16 January 2012
A well-organized Library panel in Adobe Flash Professional helps make your projects easy to understand and maintain. It also helps you speed development time when making updates to an existing project. This article contains suggestions to keep your assets manageable, even when building larger projects.
If you click the New Folder icon at the bottom of the Library panel, you create a folder within the Library. When creating a folder, be sure to rename it descriptively, rather than keeping the default name that Flash assigns (see Figure 1).
Use the folders to store related assets. For example, if an animation features a dog, a fisherman, and a boat, you could create three different folders that contain all of the imported artwork and symbols used for each of these.
Click and drag elements in the Library panel to place them inside the folders you create. You can also create subfolders if desired. The folders in the Library do not reduce performance of the published SWF and they do not add additional file size. Using Library folders helps you quickly locate specific items to be edited and helps other developers see how your project is structured by reviewing the Library panel.
Depending on the project, you may also find it helpful to link to Runtime Shared Libraries, rather than import all of the assets needed into the main project's Library panel. In the Library panel, click the icon to access the Options menu in the top right corner. From the menu that appears, select the option Runtime Shared Library URL. In the dialog box that appears, enter the path to the Runtime Shared Library SWF file (see Figure 2).
To learn more about working with Runtime Shared Libraries, see Sharing library assets at runtime in the Flash Professional online documentation.
After selecting an element (either on the Stage or in the Library) you can press F8 to open the Convert to Symbol dialog box. If you simply choose a symbol type from the menu (movie clip, button, or graphic) and click OK, the symbol is created in the Library and the element on the Stage is updated to display a symbol instance. If you do not name the symbol, Flash names them uniquely for you, as Symbol 1, Symbol 2, and so on (see Figure 3).
It is a best practice to always name symbols at the moment you create them. It is frustrating to open someone else's Flash project to see the generic symbol names listed in the Library panel. Without descriptive names, you can click on each asset in the Library one by one to preview and rename them, but the process of renaming may break animations that are set up to use the generically named symbols.
If you are creating a banner ad or very simple Flash project, it may be simple enough to create a new layer in the Timeline, drag it to the top of the Layer stack, name it Actions and then add your ActionScript code to Frame 1 of the Actions layer.
However, if you are building a more complex project, the common convention involves creating a shell frame script on Frame 1 that initiates the project, and then creating additional, modular class files (AS files) and linking to them externally from the project.
Avoid the temptation to add lengthy and complex code all on Frame 1 of the top layer, because this makes the code much harder to parse when working in teams or opening up the project later to make updates.
If you add frame scripts to all of the various layers in the main Timeline, Flash will not present an error message. However, you may cause other developers (or yourself) to hunt for the code later when a project needs to be updated.
Although you can use the Movie Explorer to locate all of the scripts used in a project, it is time-consuming. You can also scan the Timeline looking for the lowercase a symbols on frames. This practice quickly becomes tedious, especially when working with a longer Timeline.
For these reasons, it is optimal to create a new layer in the Timeline and drag it to the top of the Timeline. Name the top layer Actions (or ActionScript) and use the top layer exclusively for adding frame scripts (see Figure 4).
That way, the scripts are much easier to find and you are following the convention used by Flash developers to only add one object to each layer in the Timeline.
Whenever you are creating a new project, take the time to organize the assets so that you can quickly access everything you need. Create folders in the Library panel and the Timeline to consolidate elements for each section. Always use descriptive names for symbols and layers so that you can identify them easily.
The following sections in the Flash Professional documentation include other helpful organization tips:
Refer to Avoiding common authoring mistakes to find links to other articles in this series.