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Displaying
Data in a Text Field

For most Web development applications, with the exception of WYSIWYG editors, learning how to program code becomes a major part of the learning curve. Flash, on the other hand, requires no knowledge of programming beyond a few simple commands to create great animations. Yet, there are always those techniques that simply cannot be done without using programming. The following example uses variables and very little programming:

 
[ enter your name and press the green arrow ]

You are going to learn how to create an animation similar to the example above in Flash. If you know a programming language such as C++ or Visual Basic, programming in Flash is extremely simple. Get ready, you are going to learn about variables, concatenation, and various text fields!

Creating the Interface
A great animation starts with a great interface! Let's create the interface that will contain the buttons, labels, etc. The following instructions will help you to create the interface:

  1. Create a new document in Flash. Set the movie width to 290 and the movie height to 125.
     

  2. Add a layer in your timeline and label it Actions.
     

  3. Add a layer below the Actions layer and call it Label. Add another layer below the Actions layer and call it Text Fields.
     

  4. Now, it is time for the final layer. Add another layer called Button.
     

  5. You may optionally choose to add a background color, but it is not important. You can if you want your animation to look pretty :-) Your timeline will look like the following image:

We will now create the actual button and label. The button will be the green arrow in the example, and the label will be the text.

  1. Select the first keyframe in your Button layer. Now, create your button. It doesn't have to be the arrow that I have in my example. The button can be as simple as a square.
     

  2. Now, let's add the text label. Select the keyframe in the Label layer. Click the Text tool and enter the following text: Please Enter Your Name. Make the font size a little larger so your visitors will notice it first.
     

  3. After entering the text, drag the text to the upper part of the work area. We will need some room in the middle to add the text field. Make sure the button you created is at the bottom right of the work area. Your work area should look like the following image:

Text Fields
Now that the interface is complete, let's shift focus to the input box. The Input box is the box in which the name will be entered into. The following instructions will explain how to create a input box:

  1. Display the Text Option window by clicking the Text Option tab. From the Text Option tab, click the drop-down menu and select the selection for Input Text. Also from the Text Options tab, check the Border/Bg checkbox. If you want to make the text that is entered look smooth at the sacrifice of file size, click the first icon under Embed fonts:
     

  1. While Input Text is selected in the Text Options tab, select the first frame of the Text Fields layer. Click the Text Tool icon from the Tools area and draw a small text box below 'Please enter your name':

 

[pages/op.htm]

You have just created the Input Text box. The Input Text box enables your visitors to enter information. We have not yet set up the mechanism for which Flash will interpret the data entered and display back on the screen.

Input boxes are designed to receive input from the visitor. While Input boxes can also display data, the data can be modified by the user. The best method of displaying data that cannot be modified is by using the Dynamic Text selection. The following instructions will tell you how to create a Dynamic Text box.

  1. We need to add about 10 frames to each layer. Place your mouse pointer on Frame 10 of the Actions layer. While Frame 10 of the Actions layer is selected, drag your mouse pointer straight down until you reach Frame 10 of the Button layer. While the frames are highlighted, right click on a highlighted frame and select Insert Frame.
     

  2. Insert a blank keyframe on Frame 10 of the Text Fields layer. Once the blank keyframe has been inserted, make sure the Text Options tab is displayed. Click the drop-down menu in the Text Options tab and select Dynamic Text.
     

  3. Once Dynamic Text has been selected, select Frame 10 of the Text Fields layer and click the Text tool and draw a text box in the middle of your animation work area.

You have just finished adding your Dynamic Text box. Now, you will have to make some minor adjustments. Insert a blank keyframe in Frame 10 of the the Label layer. Also, insert a Keyframe (not a blank keyframe) in Frame 10 of the Button layer. Now, all that is left is for us is to add some ActionScript code.

To make sure your animation is accurate up to this point, download and open the partial source code by clicking here. You will be using this source code for the rest of the tutorial. Don't worry, the FLA you just downloaded is the exact replica of the file you should have been creating anyways!

Once the FLA you just downloaded is open and displayed in Flash, we can proceed with the coding.

Let's Talk about Code
Unlike other tutorials, I won't be displaying the code for you to simply copy. This lesson will teach you some important programming concepts that you should learn. Because data, which will be our name, is being exchanged, the data needs to be stored somewhere.

That somewhere is a variable. Simply put, Variables store data. Not only do the variables store data, variables can also output the data when asked for (nicely of course). Before variables can be used in a code, the need to be declared. Unlike in Visual Basic or other programming languages, variables don't have to be declared with integer, string, constant, long, etc. Flash doesn't really care!

You will now assign variables to the animation we created:

  1. Select the input text box on Frame 1 of the Text Field layer. From the Text Options tab, you will see something a default variable name displayed in the variable field. Delete that variable name and type in the word: inputName

  1. Select the dynamic text box on Frame 10 of the Text Field layer to give it a more appropriate variable name as well. Once the dynamic text box has been selected, enter the following word into the variable field: finalName. From the Text Options box, uncheck the Border/Bg check box. We don't want to see the border when the dynamic text is displayed.

Adding the Code
Now that you have the two text fields named, we can proceed toward adding the code. Insert a blank keyframe on Frame 10 of the Actions layer. Once the blank keyframe has been added, right click on it and select Actions. The Action window will appear. From the Action window, press Ctrl + E. This is the Expert mode of the coding window (as if Normal mode wasn't hard enough!)

The Expert mode allows you to type in the code more easily and quickly than in the Normal mode's clunky point and click method. Because we want take what the user inputted into the input box (known as inputName) and display it in our dynamic text field (known as finalName), we need to make them equal each other.

In the Actions window, type the following line of code in:

finalName = inputName

What do you think will display when you preview the animation? What was input into the input box. But, we want the word 'Hello' to precede our name. To fix that, you will be combining pieces of text and make it equal one big piece of text. This process of combining text is known as concatenation.

For the Action you just added, revise it to say the following:

finalName = "Hello " + inputName

Note: Make sure you add the space after hello and the quotation mark.

Before you preview the animation, we have not yet set the button. Add a Go To and Stop statement for the Button on Frame 1. The button on Frame 1 on layer Button should have the following action:

on (release) {
     gotoAndStop (10);
}

For the button on Frame 10, add the following action:

on (release) {
     gotoAndStop (1);
}

The actions for the button you just entered are to make sure that your visitors can get from Frame 1 to Frame 10 and vice versa. We don't want the visitor to see Frame 10 without having actually entered some words into the input box. Speaking of which, we need to add a Stop action to the first frame.

Right click the first frame of the Actions layer and select Action. Add a Stop action by going to Basic Actions | Stop.

Save the animation and preview it by pressing Ctrl + Enter. Fill out your name and click the button. You will see your name and the word 'Hello' before it. To download my final source file for this tutorial with all the bells and whistles, click here.

If you have a question about this or any other topic, the easiest thing is to drop by our forums where a bunch of the friendliest people you'll ever run into will be happy to help you out!

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