Adobe Flash CS3 and CS4 interface, basic commands and concepts

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This post analyzes the interface of the two versions of Adobe Flash CS3 and CS4 because the number of similarities is too great to take them separately. Also, the examples and tutorials from this site, use most of the basic features that are found in both versions. The differences will be highlighted and described for each version.
The interface of the Adobe Flash CS3 and CS4 contains some important windows:

Flash CS3 Interface

Flash CS3 Interface

Flash CS4 Interface

Flash CS4 Interface

Stage

– the most important window in Flash CS3 and CS4 because it allows a visual management of the animation components (objects)

Object on the stage

– different components of the Flash animation; it can be a simple or composed drawing, textbox, button, an animation; there are special objects, named Flash symbols (buttons, movie clip, graphic), that are used to manage group of simple objects and animations;

Toolbar

– contains tools that allows drawing of new components and the management of their properties

Property Inspector

– allows the management (view, modify) of the selected object properties from the stage

Panels

– different panels used in making a Flash project; all those windows can be activated or deactivated using the Window option from the application menu

Timeline

– the second most important window in Flash CS3 because it allows a visual management of the animation scenario; it defines when and how an object appears on the stage; it defines how the objects are used; the Timeline contains layers that have frames;

Layer

– a logic component of the Timeline that is associated with an object or group of objects; defines the behavior of the stage objects that are in this layer; a best practice is to have each stage object on its separate layer; a layer contains a set of frames

Frame

– is the basic component of the Timeline; it defines an instance (how it looks, what are its properties values, what is its position on the stage) of the object behavior; there are special frames, keyframes, that are used by designers to modify the object properties;

Because there are some basic commands and concepts highly used in all the Flash CS3 and CS4 examples and tutorials on this site, it is important to know them before we start:

Adobe Flash Timeline

Adobe Flash Timeline

Keyframe:

  • A keyframe is a frame that allows Flash users to modify properties of the object;
  • There are 2 types of keyframes: keyframes (that have content) and blank keyframes (that don’t have content);
  • A keyframe is created by selecting the frame and:
    • Using the Flash menu options: Insert->Timeline->Keyframe
    • Using the contextual menu: Mouse Right-Click on the frame and select Insert Keyframe
    • Using keyboard shortcuts: F6
  • When a keyframe is created, Flash copies the content of the previous keyframe (automatically the first frame of a new layer is a keyframe) and generates frames between the 2 keyframes; the new keyframe has the same content as the previous one;
  • A blank keyframe is created by selecting the frame and
    • Using the Flash menu options: Insert->Timeline->Blank Keyframe
    • Using the contextual menu: Mouse Right-Click on the frame and select Insert Blank Keyframe
    • Using keyboard shortcuts: F7
  • When a blank keyframe is created, Flash copies the content of the previous keyframe (automatically the first frame of a new layer is a keyframe) and generates frames between the 2 keyframes; the new blank keyframe DOES NOT have content;

Animation (motion tween):

  • A motion tween (in Flash CS4 the motion tween effect from Flash CS3 is known as classic motion tween; for other info read Differences between motion tweens and classic tweens) can be created between 2 keyframes of a layer
  • For creating an animation you need a minimum of 2 keyframes;
  • Flash generates animation by gradually transforming the object between 2 or more keyframes;
  • To create a motion tween between 2 keyframes you must:
    • Generate 2 keyframes on the object layer (it is important to not change any property of the object, not yet);
    • Select a frame between the 2 keyframes;
    • Using the Flash menu options: Insert->Timeline->Create Motion Tween;
    • Using the contextual menu: Mouse Right-Click on the frame and select Create Motion Tween;
    • Change any properties (color – tint effect, transparency – alpha effect, size – free transform tool, position – selection tool) of the object on any of the 2 keyframes;

Symbols:

  • To create a Flash Symbol:
    • select a keyframe and the object (s) ; multiple objects are selected using Shift key and Selection Tool
    • Using the Flash menu options: Modify -> Convert to Symbol or using keyboard shortcuts: F8

Best practice:

  • To test a Flash animation use Enter to run it in the designer or Ctrl + Enter (for Windows) to see it in a Flash Player
  • It is better to keep each object on its separate layer
  • It is better to name layers (Double Mouse Click on their name)
  • Before make any modifications check to see if the correct layer is selected

Other resources:

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