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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.
In general, the more time that you spend working on the structure and organization of your artwork before you get started in Flash Catalyst, the easier of a time you'll have building your project. One of the most basic ways to organize any piece of artwork is by using layers. However, when it comes to working with Flash Catalyst projects, we also have another concept called pages. Let's take a look at an overall project and see how we might use both layers and also pages to make it work. Now, I'm here inside of Illustrator working on a file called olive_tour, and I'd like to use Flash Catalyst to build a project that will allow people to take an interactive tour to see how olive oil is made at this particular olive farm.
I have a map that visually shows what the olive farm looks like and I'd like to take people through the five stages involved in the production of olive oil at this particular farm. So I'll turn off these three layers here, Border, Navigation and Panels, and you'll see that I have a Background layer. After I drew all these graphics, I actually converted them all to one large raster image. From a performance standpoint, it will be a lot easier to display one image than have to worry about displaying so many paths and vector objects that make up all this artwork.
Next, I added a layer called Border which appears at the top part of my document and that contains elements like the frame that goes around the entire piece of artwork, the header text that appears over here and also the logo of this farm. As an aside, I actually converted this logo to a symbol here inside of Illustrator, because on import into Flash Catalyst, symbols automatically become optimized graphics. Again, that will make this application load much faster and more efficiently in a web browser.
Next, I added some navigation, after all, I need ways for someone to interact with this and actually go through the different steps that are involved inside of this interactive tour. If I reveal the contents of the Navigation layer, I'll see that I have a button specified for the Growing step, the Picking step, the Extracting, Bottling, and Tasting steps as well. Notice that I have a sublayer that I've created for each of these buttons. Inside of that, I have the different elements that I might use for rollovers and other possible states of my button.
I'll set it back to its original setting and close it for now. Finally, I've created a separate layer that has the real content over here; the panels. Each panel goes through the exact process and explains what each of these steps are. I have one for Growing. I have one for Picking, for Extracting, and then I have Bottling and Tasting as well. Let's focus on the first one here called Growing. Obviously, right now, it's very difficult for you to see this information on the background of the map.
So what I've done is created a separate layer here called Screen, which is simply a black rectangle that has an opacity setting applied to it. This allows me to see the map partially through it, but it also allows me to read this information clearly. I'm going to hide this information for now, but the first thing I want to discuss is, why did I actually create each of these panels on layers, instead of creating multiple artboards inside of Illustrator? After all, we know that if I create multiple artboards in Illustrator, and then I then bring that document into Flash Catalyst, those will automatically be converted into separate pages.
In theory, when I click on one button, I would like to transfer or move to another page that has the information about that part of process. Now eventually, when I get into Flash Catalyst, I will need to create separate pages for this. However now, inside of Illustrator, I'm thinking about how this application is eventually going to run in a web browser. When a user interacts with this application, I want them to click on a button and then I want that actual panel that describes that process to appear on top of the map.
That means the map should be visible in the background. Likewise, while they're in that one state of seeing the information, for example, about the growing, they may want to view information about a different part of the process, for example, Bottling or Tasting. So they'll need a way to navigate there. In other words, these buttons always have to be visible to allow a person to navigate between the different processes throughout the interactive tour. If I were to create multiple artboards, that would mean that in my document, I'd have many, many layers, because in Illustrator, all of your artboards share one collective layer structure.
So it's really important to think about how your application is going to be used before you start building it and bringing it into Flash Catalyst. For example, if I were building some kind of a project where one page had absolutely nothing to do with another page, rather than using layers, I might then use multiple artboards here inside of Illustrator for each of those pages. However here, it really makes sense for me to use one artboard, but just have multiple layers built so that I can keep things organized. In fact, let's see how that translates to working now inside of Flash Catalyst.
I'll switch over to Flash Catalyst and I'll choose to create a new project from an Adobe Illustrator file. I'll navigate to my Exercise Files and I'm going to choose in Chapter 5, to open up this Illustrator file called olive_tour and I'll click Open. I'm just going to use the default settings now for importing Illustrator artwork, so I'm going to click OK and now Flash Catalyst is going to analyze that Illustrator file and convert all of its elements into a Flash Catalyst project. The first thing that we want to look at is the layer structure.
After all, we built that very carefully inside of Illustrator. All the layers that I created, the Border layer, the Navigation layer that contains all the buttons, the Panels and the Background, are all here. But in this case, specifically, I want to focus on the panels because we're talking about how we want to structure our pages in our project. If we take a look at the top of my screen, I have something here called Pages and States. This is where I'll actually be working with my pages. Right now I only have one page in my document and it's called Page 1. However, I'm going to need to create multiple pages for each of the different parts of the process throughout this tour.
When someone first visits this interactive tour, I'd like them to see the entire map as we see it right now. So I'll definitely want to have this as one page in my project. However, I'm now going to need five additional pages, and each of those pages will focus on one part of the olive oil manufacturing process. Now as we discussed before, I do want the map and the buttons to be visible when I'm viewing the information about each individual process. If I take a look at the Pages/States panel, I'll see two buttons here on the bottom. One is called Duplicate State and one is called New Blank State.
By the way, it's somewhat confusing because Flash Catalyst sometimes refers to these as pages or states, and even though we're thinking about pages right now, the buttons talk about states. For the purpose of our training, these terms are really both interchangeable. However, when we think about it, pages usually refer to different parts of our application, whereas states usually refer to different parts of a component. Still, I have the ability to either duplicate my existing state or I can add a new blank state. If I add a new blank state at this point, and I know that I want to have the map and the buttons always visible, I'm going to have to add a new blank state, then go to my Layers panel and start turning a whole bunch of layers on.
So to prevent me from having to do extra work, I'll just simply press Duplicate State, to now create a second page in my project. The page is identical to the first, in that all elements and layers that were turned on in that previous layer are now visible in this page as well. I'll double-click in the Timelines panel just to hide it for now and if this were going to be second page my project, I'd like it to show the information for the Growing process. So notice that right now Page 2 is highlighted. It means I'm currently now on Page 2.
I'll go to my Layers panel and reveal the contents of the panels layer and I'll click on the eyeball here to show the elements in the Growing layer. Now remember, we also created this black background that we can use to make this text more readable. So I'll go down to the Screen layer and turn that one on as well. Now, I need to create a page for the next process, which is Picking. Once again, I'm going duplicate my state to create a new page. I want to leave the Screen layer on, so I'm just going to simply turn off the Growing layer and turn on the Picking layer.
I'll also go ahead now and add three new pages for the remaining parts of the tour. So I'll add three more states; one, two and three. I'll go to Page 4 right now. I'll turn off Picking and turn on Extracting. I'll go to Page 5, turn off Picking and turn on Bottling, and finally on Page 6, turn off Picking and turn on the Tasting. I can easily preview each of the pages in my project by clicking on the thumbnails here in the Pages and States panel. It's important to realize that really all that's changing here between these different pages, are different layers are either turned on or off.
Because I built my pages here inside of Flash Catalyst instead of inside of Illustrator, I'm dealing with one set of objects and layers here, instead of potentially having multiple objects on different layers. In other words, the Two Trees logo that you see right here, appears only once in my document, even though right now it does appear on every single page of my project. The same thing applies to the border, the map, and the buttons in the Navigation as well. So by taking the time to really think about my project in advance and building it carefully inside of Illustrator, I'm already well on my way to building a successful project in Flash Catalyst.
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