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Part I: Foundation

Part I: Foundation


The following 16 chapters cover practically every detail of ActionScript. Although the content is organized like a textbook, I’ve included several examples along the way. You are encouraged to break from the reading and try out any topic that interests you. Generally, however, this is the part of the book that you read. In the second half (the workshop chapters), you can follow along with the 18 detailed tutorials.

Here’s a quick rundown of the topics explored in this part of the book:

  1. Flash Basics” includes the prerequisites that I expect every reader to bring with him or her. Even if you consider yourself a Flash expert, you should read this chapter as both a review and an insight into some of the terms that I’ll use throughout the book.

  2. What’s New in Flash MX” introduces you to the key features in Flash MX that pertain specifically to ActionScript. In addition to changes in the programming language, features that affect how you build a Flash movie are discussed. Finally, this chapter includes some guidelines and a legend for the rest of the book.

  3. The Programmer’s Approach” is a very general chapter that lays the groundwork for your programming career. Topics such as writing specifications, prototyping, and exactly what “good style” means are covered.

  4. Basic Programming in Flash” introduces you to the terminology and basic elements of ActionScript, such as data types and variables. It’s impossible to discuss these elements without showing how they work, but the goal of this chapter is just to introduce all the pieces that will be incorporated in later chapters.

  5. Programming Structures” is a huge chapter that explains all the ways ActionScript is structured. If Chapter 4 was the building materials (wood, bricks, and concrete), this chapter is the framework and architectural styles. You also get a peek at both the Math and Number objects because they’re so integral to the structural elements covered.

  6. Debugging” offers a chance to catch your breath (after Chapter 5) and take the time to learn ways to ensure quality programming before you go too far in the wrong direction. The revised Flash Debugger is explained, as well as some general programming techniques to avoid or remove bugs.

  7. The Movie Clip Object” introduces a familiar component of Flash, but in a way that will help you understand other “objects” that come up in later chapters. In this way, you can leverage your existing knowledge when learning advanced topics.

  8. Functions” shows you how to use the built-in functions as well as how to write your own functions. It turns out that homemade functions prove to be much more involved than the ones that come with Flash. This is possibly the most valuable chapter because it can save you a ton of time.

  9. Manipulating Strings” looks at how to manipulate string data. Often, the user will end up seeing this text onscreen—but not necessarily. The ability to manipulate strings before the user sees them is very powerful.

  10. Keyboard Access and Modifying Onscreen Text” makes the leap to how text is displayed onscreen. Flash MX’s new TextField and TextFormat objects are explored as well as listeners and keyboard control.

  11. Arrays” explores how to make, access, and manipulate arrays, which are simply a great way to organize complex information.

  12. Objects” introduces the general form of objects, shows you how to use the built-in objects Sound, Color, and Date, and teaches you new ways to use the familiar Movie Clip. This chapter also covers the new runtime drawing functions.

  13. Homemade Objects” shows you how to apply the knowledge you already have to make complex objects in Flash. If arrays are a way to store complex information easily, objects are a way to store really complex information.

  14. Extending ActionScript” introduces all of the new ways you can modify ActionScript to make it behave as you want. You should definitely check out this chapter because you’ll learn a few simple techniques that will save a ton of time.

  15. Components” walks through all the ways to build and use components, from ways of making standard components work for you to creating custom User Interfaces (custom UIs).

  16. Interfacing with External Data” shows you many of the ways that Flash can “talk” to outside applications. Topics include reading text files, interacting with server applications, exchanging XML-structured data, exchanging data through the new LocalConnection object, and saving data on the users local machine with the local SharedObject. I didn’t have time to actually show you how to use outside tools, but this chapter shows you practically everything else.

It’s amazing to think that there’s so much to say about Flash and I don’t even say it all. I could probably double the size of this book and there’d be still more! However, I’m sure that if you grasp all the content I’ve organized in these 16 chapters, you’ll be able to adapt quickly to any new situation that arises.


1 Flash Basics


2 What’s New in Flash MX


3 The Programmer’s Approach


4 Basic Programming in Flash


5 Programming Structures


6 Debugging


7 The Movie Clip Object


8 Functions


9 Manipulating Strings


10 Keyboard Access and Modifying Onscreen Text


11 Arrays


12 Objects


13 Homemade Objects


14 Extending ActionScript


15 Components


16 Interfacing with External Data



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