Posted by: Dennis | July 25, 2007

Reflections on FLA-based components

Every day brings me more and more proof that Adobe released such an unfinished piece of software as Flash CS3. I think it’s because of the whole “suite” idea. A dozen of programs means a dozen of development teams and a dozen of deadlines which had to be pushed to the actual release date. Kinda difficult to achieve. I wouldn’t be surprised if some users of DW and PS are as disapointed as I am. I know what it means to “speed up the process” because the management wants a pre-Christmass release. You can’t blame the programmer, the manager is the problem here.

It’s not a secret that I don’t like the new component architecture. A couple of days ago I decided to sit down and try to make some use of it. Today I cant tell you that I HATE it! No offence to Grant Skinner but I think that he and the flash development team could have come up with extremely usefull, not something so annoying that you won’t try to use it ever again.

First of all, you have to work with 4 .fla files to get the component ready – 1 for the component (components), 1 for component shim, 1 for live preview and 1 for testing, but it would have been ok if you hadn’t had to restart flash every time you wanted to see the effect of a modified line of code. Really now, restarting FLash CS3 is a painful procedure, especialy if you have an antivirus which starts to scan the files being used (by Flash IDE, when it’s loading) >:).

Another thing is the live preview. I was LMAO when I saw how many steps you need to make to add this absolutely necessary feature to your component. And you know which is the best part? The best part is that this live preview only affects the dimensions and the inspectable params. If you have ever tried to change the border color or remove the border completely on a Button component (and see NO EFFECT in live preview), you’ll know what I mean.

And lastly, the what-we-are-trying-to-get-used-to lack of documentation on how to develop custom comonents.Considering that the new architecture is already not so easy to use, there had to be at least something!

Hopefully our screams for help will be heard and we’ll see some changes in an update or something.




  1. The missing documentation (how to build CS3 components) is really a bad thing. I don’t get it why they are leaving out such important part of the docs. What I also don’t get is that they left out so many of the ‘standard’ components that where present in the previous versions.

    I am starting to wonder if there is another reason for the lack of support for packaged and custom components? …are they trying to push us Flash developers away form Flash and in the direction of Flex? … I wonder 😦 …I hope that isn’t the case because Flex is to heavy for the things we (our customers) need and custom Flash components are a big part of that.

    I requested Adobe to add documentation for this through there dev center feedback form:
    Maybe if more people would submit such a request then they might start listening …I hope.

  2. One more for your list:

    Try getting them to work in a runtime shared library (RSL), we gave up and bought a Flex license.

  3. I’m with you on this one, to a certain degree. Creating a FLA-based component is a major pain, and there is no documentation that explains how to do it. There’s a great article on the Flash Brighton blog that I discovered a short time after I figured out all the details on my own through trial and error. I’m sure a quick search will find it, if you’re interested.

    I recommend setting up some JSFL scripts if you can. I’ve been able to completely automate the creation of a component shim and the building of a live preview SWF. As for the restarting of Flash, are you aware that the Components Panel has a reload option in the menu? I’m not sure if it helps in your particular case, but it might.

    How can it be fixed? Personally, I think that a new format for Flash components would be a good thing. SWC is great for fully compiled components, but as we’ve discovered, FLA-based components are hundreds of times more difficult to manage. Perhaps a zip-based format that contains the library assets, the raw (or compiled, if security is a concern) ActionScript files (with automated shim building for the compiled option, please!). SWC is already a zip format, maybe this format can be tweaked a bit to get the desired effect.

    Now, I’m just rambling. I’m glad that someone else is as frustrated as I am.

  4. Thanks for the comments and support 🙂
    We’ll just sit and wait for a new release or smth or may be a good update.
    @Josh: Unfortunately refreshing component list won’t help with FLA based components 😐 It’s very sad

  5. It really sucks. I’m sitting down to write my own component framework from scratch which is not something I have the time to do. Adobe are taking the piss and I can’t believe the Flash community is not up in arms about it. Flex is not a replacement for Flash. It is too cumbersome and bloated for most of the projects I work on, but it’s looking like the only way to go.

    What really pisses me off is that having read/listened to Grant Skinner bang on about how easy these components are to extend, he (and Adobe) can go completely silent on the matter. Leaving so many Flash developers hanging.

    I am an angry man. Grrrrrr

  6. Nice to hear someone giving them some stick by the way. Keep it up.


    “[Flash CS3 has a] lack of documentation on how to develop custom components … Hopefully our screams for help will be heard.”
    — Posted by SmackMe

    Scream no more, Sir SmackMe. You just been smuck’d with an epic mini-series on component creation, now up on Adobe’s Developer Center.

  8. […] useful. I’ve been using it for some time now to partially automate builds for Flash CS3 FLA-based components. I can create component shims, live preview SWFs, and many things of that nature which […]

  9. Well I really expected a custom component built in FlexBuilder3 with AS3 as a SWC Library, to one at least show GUI adjusters for Inspectable Properties when added to the “Common” section. Nevermind ever/any subclass of UIComponent to either function normally with resizing bands or respond to an onUpdate or preferably something/anything like a livePreview method! I don’t think I would design or release it any other way, and will remain pissed until such time. FB4?

  10. At the risk of sounding defensive, everything people are complaining about here is not an architectural. While there is certainly a ton of room for improvement in the component architecture, I believe what we built was a major improvement over the v2 components, and much more flexible / extendible than the Flex framework (though this is continuing to improve). Of course, this is ham-stringed by other factors.

    I agree 100% that the custom component development workflow *really* needs to be improved. It was a major hindrance to us while we developed the v3 components, and continues to cause us headaches today (ex. SPL components). I would love to see a flourishing third-party marketplace for custom components in Flash, but the current process is arcane, and the documentation is scattered. This sets up a large barrier to entry that most developers are unwilling or unable to hurdle.

    I’d strongly encourage everyone posting here to let Adobe know how you feel. They do listen, and they apportion engineering time based partly on feedback. I try to help where I can, but it really isn’t my job to offer ongoing support for the components – that’s up to Adobe.

    Two more for the list of grievances: Missing components (accordion, RTE, etc), and a bug that prevents setting custom component icons on Mac (only works on PC).

    Just FYI – you should not have to restart Flash while doing component development, can you be more specific? Also, building a livepreview should only be a few steps (4?) – however they are weird, unintuitive steps.

  11. Thanks for posting this!
    I’d like to help too, Adobe just doesn’t know about me yet B-)

  12. […] useful. I’ve been using it for some time now to partially automate builds for Flash CS3 FLA-based components. I can create component shims, live preview SWFs, and many things of that nature which […]

  13. “Reflections on FLA-based components ActionScript 3, Flash, Flex Reflections” genuinely
    makes me personally ponder a tiny bit more. I really treasured each
    and every individual part of this post. Thanks for your effort -Christie

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