14 June 2011
You should have some experience using Flash Professional, as well as a basic understanding of symbols, nested symbols, the Stage, timelines, Flash Player version, and the publishing process. Knowledge of the Project panel is helpful but not required.
The process of producing multiple versions of the same project is much easier in Adobe Flash Professional CS5.5 than in earlier versions. For example, if you need one version of your project for web browsers, one for iOS devices, and another for Android devices, you can now easily share graphics and other assets across all three files during development. By using the Project panel and the new author-time shared assets feature, you can produce projects for web, desktop, and mobile more efficiently and in less time.
To use this author-time shared assets feature, you must organize each of your FLA files in the Project panel. You can share symbols in the Library among any FLA files within the same project—specifying which symbols to share by selecting the sharing option for those items in the Library panel. Once a Library item is shared, you can edit and update it once and see the change reflected all of the shared FLA files. This way you can avoid redundant copying of assets.
In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a new Flash project, share library items, and edit and update shared library items.
Before following along with the instructions, it's helpful to learn more about the Project panel and what it can do.
In Flash Professional CS5.5, use one of the following three ways to launch the Project panel:
Take a moment to examine the options in the Project panel (see Figure 1).
When you select the option to create a New Project, the Create New Project dialog box appears. Specify a project name and choose the project's location:
Follow these steps to create your first Flash project:
You have successfully created a project that contains three different FLA files that target three different Player versions: Flash Player 10.2, AIR for Android, and AIR for iPhone.
After you create a new project, you'll notice that an AuthortimeSharedAssets.fla file is created and stored within the project folder (see Figure 5). Any library items that you enable for sharing with other FLA files in the same project are stored in this file. The AuthortimeSharedAssets.fla file behaves just like a normal FLA file. You can open it and edit assets in this FLA file. Any changes made to the assets are reflected in all linked library items in your entire project. However, it is a best practice not to edit this file at all because Flash will seemlessly update shared library items without requiring you to open this file. Specifically, avoid changing the filenames or deleting the AuthortimeSharedAssets.fla file. These actions are not recommended because you can lose link information for the project.
In the next section, you'll dive into working with the sample projects. If you haven't already, be sure to download the sample files provided at the beginning of this article. Uncompress the ZIP file and save the sample files folder to your desktop.
In this example, you'll produce a fictitious Hawaiian travel guide, named Let's Go To Hawaii. The project requirements include delivering three different versions of the same product: one version for web browsers, one version for the iPhone, and one version for Android-based mobile phones.
Follow these steps to open the sample project:
In this section, you'll learn how to copy the green surfboard buttons from Web-Green.fla file to the other two FLA files in the project. You'll also learn how to make the common assets shareable.
Follow these steps to share a library item:
When you enable a movie clip asset for sharing, any nested movie clips are automatically also set to be shared, but their check boxes are dimmed in the Library panel (see Figure 9).
Note: If the dialog box appears to ask if you want to enable the auto-save feature, click No.
In the Library panel, the sharing column displays check boxes next to movie clip, button, and graphic symbol assets in a FLA file that is included in a Flash project. However, you are not limited to sharing these asset types. You can share other types of assets—all other library items can be enabled for sharing if you wrap them in a movie clip symbol. Select an item on the Stage and drag it to the Library panel to invoke the Convert to Symbol dialog box. You can also select an object on the Stage and choose Modify > Convert to Symbol or press F8. After creating the new wrapper movie clip, select its checkbox to enable it for sharing. By sharing the parent movie clip, all nested items are automatically copied to the AuthortimeSharedAssets.fla file and enabled for sharing.
In this section, you'll learn how to revise the existing shared assets in a Flash project to see how easy it is to update an entire set of versions without the labor-intensive work of editing the assets in each FLA file individually. Now that you've shared the assets and copied them within a set of project files, you can take advantage of the shared assets feature to quickly make changes.
In this scenario, imagine that your client reviewed the project files and is pleased with the design direction. However, they've requested that you change the green surfboard buttons to blue. In the instructions below, you'll update the assets that are already shared, to modify their appearance across all three versions of the FLA files in the project.
Follow these steps to edit and update shared symbols:
All shared assets (library items that have been enabled for sharing) will be updated when you save the current file. When you open multiple FLA files that contain shared assets, whichever document you save last will overwrite any changes you made to the other FLA files in the project. To avoid confusion, don't edit the same shared asset in multiple FLA files at once. Instead, only open one FLA file at a time to make changes. When you are finished, save the file you are editing first. Then open the other FLA files to confirm that your changes were updated across the entire project, as described in the steps above.
Now that you've learned how to work with the Project panel and the new shared assets feature, you'll find that you can produce deliverables for multiple versions of a project quickly and more efficiently.
The sample projects provided in this article could be extended to use for multilingual projects as well. For example, you could add a FLA file that is designed to display a specific language environment. When your client requests more changes, you could easily edit one shared asset and apply the same updates to all FLA files in the project at once.
After you become more familiar with using the Project panel and sharing assets, continue your research by experimenting with the following concepts:
Finally, Flash Product Manager Richard Galvan has a popular blog that covers various topics on Flash, including the Project panel and other exciting new features.
I encourage you to experiment with using the Project panel to organize your FLA files and assets. Leverage the new features in Flash Professional CS5.5 to streamline your workflow when developing multiple versions of a project to be deployed on the web, desktop, and mobile devices.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license, pertaining to the examples of code included within this work are available at Adobe.