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ActionScript is the powerful programming language inside Macromedia Flash. Learning ActionScript is your key to taking your Flash movies to the next level. Fortunately, learning ActionScript is easy.

This book teaches you how to write programs in ActionScript. It is divided into 24 short lessons. Each lesson builds on the previous ones. By the time you are finished with this book, you will be able to use ActionScript to make your movies completely interactive.

The Sams Teach Yourself in 24 Hours books are designed to teach the fundamentals of a topic from the ground up even if you have little or no experience in the topic. The books are for readers who want to learn the subject quickly. They use the tutorial method with plenty of examples and step-by-step instructions.

Sams Teach Yourself Flash MX ActionScript in 24 Hours quickly introduces you to the fundamentals of ActionScript. You don't need to know anything about ActionScript beforehand, but you should already know the basics of Flash drawing and animation. Most lessons include tasks that take you through building a small Flash movie that demonstrates a concept. By reading the material, you will learn ActionScript, and doing the tasks will reinforce what you have learned.

Who Should Read This Book

This book is for ActionScript beginners. Many people fit into this category. For instance, you could be an animator who has worked with Flash for a while but has not yet used ActionScript to add interactivity. Or, you could be someone who has not yet used Flash, but you know that you will want to add interactivity to your movies right away.

What You Should Already Know

This book teaches ActionScript. It does not teach Flash. ActionScript is the programming language inside Flash. This means that you should already be familiar with the Flash drawing tools, timeline, movie publishing, and symbols. This describes many Flash illustrators and animators.

If you are totally new to Flash, you should first take the time to learn Flash basics. Flash MX comes with a walk-through tutorial that explains everything you need to know. Run through that tutorial before starting to read this book. You may also want to glance through the user manuals, or try Sams Teach Yourself Flash in 24 Hours for greater detail.

What You Will Learn

This book assumes that you have never used a programming language before. Hour 3, “Learning to Program,” explains the basic concepts that you need to know. The other lessons will add more concepts as they are introduced.

If you already know a programming language, this book will help you translate what you already know into ActionScript.

Although this book contains many examples of real Flash movies, it is not a complete book of examples of everything possible with ActionScript. If you have an idea of what you want to do with Flash, chances are you will not find that exact movie here. Instead, you will find examples that teach the fundamentals, which will later help you create your specific idea.

This book is about Flash MX, also known as Flash 6. You will need to have Flash MX to use the examples. Earlier versions of Flash will not be able to open any of the example movies. In addition, some of the commands I will teach did not exist in Flash 5 and earlier. Please do not try to use this book with any version of Flash previous to Flash MX.

Is This Book Right for You?

So you are trying to decide whether this book is the one you are looking for. Take a look through the table of contents. It gives you a good idea of what the book covers.

This is not a reference book. It does not go into every command and function of ActionScript. Instead, it teaches you the concepts and commands that will take you from beginner to intermediate skill. From there, you can begin to investigate on your own and learn new commands and techniques.

Here is a list of reasons why this book might fit your needs:

  • You want to learn ActionScript quickly.

  • You have tried to learn ActionScript before, but couldn't grasp some concepts.

  • You have learned some ActionScript on your own, but feel that there is much more to learn.

  • You don't care so much about programming, but need to add interactivity to your movies.

  • You have used ActionScript tutorials online, but need a complete set of tutorials to round out your ActionScript knowledge.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is arranged in a linear fashion, with concepts and tasks getting more complex as you move along. If you are already familiar with programming, for instance, you could skip Hour 3. If you have already dabbled in ActionScript for a while, you might want to skip Hour 1, “Your First Look at ActionScript;” Hour 2, “Using the Script Editing Window;” and Hour 4, “Writing Code In Flash.”

Each lesson in this book builds on the concepts learned in earlier lessons. As you advance, your knowledge will get both deeper and broader.

Although you can skip directly to a task in a lesson that fits your immediate need, you may find that you won't understand what you are reading because you missed something covered earlier. Some readers are able to use books in this way, whereas others need to take it step-by-step.


The lessons all include a summary at the end. If you already know a bit of ActionScript, you can use these summaries to determine whether the lesson is critical for you. Otherwise, the summary is a great way to review what you have learned.

After the summary comes a set of questions and answers. These cover some questions that you may have after reading the lesson. Usually, the questions and answers take what you have learned to the next level by giving you ideas about how to expand on what you have learned.

Each lesson also includes a workshop. This is a set of four questions that test your knowledge of what you just read. I usually take this opportunity to make sure that you understand key points. Missing one of the quiz questions means that you should probably go back and review that part of the lesson. Otherwise, you may find that you don't know all you need to know to use that concept in that lesson.

Inside each lesson are tips, notes, cautions, and coffee breaks. A tip is a suggestion that will save you time and effort, or give you an idea about how to use what you have learned. A note is a piece of information that gives you a little more insight into a concept. A caution explains a typical pitfall that people fall into when first using the technique. A coffee break is an aside that gives you an interesting, but unimportant, piece of information about the topic.

Almost all the lessons in this book provide one or more tasks. You can follow along with the step-by-step instructions to use what you have learned to build a Flash movie. If you feel you understand the concept completely, you can simply follow along with the tasks. If you want to really reinforce what you have learned, you should do each step of the task.

Each task results in a Flash movie. You can find these movies on the book's CD-ROM. Each lesson has its own folder. The names of all example movies are mentioned in the book, but you can also usually find them by matching the concept with the file name.

Additional Information

After you complete this book, you may want to continue your ActionScript education. There are plenty of commands to learn, and programmers are always developing new and interesting techniques. Many times, programmers take Flash beyond what Macromedia even thought possible. It is a good idea to keep up with current ActionScript tricks and techniques.

The best way to do this is online. There are dozens of active Flash Web sites and mailing lists. Every Flash programmer should belong to at least one list and check out at least one site on a regular basis.

I have set up a site called Developer Dispatch at http://www.developerdispatch.com. On this site, you will find a long list of other Flash sites and mailing lists. Developer Dispatch also has a Flash message board that you can use to talk with other developers.

I have also written another book called Flash ActionScript for Fun and Games. That book goes further than this one with many complex game examples and will be especially useful to you if you are learning ActionScript to build games.

If you want to check for updated CD-ROM files or read about my games book, go to my Web site: http://www.garyrosenzweig.com. You can also find out how to contact me and receive information about future books.

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