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In Flash Catalyst CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding demonstrates how to create and publish fully interactive Flash (SWF) micro sites, widgets, portfolios, and applications from static Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fireworks artwork—all without writing code. The course covers planning a project, importing and organizing assets, creating interactive components, defining repeating data lists, and publishing final projects. Exercise files are included with the course.
So we've built a project inside of Flash Catalyst. We've learned how to import artwork from other applications into Flash Catalyst. Now let's focus on some of the main building blocks that are used inside of Flash Catalyst. In this case I'm talking about something called components. Components are the actual elements inside of your design project that people will interact with. There are things like buttons and sliders. Now admittedly buttons and sliders don't sound very exciting, but that's because we usually take them for granted. However, with Flash Catalyst you have the ability to turn any artwork into any kind of component.
This really gives you complete control over the entire user experience. In fact, by customizing the appearance of elements such as Buttons or sliders, you can ensure consistency across your design no matter how people interact with it. For example, you may have noticed that buttons look one way inside of Firefox, but they look completely different inside of Safari and maybe even more dramatically, they look different between Mac and Windows. So before we start creating any of these components, let's really learn what components are all about in Flash Catalyst. I'll start by creating a new blank project here.
I'll just take the default settings to create a new project in Flash Catalyst. You can see that there's a Wireframe Components panel that contains many pre-built components. Things like Buttons, Checkboxes, Radio Buttons, Text input fields and even Horizontal and Vertical sliders. However, these elements are very basic in appearance. They're great if you quickly want to get something on your screen and to do so you simply drag them out onto your page, but the real benefit of working with components inside of Flash Catalyst is that you can convert any artwork into a component.
So I'll delete this element for now and I'll go to the File menu and I'll choose Import to bring in an Illustrator file. In my Chapter 3 folder I'm going to bring in something called button and click Open. Once again Flash Catalyst asks me how I want to import that artwork. 9 times out of 10 I'm just going to click OK and choose the default settings. If I look at my Layers panel, I'll see that I have a group here that has several different elements, because I want to build a button that has different states of appearance as I interact with it. For example, when I run my mouse over it, maybe I want to see a color version and maybe I want the word GROWING to appear.
For now I'll set it back to the state that I was in before and I'll close this layer, and because there's a white background behind this button, I'll click on the artboard to deselect that button and I'll go to the Modify menu and choose Artboard Settings. This will allow me to specify a different background color for my artboard and I'll choose something like a light gray and click OK. Now to really grasp the concept of what a component is, let's imagine for a moment that we're a chef. Now if I'm preparing a meal, I may have several elements within that meal. For example, if I'm preparing a salad, I may want to create a really nice dressing for that salad.
I can either go to the refrigerator and take out a bottle of Italian dressing or I can go and try to hunt down all the necessary ingredients to create an Italian dressing from scratch, maybe some oil, a whole bunch of different spices. Now obviously that's a lot more work than just going straight to the refrigerator and getting a ready-made bottle of the dressing. Now hold on a minute. You may tell me that creating Italian dressing from the scratch is going to taste that much better. But what if that bottle of dressing that's in your refrigerator is dressing that you created earlier. It doesn't mean it needs to be store-bought? Let's bring this all back now to working with components inside of Flash Catalyst.
The Wireframe Components was like that store-bought dressing. However, you can customize your dressing in any way that you want and then save them to use later. That means whenever you need to use the dressing, it's right within reach, ready to use. Even though we don't like to think about working with computer code, let's take a quick glance behind the scenes at what's happening inside of Flash Catalyst right now. At this point I've taken some artwork that I created inside of Illustrator and I brought it into Flash Catalyst. So I'm going to go over here to where it says Design and I'm going to switch to the Code view.
When I placed that artwork from Illustrator into Flash Catalyst, Flash Catalyst converted that Illustrator artwork into code, and look how many lines of code it had to create in order to bring just that little button right here into Flash Catalyst. When you see this, you really start to appreciate what Flash Catalyst is doing for you. Let me switch back now to the Design view. This looks a whole lot better, doesn't it? Well, I'm now going to select this artwork on my artboard and the HUD gives me the option to now convert this to a component. I'm going to choose to convert this to a Button component.
Now before we do anything else, let's go back to see what just happened now inside the Code view. Once again I'll switch from the Design view to the Code view and take a look at this. That button, that before was made up of many different lines of code, is now represented by one single line of code. It's simply a button, and it's been called GrowingButton. Flash Catalyst picked up that name Growing from the name of the group inside of the artwork that I created. So a button is really more than just a couple of pieces of art and some rollovers. It's actually a building block that you use to make your code more efficient.
All of that translates into an application that's easier and more efficient to use in a web browser. I'll switch back to the Design view so that we can now focus on the visual design aspects of our project. Now that you have a clear understanding of exactly what a component is, we can start to use them to create interactive projects in Flash Catalyst.
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