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Connected Symbols in Macromedia's MX Studio

📄 Contents

  1. Fireworks to Dreamweaver…and Back Again
  2. Direct Import into Flash MX from Freehand and Fireworks MX
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MX Studio enables the various tools to work tightly together. A major part of this integration is the ability to move objects created in one application to another. New Riders authors Tom Green, Jordan L. Chilcott, and Chris S. Flick walk you through this new and exciting development in this excerpt from their book, Building Web Sites with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX.
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Macromedia's release of the MX Studio essentially turned their entire web product line inside out and rearranged the molecules. Instead of separate products performing specialized tasks, the tight integration of the tools—Freehand, Flash MX, Fireworks MX, Dreamweaver MX, and ColdFusion MX—means an entirely new, more efficient workflow can develop.

A major workflow change is how objects created in each of the applications move easily between the applications. Dragging and dropping, importing, copying, and pasting between the applications can accomplish this, but one of the more significant aspects of the new workflow is the use of symbols.

Improvements in Using Symbols

If you have used Flash MX, Freehand, or Fireworks MX, you are familiar with symbols. One great improvement in the MX Studio is that symbols created in Freehand and Fireworks MX and then placed into Flash MX or Fireworks MX can move, intact, into the application into which they are being imported. This means that a complex logo or drawing can be created in Freehand, and the elements of the logo can be converted to symbols. When that logo is placed into Fireworks MX or Flash MX, the symbols are automatically placed in the library of the receiving application, and can then be modified on the Flash MX Stage or the Fireworks MX canvas without affecting the original artwork.

Also, the round trip editing features between Fireworks MX and Dreamweaver MX simplify complex artwork production that inevitably requires changes.

One of the rules of the web development process is that the client reserves the right to make changes—a right the client seems to exercise frequently. The proper use of symbols in graphics production allows you to accommodate these changes.

Fireworks to Dreamweaver…and Back Again

Fireworks symbols are simple to create. Simply select the object on the canvas and then press the F8 key to open the Symbol Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Figure 1 Fireworks symbols are created by opening the Symbol Properties dialog box

In Fireworks MX, symbols are either static, animated, or interactive, such as a button. After the symbol is named and the property assigned, the object on the canvas becomes an instance, as shown by the arrow in the lower left corner of the red square in Figure 2. The original artwork lives in the Library; the instance, which can be regarded in much the same way as an alias or shortcut, resides on the canvas.

Figure 2 Figure 2 When created, the symbol remains in the Library, and the instance of the symbol is on the Fireworks MX canvas.

Before you move the artwork containing the symbols in Dreamweaver, be aware that using Export or Export Preview will flatten the image and remove the symbols. The reason is Fireworks MX uses two flavors of .png. The first is the native Fireworks MX version, created when the file is named using the Save or Save As command in the File menu. The second flavor is created when you choose Export or Export preview from the File menu. In this case, the resulting image, which could be a .gif or .png format, is a flattened bitmap.

Figure 3 shows the Fireworks MX image placed in Dreamweaver MX. Note the Fireworks MX icon in the Dreamweaver MX Property inspector's Edit button. Let's assume the client sees the image, and insists the color of the circle be changed from yellow to blue.

Figure 3 Figure 3 The image is placed in the Dreamweaver MX page. Your key editing tool is the Fireworks Edit button in the Property inspector.

With the image selected on the Dreamweaver MX page, click the Export button on the Property inspector to launch Fireworks MX. When Fireworks MX opens, open the Assets panel and then click the Library tab to reveal your symbols.

Double-click the instance of the symbol on the canvas that needs to be changed. This opens the Symbol Editor as shown in Figure 4. Make the change, and the change is then reflected in both the symbol in the Library and the instance on the canvas.

Figure 4 Figure 4 When a symbol is changed in the Fireworks Symbol Editor, the change is reflected in the Library and on the canvas.


Another method is to click once on the symbol's preview in the Library.

With the change made, click the Done button (Figure 5) located on the upper left corner of the Fireworks MX window. The Done button is a great example of the tight integration of the MX Studio applications. You now have a visual clue in Fireworks that you are working on an image located on a Dreamweaver page (Editing from Dreamweaver). Also, clicking the Done button automatically saves the change, navigates back to Dreamweaver, and updates the change on the Dreamweaver page.

Figure 5 Figure 5 When you click the Edit button in Dreamweaver to launch Fireworks MX, the Done button and Editing from Dreamweaver appear on the main Fireworks MX window.

A simplistic example is shown in Figure 6. When you start using symbols with complex art, the value of what has been demonstrated becomes evident. Rather than, for example, clicking through the multitude of objects that could comprise a complex logo, you simply have to locate the symbol and then change it. That change is not only reflected throughout all of the instances on the Fireworks canvas, but also through all copies of the image used in the site. In the case of a shared Library, everyone with access to the image has the most current version reflected in their pages.

Figure 6 Figure 6 The change in the Fireworks symbol is reflected immediately in the Dreamweaver page where the image appears.

Freehand to Fireworks to Flash MX

The ability to use symbols is restricted the Fireworks MX and Dreamweaver MX. Symbols created in Freehand can move, intact, into Flash and Fireworks, and Fireworks symbols can move into Flash as well.

Here's how to move Freehand symbols into Flash MX with a stop in Fireworks MX:

  1. Open a new Freehand document and then draw a square that is filled with a solid color.

  2. Draw a circle inside the square, and fill it with a contrasting color.

  3. Select the square and select Modify, Symbol, Convert to Symbol. The square appears in your Library as an unnamed graphic.

  4. Double-click the symbol name in the Library and then rename the graphic Box.

  5. A faster method of creating a symbol in Freehand is to select the circle and then drag it directly into the Library. When you release the mouse you see a new, unnamed symbol. Name it Circle. You now have two Symbols in your Freehand Library as shown in Figure 7.

    Figure 7 Figure 7 The Freehand Library is where symbols are stored.

    A minor Freehand annoyance is the inclusion of a Brush Tips folder in Freehand Libraries. You can delete the Brush Tips folder by selecting the folder, clicking the trash can at the bottom of the Freehand Library window and, when prompted, clicking the Delete button. No harm is done to the artwork you are creating.

  6. With Freehand open, launch Fireworks MX and then open a new Fireworks MX document.

  7. Select the square and the circle both in the open Freehand document, and drag and drop them onto the Fireworks MX canvas. The Freehand objects appear on the Fireworks MX canvas.

  8. Select each object in Fireworks MX and a small arrow inside a square, denoting a Symbol, appears in the lower left corner of the selected object, as shown in Figure 8.

  9. Figure 8 Figure 8 Symbols created in Freehand are automatically transferred to the Fireworks MX Library.

  10. Open the Fireworks Library Panel located in the Assets panel. Alternately, you can select Window, Library. You see the two graphics symbols shown in Figure 8 that were created in Freehand now a part of the Fireworks MX Library.

  11. Return to your Freehand document, select the two objects on the page, and copy them to your clipboard.

  12. Open Flash MX and then open a new document.

  13. Create a new graphic symbol (Insert, Create Symbol) named fromFreehand. When the symbol opens, paste the contents of the clipboard onto the blank symbol's Stage. The square and the circle appear on the Stage, and the symbols created in Freehand appear in the Library.

Instances of Fireworks symbols that are subsequently imported into Flash still retain their original symbol properties in Flash MX. For example, you can apply a bevel to the circle symbol on the Fireworks canvas, and have that beveled object appear in Flash MX.

What you can't do at this point is to simply select the instance of the circle symbol on the Fireworks MX canvas, apply a bevel, and copy and paste the beveled object and the square into Flash MX. If you do that, you lose the bevel effect.

To have the beveled object move from Fireworks MX into Flash MX, you need to convert the beveled object to a symbol, convert the object in the symbol editor to a bitmap map by flattening the bevel symbol, and import the artwork into Flash MX.

Before you learn how bevel an object, be aware that only the objects on the Fireworks MX canvas and their associated symbols will move into Flash MX upon import. For example, if you want to have both the beveled and the original non-beveled objects import into Flash MX, a symbol of the non-beveled object must also be on the Fireworks MX canvas. If it isn't, only the bevel symbol will appear in Flash MX.

Follow these steps to prepare a modified symbol for export to Flash MX:

  1. Reopen the Fireworks document containing the symbols imported from Freehand.

  2. Open the Fireworks MX library, select the circle symbol in the library, and choose Duplicate from the Library's pop-down menu. A new symbol named Circle 1 appears in the Library.

  3. Double-click the symbol's name to open the Symbol Properties dialog box. Rename the symbol Bevel and then click OK.

  4. Double-click the image of the new symbol in the preview window of the Library to open the Symbol Editor. Select the object, and apply an inner bevel from the Effects pop-down of the Fireworks MX Property inspector.

  5. With the bevel applied, leave the object selected and then choose Modify, Flatten Selection to convert it to a bitmap. For a LiveEffect to move from Fireworks to Flash, the object to which the effect has been applied must be converted to a bitmap.

  6. Close the Symbol Editor, and drag the circle on the canvas onto the paste board—the gray area outside of the canvas. Doing this removes the object from the image, but leaves the symbol in place for import into Flash MX.

  7. Drag a copy of the beveled symbol onto the square, and save the Fireworks document as shown in Figure 9.

    Figure 9 Figure 9 The artwork is ready for Import into Flash MX. Note the symbol sitting on the left side of the paste board.

You are now ready to import the drawing into Flash MX. Again you have a number of choices regarding how to accomplish this task: copy and paste, drag and drop, or use the Flash MX Import command.

  1. Open Flash MX.

  2. Open the Fireworks MX document, and select all of the objects on the canvas, including the hidden symbol on the paste board. Drag all three symbols onto the Flash Stage. Release the mouse when you see a square.

  3. You are presented with the PNG Export dialog box, shown in Figure 10. The key here is to ensure that all paths are editable in the Objects section of the dialog box. This retains any vector symbols in the Fireworks MX Library. Click OK. The square with the beveled circle as well as the hidden symbol appears on the Flash Stage. You can delete the hidden symbol.

  4. Figure 10 Figure 10 The Flash MX PNG Import Dialog Box lets you determine how the image will be handled by Flash MX.

  5. Open the Flash MX Library, and notice that there are two symbols—Bitmap1, and a folder named Fireworks Objects. Open the folder and see the Fireworks MX symbols, as shown in Figure 11. Unfortunately, these symbols don't retain their names when the move from Fireworks to Flash, but you can change them in the Library.

    Figure 11 Figure 11 Symbols move directly into the Flash MX Library.

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