Getting started with ActionScript

The ActionScript® scripting language lets you add complex interactivity, playback control, and data display to your application. You can add ActionScript in the authoring environment by using the Actions panel, Script window, or an external editor.

ActionScript follows its own rules of syntax, reserved keywords, and lets you use variables to store and retrieve information. ActionScript includes a large library of built‑in classes that let you create objects to perform many useful tasks. For more information on ActionScript, see the following Help titles:

You do not have to understand every ActionScript element to begin scripting. If you have a clear goal, you can start building scripts with simple actions.

ActionScript and JavaScript are both rooted in the ECMA-262 standard, the international standard for the ECMAScript scripting language. For this reason, developers who are familiar with JavaScript can find ActionScript immediately familiar. For more information about ECMAScript, go to ecma-international.org.

Adobe recommends...

Adobe recommends...

Which version of ActionScript can you use?

Animate includes more than one version of ActionScript to meet the needs of different kinds of developers and playback hardware. ActionScript 3.0 and 2.0 are not compatible with each other.

 

  • ActionScript 3.0 executes fast. This version requires more familiarity with object-oriented programming concepts than the other ActionScript versions. ActionScript 3.0 is fully compliant with the ECMAScript specification, offers better XML processing, an improved event model, and an improved architecture for working with onscreen elements. FLA files that use ActionScript 3.0 cannot include earlier versions of ActionScript.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC only) ActionScript 2.0 is simpler to learn than ActionScript 3.0. Although Flash Player runs compiled ActionScript 2.0 code slower than compiled ActionScript 3.0 code, ActionScript 2.0 is still useful for many kinds of projects. ActionScript 2.0 is also useful for the projects that are not computationally intensive. For example, more design-oriented content. ActionScript 2.0 is also based on the ECMAScript specification, but is not fully compliant.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC) ActionScript 1.0 is the simplest form of ActionScript, and is still used by some versions of the Adobe Flash Lite Player. ActionScript 1.0 and 2.0 can coexist in the same FLA file.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC) Flash Lite 2.x ActionScript is a subset of ActionScript 2.0 supported by Flash Lite 2.x on mobile phones and devices.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC) Flash Lite 1.x ActionScript is a subset of ActionScript 1.0 supported by Flash Lite 1.x on mobile phones and devices.

 

Using the ActionScript documentation

Due to multiple versions of ActionScript (2.0 and 3.0), and multiple ways of incorporating it into your FLA files, there are different ways to learn ActionScript.

You can find description about the graphical user interface for working with ActionScript. This interface includes the Actions panel, Script window, Script Assist mode, Behaviors panel, Output panel, and Compiler Errors panel. These topics apply to all versions of ActionScript.

Other ActionScript documentation from Adobe guides you to learn about the individual versions of ActionScript.

Ways of working with ActionScript

There are several ways to work with ActionScript.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC) Script Assist mode lets you add ActionScript to your FLA file without writing the code yourself. You select actions, and the software presents you with a user-interface for entering the parameters required for each one. Learn a little about what functions to use to accomplish specific tasks, but you don’t have to learn syntax. Many designers and non-programmers use this mode.

  • (Deprecated with Animate CC) Behaviors also let you add code to your file without writing it yourself. Behaviors are prewritten scripts for common tasks. You can add a behavior and then easily configure it in the Behaviors panel. Behaviors are available only for ActionScript 2.0 and earlier.

  • Writing your own ActionScript gives you the greatest flexibility and control over your document. But, it requires you to become familiar with the ActionScript language and conventions.

  • Components are prebuilt movie clips that enable you to implement complex functionality. A component can be a simple user interface control, such as a check box, or it can be a complicated control, such as a scroll pane. You can customize a component’s functionality and appearance, and you can download components created by other developers. Most components require you to write some ActionScript code of your own to trigger or control a component. For more information, see Using ActionScript 3.0 Components.

 

Writing ActionScript

When you write ActionScript code in the authoring environment, you use the Actions panel or Script window. The Actions panel and Script window contain a full-featured code editor that includes code hinting and coloring, code formatting, and syntax highlighting features. It also contains debugging, line numbers, word wrapping, and support for Unicode.

  • Use the Actions panel to write scripts that are part of your Animate document (that is, scripts that are embedded in the FLA file). The Actions panel provides features such as the Actions toolbox, which gives you quick access to the core ActionScript language elements. You get prompts for the elements that require to create scripts.

  • Use the Script window if you want to write external scripts—that is, scripts or classes that are stored in external files. (You can also use a text editor to create an external AS file.) The Script window includes code-assistance features such as code hinting and coloring, syntax checking, and auto-formatting.

More recommended community content

The following articles and tutorials provide more detailed information about working with ActionScript:

Overview of the Output panel

When you execute any doc type, the Output panel displays information or warning related to operations such as document conversions and publish. To display this information, add trace() statements to your code or use the List Objects and List Variables commands.

If you use the trace() statement in your scripts, you can send specific information to the Output panel when the SWF file runs. It includes notes about the status of the SWF file status or the value of an expression. 

Output_panel
Output panel

The Output panel consists of the following menu items:

  • Copy: Copies all the contents of the Output panel to the clipboard of computer. To copy a selected portion of the output, select the area you want to copy and then select Copy.
  • Clear: Clears the content of the output panel.
  • Show Output: Displays the content of the output panel.
  • Lock: Locks the panel. You can only resize the panel but you cannot move or drag the panel. 
  • Help: Loads the online Help for the output panel.
  • Close: Closes the output panel.
  • Close Group: Closes the whole panel group. You can simultaneously dock multiple panels such as timeline, output panel, and compiler errors panel.

To display or hide the output panel, select Window > Output or press F2.

Actions panel

Looking for the Language Reference?

To find reference documentation for a specific ActionScript language element, do one of the following:

Note:

To open the Help in a web browser instead of the Community Help application, see this article: http://kb2.adobe.com/community/publishing/916/cpsid_91609.html.

Learning ActionScript

To learn about writing ActionScript, use these resources:

Note:

ActionScript 3.0 and 2.0 are not compatible with each other. Choose only one version for each FLA file you create.

Overview of the Actions panel

To create scripts embedded in a FLA file, enter ActionScript directly into the Actions panel (Window > Actions or press F9).

actions-frame-view
Actions Panel

The Actions panel consists of two panes:

Script pane

Lets you type ActionScript code, which is associated with the currently selected frame.

Script navigator

Lists the scripts in your Animate document, and lets you move quickly between them. To view the script in the Script pane, click an item in the Script navigator.

The Actions panel lets you access the code-assistance features that simplify and streamline coding in ActionScript. You can add non-frame specific global and third-party scripts that can be applied to the whole animation from within Animate. For more information, see Adding Global and Third-party scripts section in this page. 

  • Run Script: Runs the script
  • Pin Script: Pins the script to the pin tabs of individual scripts in the Script pane and move them accordingly. This feature is useful if you have not organized the code within your FLA file into one central location. Or, it is useful if you are using multiple scripts. You can pin a script to retain the open location of the code in the Actions panel and toggle between the various open scripts. This feature can be useful when debugging.
  • Insert Instance Path and Name: Helps you set an absolute or relative target path for an action in the script.
  • Find: It finds and replaces text in your script.
  • Format Code: Helps to format the code.
  • Code Snippets: Opens the Code Snippets panel that displays sample code snippets.
  • Add using wizard: Click this button to add actions using an easy-to-use wizard without having to write code. 
  • Help: Displays reference information for the ActionScript element that is selected in the Script pane. For example, if you click an import statement and then click Help, the reference information for import appears in the Help panel.

Using actions code wizard

You can add interactivity to HTML5 compositions with the Add using wizard options in Actions panel. Add using wizard is a simplified user interface to add code to your compositions.

A video depicting how to add code using actions code wizard

  1. Create an HTML5 canvas document and click Window > Actions.

  2. Click Add using wizard in Actions panel as shown in the following screenshot. 

    addusingwizard-button
    Actions panel with Add using wizard button
  3. Select an action for which you want to create code using the code wizard.

    A sample screenshot displaying action code wizard options for actions

    In the above screenshot, Get frame number action is selected and the corresponding code has been updated in action window.

    Based on the action type you select, you can also choose the corresponding object for which you want to apply the action. You can search for specific objects on stage if the object has an instance name. Also, you can apply the action on the current selection. 

    actions-code-currentselection
    List of objects on which to apply action
  4. Click Next to choose a triggering event. A set of trigger events are listed in the window based on your action type and object type selection in previous steps. 

    action-trigger
    List of triggering events
  5. Choose an appropriate trigger event followed by its corresponding triggering objects, if any, and click Finish and add button. 

You can choose the Current Selection option from the menu when you select an object in the stage and run the actions code wizard. You can also choose the timeline and components actions for the code.

Using script window

The Script window lets you create external script files that you import into your application. These scripts can be ActionScript or Animate JavaScript files.

You can also add Global and Third-party scripts in HTML5 canvas documents. For more information, see Adding Global and Third-party scripts section in Create and publish HTML5 Canvas documents in Animate CC

actions-add-script
Script window

If you have more than one external file open, filenames are displayed on tabs across the top of the Script window.

In the Script window, you can use PinScript, find and replace, syntax coloring, format code, code hinting and commenting, and code collapse features. You can also use debug options (ActionScript files only), and word wrap. The Script window also lets you display line numbers and hidden characters.

Create an external file in the Script window

  1. Select File > New.

  2. Select the type of external file you want to create (ActionScript file or Animate JavaScript file).

Edit an existing file in the Script window

  • To open an existing script, select File > Open, and then open an existing AS file.

  • To edit a script that is already open, click the document tab that shows the script’s name.

Tools in the Actions panel and script window

The Actions panel let you access the code-assistance features that simplify and streamline coding in ActionScript.

Find 

Finds and replaces text in your script.

 

Insert Target Path 

(Actions panel only) Helps you set an absolute or relative target path for an action in the script.

 

Help 

Displays reference information for the ActionScript element that is selected in the Script pane. For example, if you click an import statement and then click Help, the reference information for import appears in the Help panel.

 

Code Snippets

Opens the Code Snippets panel that displays sample code snippets.

 

Add using wizard

Helps you to add code for actions using an interface without having to write code. 

Accessing context-sensitive Help from the Actions panel

  1. To select an item for reference, do any of the following:
    • Select an ActionScript term in the Actions panel toolbox pane (on the left side of the Actions panel).

    • Select an ActionScript term in the Actions panel in the Script pane.

    • Place the insertion point before an ActionScript term in the Actions panel in the Script pane.

  2. To open the Help panel reference page for the selected item, do one of the following:
    • Press F1.

    • Right-click the item and select View Help.

    • Click Help  above the Script pane.

Set ActionScript preferences

Whether you edit code in the Actions panel or the Script window, you can set and modify a single set of preferences.

  1. Select Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Animate > Preferences (Macintosh), and then click Code Editor in the Category list.

  2. Set any of these preferences:

    Automatic Indentation

    When automatic indentation is turned on, the text you type after an opening parenthesis “(“ is automatically indented to the Tab Size setting. This behavior is also applicable when you use opening curly bracket “{“.

    Tab Size

    Specifies the number of characters a new line is indented.

    Code Hints

    Enables code hinting in the Script pane.

    Delay

    Specifies the delay (in seconds) before code hints are displayed. The option is deprecated with Animate CC.

    Font

    Specifies the font used for your script.

    Open/Import

    Specifies the character encoding used when you open or import ActionScript files.

    Save/Export

    Specifies the character encoding used when you save or export ActionScript files.

    Reload Modified Files

    Specifies what happens when a script file is modified, moved, or deleted. Select Always, Never, or Prompt.

    Always

    No warning is displayed, and the file is automatically reloaded.

    Never

    No warning is displayed, and the file remains in the current state.

    Prompt

    (Default) A warning is displayed, and you can choose whether to reload the file.

    When you build applications with external scripts, this preference enables you to avoid overwriting a script. Or avoid publishing the application with older versions of scripts. The warnings let you automatically close a script and reopen the newer, modified version.

    Syntax Colors

    Specifies code coloring in your scripts.

    ActionScript 3.0 Settings

    These buttons open the ActionScript Settings dialog boxes, where you can set source path, library path, and external library path for ActionScript 3.0.

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