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Task 4: Sharing Assets

Just like a good database, a website should contain zero duplication of data. With HTML development this is a little easier, because the one image file can be embedded in several pages. Updating the image automatically "updates" the documents.

Avoiding redundancy in Flash is a little more difficult, because the program lends itself to creating self-contained movies. Even something simple like changing the company logo can be a mammoth task if the logo is replicated in 100 different Flash files.

Flash MX Solution

Instead of creating duplicate artwork, use author-time shared assets. Flash MX can source symbols from an external FLA file anywhere on your local network. By maintaining a single "master Library" of symbols, you can share those symbols amongst your work files. With the Always Update option enabled for individual symbols, you can ensure that they're never orphaned or outdated.

Author-time sharing can be enabled by opening a FLA as a Library, then dragging symbols into your movie's own Library. Or, select an existing symbol, open its Properties dialog box, and set the Source options.

(If this seems a lot like Flash 5's Shared Library functionality, that's because it is. For some reason "Shared Libraries" as a concept has been de-emphasized, and the asset sharing methods integrated with regular Library behavior.)

Try It

To create a master library and share its assets, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a new Flash document, and draw a series of simple shapes: a square, a circle, and a rectangle.

  2. Convert each individual shape into a Movie Clip symbol, naming them Square, Circle, and Rectangle respectively. (Note: You can share all symbol types, not just Movie Clips.)

  3. Save the document in a new folder, name it Source.fla, and close the file.

  4. Open another new Flash document, then use the File, Open Library command to re-open Source.fla.

  5. Drag instances of all three symbols onto the stage, then close the Source.fla Library window. The symbols are shared, but by default they will not auto-update.

  6. Choose the Window, Library command to open the current Library. Select each of the symbols in turn, open their Properties, and set the Source options to Always update before publishing. Any changes to Source.fla will now be reflected in the shared symbols.

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