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Glossary

This book does its best to avoid unnecessary jargon, but some is inevitable. As in any specialized skill, there is a specific vocabulary. As you use Flash, refer to this list if there's a word that puzzles you.

absolute path -- The location of a target symbol instance or other object according to the main Timeline of a Flash movie.

accessibility -- Making a project usable to people with disabilities.

ActionScript -- Based on the same standard as JavaScript, ActionScript is a simple programming language. Flash designers and developers can use it to customize the behavior of a movie and enhance it with interactivity.

antialias -- Pixels that are added to the edges of a shape or characters of type to give it a smoother appearance.

ADPCM Compression -- A sound compression method used in Flash that is compatible with every version of the Flash plug-in.

asset -- Something placed in the library that can be used in a Flash movie. A symbol, imported bitmap image, sound, or video clip are examples of assets.

assignment operator -- The = sign, used to assign a value to a variable or property.

attributes -- A characteristic of an object. Synonymous with property. The color attribute of a line may be red.

bandwidth -- The amount of information that can be transmitted over time. The faster the connection or the smaller the size of the file to be transmitted, the better the bandwidth.

behavior -- an attribute of a symbol that determines how it can be used in a movie. You can assign actions to a symbol with button behavior.

bezier -- A curve whose length and slope is defined by three points and a mathematical equation.

bit rate -- Used in MP3 compression, it is the amount of information that represents each sound. A higher bit rate improves the quality of a sound but results in a larger file size.

bitmap -- An image format that uses pixels (tiny squares) to compose an image. A bitmap image measures a specific size (e.g., 300 pixels x 150 pixels).

button symbol -- A special type of symbol in Flash that can easily be designed to respond tp the mouse. You can assign actions to a button symbol.

child -- A child symbol instance or ActionScript statement is contained by another symbol or statement.

compatibility -- The ability to work together. A Flash movie that's optimized for the Flash 4 player will be compatible with a Flash 6 player, but a movie that's been optimized for Flash 5, may not be compatible with a Flash 3 player.

concatenate -- To join together, or append one item to another. If you concatenate someone's first name with their last name, the result will be their full name. "Mary " + "Smith" = "Mary Smith"

contextual menu -- A menu of items that modifies itself according to its context. Right-clicking (ctrl-click for Macintosh) on a frame in the Timeline will generate different options than right-clicking on an object placed on the Stage.

deprecated -- When the use of something is discouraged. Flash 5 and Flash MX still support the Tell Target action, but it is deprecated, which means its use is discouraged when it's not needed. However, the use of such deprecated actions is necessary for compatibility with older (pre-Flash 5) players.

dot syntax -- Dot syntax uses dots in place of slashes to target an object by its path. Dot syntax is the basis of object-oriented programming, and allows you to access an objects properties directly.

dynamic -- The opposite of static. A dynamic Flash movie will behave differently each time it is played, based on user interactions and ActionScript code.

embed -- When one object is integrated into another. A SWF file is embedded into an HTML page. The code to accomplish this is called the EMBED code.

event handler -- An action that determines what triggers another action. The on(release) event handler will trigger a nested action when a button has been clicked on and released.

file extension -- A three- or four-letter suffix at the end of a file name. The correct file extension is required for a file to work reliably on the Web. Files exported from Flash (via File>Export or File>Publish Settings) must end with the "swf" file extension (e.g., my_movie.swf).

fill -- The interior shape of an object. A fill can be assigned a color, gradient, or bitmap image.

FLA file -- The format of work files used in Flash. These files cannot play as a SWF file, but you can export (publish) a SWF file from a FLA file opened in Flash. The convention is to add the .fla file extension to such a file.

frame-by-frame animation -- An animation created by moving an object little-by-little over several consecutive frames.

FTP -- File Transfer Protocol. A popular method for copying files onto a Web server.

function -- An action that performs a specific task, like stopping a movie from playing.

GIF image -- An image file format that's most popular on the Web. A GIF image is a compressed version of an original image based on a a smaller palette of colors.

gradient -- A gradual transition between colors. Often used to create three-dimensional effects. In a radial gradient, the transition is centered around a specific point. In a linear gradient, the transition is along a line.

graphic symbol -- Graphic symbol behavior is traditionally used for static images. An animation created in a multiple-frame graphic symbol will start and stop with the main Timeline of a movie.

grid -- A pattern of parallel lines that intersect with another set of perpendicular lines. The intersecting points on a grid are spaced in equal units to allow easy alignment of objects.

group -- In Flash, define selected objects as a group to keep them together and ensure that they do not mix with other objects.

guide -- A guide is a straight line used as an aid to aligning objects on the Stage. You can place guides anywhere, but they will not appear in a published SWF movie. A guide layer, works much the same way, but it allows you to place any object on the Stage to use as a guide. Likewise, guide layers do not appear in published Flash movies.

heuristics -- A set of guidelines or a checklist of general principles and rules.

hierarchy -- The location of different objects relative to each other and to the main Timeline of a Flash movie.

instance -- A representation of a symbol, placed on the Stage. An instance refers to an original symbol in the library and inherits its characteristics. An instance can be modified independently from an original symbol.

interactive -- An interactive Flash movie is one that involves the user, usually by clicking on a button or moving the mouse around the window. The user has some control over what happens in an interactive movie.

iterations -- Steps in a design process that allow something to be designed and re-designed throughout the process.

JavaScript -- A popular scripting language that allows you to add interactivity directly to an HTML page. ActionScript is very similar to JavaScript.

JPEG image -- A popular image compression method use on the Web. This can dramatically reduce the size of an original photographic image.

keyframe -- Special frames that define changes in a Flash movie over time.

lasso -- A tool that can select objects using an irregular shape.

layer -- An organizational tool in the Flash Timeline. Objects placed on the Stage in one layer will appear in front of objects in a second layer behind it. On the Timeline, objects assigned to the layer names on top will appear in front of objects placed on successive layers.

level -- Like layers, levels determine which movie appears in front of which movie. The loadMovie() action allows you to load a SWF file into a numbered level. Only one movie is allowed per level.

marquee -- A rectangular area used for selecting objects on the Stage.

menu bar -- Lists of predetermined commands accessed at the top of the window on a computer display. Each individual list at the top is called a menu, and is identified by a word like "file" or "edit." Every computer program has its own set of commands available from these menus.

method -- An function that is associated with a specific object. The play() method belongs to a movie clip.

morph -- The result of a shape tween. A morph is a gradual transition from one shape into another.

motion tween -- The preferred way to create animation in Flash. If a symbol instance in one keyframe is moved to a different position on the Stage in a second keyframe, a motion tween can apply that change in position gradually through the between frames. A motion tween will apply any changes to a symbol's properties gradually between 2 keyframes, such as color and size.

movie clip -- Movie clip behavior is used for animated symbols. A movie clip animation will play on whether or not the main Timeline of the movie is. Movie clips are also an essential ingredient of ActionScript.

MP3 -- This is a sound compression format that's very popular on the Web. Supported by Flash 4 players and later, it's often the best general compression method in Flash.

nesting -- Placing one object within another. A symbol may be contained by another symbol. Certain statements in ActionScript may contain other statements.

object-oriented language -- This is a method of programming that is based on a hierarchy of objects. Each object can be accessed by its location, and contains its own methods and properties as other objects. An object will retain these attributes by default.

onion skin -- Allows multiple frames to be visible on the Stage at once. Non-active frames may appear faded or as outlines.

onion markers -- Indicators that appear next to the playhead of the Timeline when onion skinning is active.

operator -- A symbol used in ActionScript to apply or change properties and variables.

panels -- Specialized windows that contain commands and menus relating to specific tasks. In Flash, one panel is for changing colors and another is for creating actions.

parameter -- An option available on a panel. Usually, parameters are displayed as menus within the panel.

parent -- A parent symbol instance or ActionScript statement contains another symbol or statement.

pixels -- Tiny squares that compose an image. Computer displays are broken into a grid of pixels, each assigned a specific color. The pixels are hard to distinguish with the naked eye, but taken together, create the illusion of a continuous image.

player -- Software that plays a Flash movie (SWF file). A plug-in is one kind of player. There are other players that do not require a Web browser.

playhead -- An indicator on the Flash Timeline that makes a specific frame active for playing or editing.

plug-in -- A special file that is installed with a Web browser, to enable it to play Flash movies.

PNG image -- A newer format of images. PNG images tend to be better quality than GIF or JPEG images and have other features like alpha transparency which allows an image to mix with a background color. Fireworks files are saved as a special kind of PNG file.

preloader -- A section of a Flash movie, usually at the beginning, that ensures that enough of the movie has been downloaded before it will play on.

properties -- Unique qualities for a specific object. Color, position, volume, and size are examples of properties. One movie clip may have a color property of red.

Properties Inspector -- This is a special panel, new to Flash MX. It replaces several other panels, containing their commands depending on what is active. If a keyframe is active, then frame-related commands and menus arfe available in the Properties Inspector.

raster -- The rectangular display area of a computer screen, or conputer generated image. A raster image is composed of pixels.

relative path -- The path to a target symbol or object based on the location of the action that targets it.

render -- How a computer and its display converts the information in a digital file (i.e. Flash SWF file) into the image that is displayed.

sample rate -- The frequency of a sound wave. A higher sample rate has a more detailed sound wave, thus more detailed sound information.

shape tween -- A tween created for a transition between two non-symbol, ungrouped shapes. If the object in the first keyframe of the tween is shaped differently from the object in the second keyframe, a shape tween will create a gradual transition (morph) between the two shapes.

Shockwave -- File format for Macromedia Director files published for the Web.

Shockwave Flash (SWF) -- File format for Macromedia Flash files published for the Web.

slash syntax -- The use of forward slashes (/) to describe paths to objects. Slash syntax is supported by Flash 3 and later, but deprecated in Flash 5 and Flash MX in favor of dot syntax.

streaming -- The ability to play one section of a SWF file while the rest of it is still loading.

stroke -- The outline of a shape. In Flash, a stroke of an object can have its own color and has a consistent width, such as 2 pixels. A line is a stroke without a fill shape.

SWF -- Pronounced "swiff," this is the file format of a Flash movie that you export or publish. It must end with the file extension .swf in order to play reliably in a Web browser.

symbol -- A symbol is an object that you add to a file's library. A symbol can have one of three behaviors: graphic, button, or movie clip. You can add artwork, keyframes, layers, actions, and sounds to a symbol as you would to the main movie. You manage symbols in the library and place instances on the Stage.

symbol instance -- A representation of a symbol that you place on the Stage of a Flash movie.

syntax -- Like grammar is for a spoken language, syntax is a set rules for writing ActionScript code that will work.

template -- A preformatted layout that can be used as often as needed. Flash's publish feature uses HTML templates to create a specific HTML page for any SWF file. Flash MX offers templates which allow you to design Flash movies with similar elements.

tooltip -- When your mouse hovers over particular tools and options in the Flash program, a tooltip may pop-up. It is a small rectangle that labels the tool or option.

tweening -- An automatic process for creating a smooth transition between two keyframes that are separated by several standard frames.

usability -- A process of developing a project that can be used naturally by the intended audience.

user -- A member of the audience for a project. This is who the project should be designed for.

variable -- A way to store a value or a string of text.

vector -- A vector graphic is defined by a series of points joined by lines. It has several properties like color, shape, and weight. Vector graphics are not dependent on pixels. It will always display smoothly at any size.

waveform -- A graphical representation of a sound. It is a graph in the shape of a wave.

Web browser -- A program used for viewing Web pages. Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Opera are the most popular Web browsers.

work area -- The area used to create Flash art. It includes the areas adjacent to the Stage.



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