, with a different name. This toolbar is similar to the production toolbars of many programs. It duplicates commonly used tools for easier access, and is generally for those who are unfamiliar with the program. Because it devours precious screen space, we urge that it be disabled.
    • Status: The Status Toolbar,gives text readouts that may explain the use of tools, buttons, and many interface elements.Generally, the text is too limited to be much help. Leave this option disabled; it, too, devours precious screen space and retards learning.
  • Controller (PC placement): This command toggles the display of the Controller Toolbar. With buttons similar to a VCR, the Controller is used to test animations within the Flash Movie Editor. (It can be used instead of the commands on the Control Menu to play a movie within Flash.)From right to left, the buttons are: Stop, Rewind, Step Back One Frame, Play, Step Forward One Frame, and Fast Forward.
  • Tools: On both the Mac and the PC, this command toggles display of the Toolbox.
  • Controller (Mac placement): On the Mac, this command, which toggles display of the Controller Toolbar, is in the front lineup of the Window Menu commands.
  • Panels: This command opens the Panels submenu, which leads to groupings of most of the primary panels of Flash 5, which are:
    • Info: The top pane of this panel has a readout for the width and height of a selected item, as well as the x and y coordinates. These readouts are also, numeric entry fields, permitting a numeric transformation of both the dimensions and position of the selected item. There’s also an alignment grid that’s used to toggle the x,y coordinates between the item’s center and the top-left corner of the item. The bottom pane delivers the information about the (pixel precise) current mouse location: R, G, B, and Alpha values as well as x,y coordinates.
    • Fill: This panel is used to select or create fills Solid, Gradient, or Bitmap that are applied with the Paint Bucket (K) Tool.
    • Stroke: Strokes are lines created by the Pen (P) or Pencil Tool ( Y), as well as the outlines of filled shapes. Three controls handle the qualities that define a stroke: Stroke Style, Thickness, and Color.
    • Transform: This panel is a complement to the numeric transformation capabilities of the Info Panel. The Transform Panel facilitates changing the dimensions of a selected item according to percentage, with a check box to constrain transformations to the original aspect ratio of the item. Controls for Skew and Rotate are also located here.
    • Align: The Align Panel is used to align multiple selected items according to various criteria. This panel has intuitive, visual buttons that can be used to align, resize, and evenly distribute two or more selected items.These options can be used separately or in combinations.
    • Mixer: The Mixer Panel is used to mix colors and save them as color swatches. Colors may be assigned to either the Stroke or Fill Color Chips of the Color Tray. Additionally, the readout for the color space can be chosen from RGB (Red, Green, Blue), HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness), or hex (hexadecimal) color specification types.
    • Swatches: The Swatches Panel is used to load, organize, save, and remove both individual Color Swatches and Color Sets.
    • Character: The Character Panel offers control over the following aspects of text in Flash. Controls include font; point size; bold and italic; color; tracking; kerning; character position; and URL entry.
    • Paragraph: The Paragraph Panel controls the alignment and placement of text in Flash. The controls include Align (Left, Center, Right, or Full Justification), Left Margin, Right Margin, Indentation, and Line Spacing.
    • Text Options: The Text Options Panel is used to select the type of text that you will be using in Flash. The choices are Static, Dynamic, or Input Text. There are other choices as well, subject to the type of text you will be using.
    • Instance: The Instance Panel is used to control various fundamental properties of Symbol Instances. These properties vary according to whether the instance Behavior is as a Movie Clip, Button, or Graphic.
    • Effect: The Effect Panel controls color effects for symbol instances. The choices are Brightness, Tint, Alpha, and Advanced, which is a combination of the preceding three choices.
    • Clip Parameters: The Clip Parameter Panel is where Smart Clips are made. Smart Clips are a new feature of Flash 5, whereby Clip Parameters can be defined for each movie clip in the Library. By defining attributes (and default values for each attribute), a developer can create templates for interactivity, for ease of use by designers, and other purposes yet to be discovered by the indefatigable legions of Flash genius.
    • Frame: The Frame Panel has two functions: It is used to add labels and comments to individual frames, and to hold the controls that manage the finer aspects of Motion and Shape Tweening.
    • Sound: Controls for Flash sound are located in the Sound Panel, the Library, and the Publish Settings. The Sound Panel controls are used to set the Effect, Sync, and Loop for each sound, while the Edit button launches the Edit Envelope. Sound is covered in depth in the three chapters of Part III, “Sound Planning.”
    • Scene: The Scene Panel duplicates the function of the Edit Scene button, which is located at the right side of the Timeline Header. When working with Flash Movies that have two or more scenes, the Scene Panel facilitates switching from one scene to another, as well as duplicating, adding, and deleting them.
    • Generator: If you have Generator installed, the Generator Panel displays common (as well as any custom) Generator Objects that have been installed.
  • Panel Sets: This command invokes the Panel Sets submenu, which displays the command for the Default Layout, as well as any custom panel layout that may have been saved.
  • Save Panel Layout: Select this command to launch the Save Panel Layout dialog, which has a Name field and rudimentary buttons. Enter a name with which to save the current arrangement of panels. If you enter a name that’s been saved previously, Flash queries whether you want to overwrite it.
  • Close All Panels: This command closes all open panels. However, repeating this command does not reopen those same panels so it is not a toggle.
  • Actions: The Actions panel is used for assigning and authoring ActionScript. Although excluded from the Panels submenu, both the Actions Panel and the Movie Explorer Panel, which follows, can be arranged together with the other panels and saved into a panel set. The Actions Panel and ActionScript is covered in exhaustive depth in Part V, Programming Flash Movies with ActionScript.
  • Movie Explorer: The Movie Explorer is a powerful new feature of Flash 5. It’s like the helpmate of the Library because it provides an asset overview (in a file menu environment, analogous to the Mac Finder or the Windows Explorer) of the current Flash Movie, and offers many shortcuts for editing, updating, and troubleshooting many of the same items that would be much more difficult to sleuth out from the Library. A good example of the utility of the Movie Explorer is changing textand font choice. Doing operations like this from the Movie Explorer can be a serious time-saver. Both the Actions Panel and the Movie Explorer have buttons on the Launcher Bar to access them without hesitation.
  • Output: Unlike so many of the commands available from the Windows menu, this one isn’t a panel it really is a window, and cannot be ganged together with the panels. After export to .SWF, th


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