Flash Development Process Notes, Dictionary.com’s New Design, & I Miss Steve Irwin

Bunch of small things about Flash this week, in particular, 8’s IDE.

JSFL Automation

Reading Steve Bryant’s post about Sharpening the Axe. I’ve actually been doing a lot of the same. I’ve been writing a lot of JSFL in the past few weeks to automate a lot of the repetitive tasks that my team and I have been doing in Flash on this project. Although she’s a tad un-forgiving because she’s so boilerplate level code, that same low-level also gives you a lot of power. Error handling is a bitch, but so far 100% of my efforts have been rewarded with time saving scripts to automate a variety of tasks. Publish all, setup a FLA with a specific SWC and stub code, build a custom UIComponent, amongst other things. With the RAD development we are doing via multiple people in multiple FLA’s, it certainly helps since we have to re-build a lot of the same things and ensures less of an error in doing so. I really do wish, however, the XUL implementation had more controls. While I’m ecstatic I can actually talk to them via code now, I could really use a Tree and a Dropdown. I’m curious if I could implement them anyway and see if the engine supports it via an unsupported fashion. Regardless, much faster to build minor GUI’s in record time vs. creating them in a WindowSWF.

Initialization Order & Default Values

Had some serious issues earlier in the week. While the designers chug away at production art, I’m trying to make our components more useful at authortime, so have been implementing Inspectable metatags like mad. They are the tags that expose your component’s public properties via the Property Inspector in Flash when you drag a component to the stage. What I didn’t realize is that the default values are ONLY written if the component is created at authortime. If you create it dynamically, you lose the default values. I kept some notes at my work computer, but the initialization order is crazy hard to memorize. Basically, it’s like static, prototype (class member), init object OR inspectable tag values, and finally constructor. So, I can’t do default values in the init function anymore; I have to do the old skool of setting them on prototype via:

private var __label:String = "";
private var __childHMargin:Number = 0;

I believe this still works in AS3 too, but it makes a lot of purists uncomfortable. Anyway, it’s really hard to support both the programmer and designer workflow at the same time. We’re getting damn good at it, though.

Extension Manager 1.7 Problems

Finally, having a hell of a time with Extension Manager 1.7.240 on both PC and Mac. Sometimes it won’t uninstall your files for Flash 8 from the user directory and you have to clean up the mess manually. On Mac, it’ll crash after uninstalling leaving files still there too, or at least it “thinks” they are. Really frustrating since I’ve come to love this app’s ability to seemlessly deploy desktop software.

I can tell a user to clear their browser cache, but there is no “clear cache” on a user’s desktop. I can see why a lot of old skool Win32 / fat client developers love web applications since those problems effectively vanish. Naturally, the thought of writing code to delete specific files on a user’s machine makes me cringe with horror. So much so, I refuse to do it, and instead opt for writing documentation on how to delete the files so the user can do it themselves. In IE and Firefox, this is trivial; you click the button, and your server delivers the latest / greatest build. Anyway, the effort is worth it, but damn, this is harder than web application development.

Scale 9

Last frustration. We all LOVE Scale 9. However, apparently Scale 9 in Flash 8 & Flash 9 alpha only works for vector shapes and not for bitmaps. Scale 9 DOES work in Flex 2 with bitmaps so… kind of frustrating. Hopefully Flash 9 (Blaze) will implement whatever magic mxmlc, Flex’ command line compiler, is using so Flash can do this too. I’ve heard you can use code in Flash 8 to get this to work, and although unconfirmed, that’s not the point; it should work in the IDE. The docs are not clear on this at all.

BTW, Dictionary.com’s new design is really nice!

I miss the Crocodile Hunter. You’ll be missed Steve Irwin; you were a good bloke.

2 Replies to “Flash Development Process Notes, Dictionary.com’s New Design, & I Miss Steve Irwin”

  1. I love jsfl and xul, done a lot of work with them, but there is an additional problem I’ve run into Jesse that drove me nuts.
    Seems like when doing a lot of things rapidly, the api stashes the jsfl commands and executes them from memory….EXCEPT when it comes to inspectable tags on components. These values need to be onscreen before reading them, or an error is thrown (no value). I discovered this when working with loops that read all the values of the inspectables on a component, then replace the component with another one, and copy the values into its instpectable paramaters. It would fail, and I’d put in some alerts to debug, and then it would work! I found it was the pause that was making it work! Enough time for the api to catch up, so to speak. In the end, the best solution was to have the api switch to another open document, then back again, thus forcing a stage refresh – this works every time.

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