Symbols are used to help keep file size down as well as being required
for some types of animation. They are stored in the Library. Each movie
has it's own Library. It's a very good idea to get into the habit of
converting an object to a Symbol as soon as you make it. You never know
how many times you will want to use it in your movie. When you reuse
Instances of the same Symbol, you can save a lot of file space.
When you know that an object in a movie will only be used once, such as
a background or text (which naturally has grouped behavior), it's okay to
leave it as a grouped object rather than converting it to a symbol. Any
other object should be converted into a symbol. In good Flash design, there will never be any
"editable" objects on the stage. All objects must be grouped or converted
to a symbol.
Editing an Instance:
Remember: Each time you drag a copy of a Symbol from
the Library to the Stage, it is an Instance of that Symbol. These
instances do not increase the movie's file size. This is why you want to
reuse instances of symbols whenever possible.
You can make changes to an individual instance on the stage. These
changes only affect the Instance you're working on. Any other Instances of
the Symbol and the Symbol in the Library will remain as they were.
To change the size or angle of an Instance, use the Free Transform
tool and select it while it's on the Stage. Then activate the rotate or
scale modifiers to change the rotation or scale the instance.
To make other
changes to an instance, first select it with the Arrow tool, then open the
Property Inspector. There are a few different ways to open the
Property Inspector :
- right click and choose Properties from the contextual menu
- or choose Window > Properties
- or press [Ctrl+F3]
NOTE: Depending on your display settings, if the Properties is
not in full view you can either undock it by dragging it from the
knurled bar (the arrow will turn to a 4 headed arrow), OR close the
panel set on the right by right clicking on each title bar and choose
Close Panel. You can reopen the panel set at anytime by choosing Window
> Panel Set > Flash Intro. You can toggle the view of the panels
on and off by pressing the [Tab] key OR [F4] key.
To change color settings for a grahpic symbol:
Select the instance of the symbol on stage.
From the drop
down menu choose one of the options.
- There will be no change in the color of your instance.
- set at 0% the instance is the original color.
- set at -100% the instance will be black.
- set at 100% the instance will be white.
- Choose the tint color by clicking on the color chip, or by
entering the RGB value if you know it.
- Choose the brightness of the tint color by moving the vertical
slider up or down.
- Move the alpha slider up or down to increase/decrease the opacity
of your instance.
- Make changes here to create different colors and opacity for your
instance by clicking on the Settings button. This option is especially
useful when working with a gradient object.
NOTE: Symbols can be arranged/stacked in
the same manner that grouped objects can. If at anytime you want to
alter a specific instance of a symbol, just choose Modify/Break
Apart. You will then have to group that object, or convert it to a
new symbol with a new name. Remember, if you "break apart" an instance
of a symbol, it is no longer an instance of a symbol.....it is an
editable object. Since we do not want editable objects on the stage, the
new object needs to be grouped or converted to a symbol. Only break
symbols apart if absolutely necessary.
As you saw, the Symbol Library is where our Symbols are kept after we
create them. It's a good idea to convert almost anything you draw in Flash
to Symbols...It doesn't make your file bigger and will actually keep it
smaller if you want to use the same object more than once in your movie.
For purposes of this class, ALWAYS delete extra Symbols
before saving the final version of your movie...another point we can't
mention enough! Deleting unused symbols from the Library will not save on
the movie's file size, but it will save on the fla file size. Since we
need to download and view your fla files, we want them to be as small in
size as possible :) .
Open or create a movie that has a few Symbols in it and then open the
There are several ways to access the Library:
- If the Library panel is in the panel set, click on the title bar
to expand the Library.
- or choose Window > Library
- or press [Ctrl+L]
- or press F11
The Library can be viewed in two different modes. The narrow view
(shown on the left) shows only the name of the Symbols. Select a Symbol
name to see the Symbol itself in the top pane.
Click on the button
that the blue arrow is pointing to if you want to see the wide view which
includes more file information about the Symbols.
To go back to
the narrow view, click on the one the red arrow is pointing to.
- Name: Indicates the name of the folder or symbol.
- Kind: Indicates what kind of file the object in the Library
is....if it's a folder, it will indicate folder. If it's a graphic
symbol it will indicate Graphic.
- Use Count: Indicates how many times the symbol was used in
the movie. To turn the "Use Count" feature on, go Options > Keep Use
- Linkage Used in actionscripting to identify and link objects
to the swf file.
- Date Modified: Indicates the date and time the symbol was
created or modified.
Click on the
Options button in the Library (white arrow in image above) to view Library
Options. This is where the Select Unused Items command is located.
Use this before saving the final version of your
movie. It will select all of the unused symbols in your Library and
you can delete them to save on the fla file size.
These buttons are located on the bottom left corner of your Library
window. Use the Create New Folders button to keep
your Symbols in so that you can keep them organized. If you look in
the Libraries of the Flash Lessons, you will notice that all the Symbols
are in folders. They did this so they could stay organized. Give your
folders meaningful names such as *buttons*, *graphics*, *sounds*, *clips*
Built in Libraries
As you may have already discovered, Flash comes with it's own set of
Libraries to help get you started. Access them by going Window/Common
Libraries. You'll see Buttons, Learning Interactions, and Sound. In
previous versions of Flash, a Graphics library was also available, however
Flash MX doesn't provide one :(
These built-in Libraries reside in
the Flash directory that resides on your hard drive in a folder named
Libraries. The path to the Libraries folder should be: C:\Program Files\Macromedia\Flash MX\First Run\Libraries
You can add your own Libraries to this list by creating a
Flash file with your symbols in it, and saving it to this folder.
Open as Library
You can also open Libraries from other movies on your system by going
File > Open as Library from the menu. This will open only
the Library from that movie, not the .fla file itself. This feature
enables you to use previously made symbols in a new movie. Just drag a
symbol from the old Library onto the stage or into the new movie's
Library. That symbol will now appear in the new movie's Library as well as
in the old....Handy feature :) Experiment with this feature and pay close
attention to the new movies Library.
Let's Recap:Symbols: Assets that
are stored in the library. Symbols are the core of Flash to help
keep file sizes small.
Is used to store symbols.
- To create a new symbol: Insert > New Symbol or
- To convert an object to a symbol: Insert > Convert
to Symbol or [F8].
- You know you are in Symbol Edit Mode if you see the
name of the symbol above the work area and a crosshair in the
center of the work area.
- Each copy of a symbol on the stage is called an
- Editing the actual symbol in Symbol Edit Mode will
change every instance of it in the movie.
- Editing an instance of a symbol on the main stage only
changes the Instance you're working on
Built-in Libraries: Is accessed by Window
> Common Libraries.
- Click on the Options button in the Library to Select Unused
- Create new folders to keep your symbols organized.
Open As Library: Is used to access
other movies's Libraries that are not stored in the Libraries
- Save fla files with nothing on the stage to the Libraries
folder on your hard drive to access Library items from the Common
- This feature enables you to use previously made symbols from
another movies Library without opening that libraries fla file.