Best practices - Behaviors conventions

About behaviors conventions

Behaviors are prewritten ActionScript 2.0 code that you can add to parts of a FLA file. Many developers enter ActionScript code either into one or several frames on the main Timeline or in external ActionScript files. However, when you use behaviors, sometimes code is placed directly on symbol instances (such as buttons, movie clips, or components) instead of being placed on the timeline.

Behaviors are not supported by ActionScript 3.0.

Comparing timeline code with object code

To avoid problems that decentralized ActionScript 2.0 code creates, carefully plan a document that uses behaviors. Many developers do not place ActionScript on symbol instances, and instead place their code on the Timeline (timeline code) or in classes. Because behaviors add code to many locations in a FLA file, your ActionScript is not centralized and can be difficult to locate. When code is not centralized, it is difficult to understand interactions between the snippets of code, and it is impossible to write elegant code. Decentralized code can potentially lead to problems debugging code or editing files.

If you use behaviors, try the following features to facilitate working with behaviors and decentralized ActionScript:

Script Navigator

Makes your timeline code or code on individual objects easy to find and edit in the Actions panel.

Find And Replace

Lets you search for strings and replace them in a FLA file.

Script Pinning

Lets you pin multiple scripts from various objects and work with them simultaneously in the Actions panel. This method works best with the Script navigator.

Movie Explorer

Lets you view and organize the contents of a FLA file, and select elements (including scripts) for further modification.

When to use behaviors

The main difference between a FLA file with behaviors and a FLA file without behaviors is the workflow you must use for editing the project. If you use behaviors, you must select each instance on the Stage, or select the Stage, and open the Actions or Behaviors panel to make modifications. If you write your own ActionScript and put all your code on the main Timeline, you only have to make your changes on the Timeline.

If you have a FLA file with symbols, you can select one of the instances on the Stage, and use the Add menu on the Behaviors panel to add a behavior to that instance. The behavior you select automatically adds code that attaches to the instance, using “object code” such as the on() handler. You can also select a frame on a timeline, and add different behaviors to a frame using the Behaviors panel.

Decide how to structure your FLA file. Examine how and where to use behaviors and ActionScript in your FLA file. Consider the following questions:

  • What code do the behaviors contain?

  • Do you have to modify the behavior code? If so, by how much? To modify the behavior code to any extent, do not use behaviors. You usually cannot edit behaviors by using the Behaviors panel if you make modifications to the ActionScript. To significantly edit the behaviors in the Actions panel, it is usually easier to write all of the ActionScript yourself in a centralized location.

  • What other ActionScript do you need, and does other ActionScript have to interact with the behavior code? Debugging and modifications are easier to make from a central location. For example, if code on a timeline interacts with behaviors placed on objects, avoid behaviors.

  • How many behaviors do you have to use, and where do you plan to put them in the FLA file? If your behaviors are all placed on a timeline, they might work well in your document. Or, your workflow might not be affected if you use only a small number of behaviors. However, if you use many behaviors on a lot of object instances, writing your own code on the Timeline or in external ActionScript files might be more efficient.

Remember, ActionScript 3.0 does not support behaviors.

Using behaviors consistently

Use behaviors consistently throughout a document when they are your main or only source of ActionScript. Use behaviors when you have little or no additional code in the FLA file, or have a consistent system in place for managing the behaviors that you use.

If you add ActionScript to a FLA file, put code in the same locations where behaviors are added, and document how and where you add code.

For example, if you place code on instances on the Stage (object code), on the main Timeline (frame scripts), and also in external AS files, examine your file structure. Your project will be difficult to manage if you have code in all of these places. However, if you logically use behaviors and structure your code to work in a particular way surrounding those behaviors (place everything on object instances), at least your workflow is consistent. The document will be easier to modify later.

Sharing files that use behaviors

If you plan to share your FLA file with other users and you use ActionScript placed on or inside objects (such as movie clips), it can be difficult for those users to find your code’s location, even when they use the Movie Explorer to search through the document.

Document the use of behaviors if you are working with a complex document. Depending on the size of the application, create a flow chart, list, or use good documentation comments in a central location on the main Timeline.

If you are creating a FLA file with code placed in many locations throughout the document and plan to share the file, leave a comment on Frame 1 on the main Timeline to tell users where to find the code and how the file is structured. The following example shows a comment (on Frame 1) that tells users the location of the ActionScript:

    ActionScript placed on component instances and inside movie clips using behaviors. 
    Use the Movie Explorer to locate ActionScript 

 This technique is not necessary if your code is easy to find, the document is not shared, or all of your code is placed on frames of the main Timeline.


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