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Using Symbols and the Library in Adobe Flash CS4

#29. Using the Library to Manage Symbols

The library is more than a repository for symbols; it’s also a place where you can actively organize, modify, and track symbols. Many of the library’s features are hidden away—either represented by small, unlabeled icons, or listed on menus that are not immediately obvious (Figure 29a).

Figure 29a

Figure 29a Some of the Library panel’s less obvious controls are pointed out here.

Let’s look first at the four icons at the bottom of the Library panel. They are, from left to right:

  • New Symbol. Clicking this icon brings up the Create New Symbol dialog box (see #22).
  • New Folder. Just like the files on your computer’s hard drive, the items in the Flash library can be sorted into folders. Clicking the New Folder icon creates an empty folder into which you can drag any number of library items (including other folders). To expand a folder—that is, to see the folder’s contents—double-click the folder in the library list; to collapse the folder, double-click it again.
  • Properties. When you select any item in the library (other than a folder), clicking this icon opens a dialog box that lets you modify the item’s properties. The name and contents of the dialog box depend on what type of item you’ve selected. For example, if you’ve selected a symbol, the Symbol Properties dialog box appears; if you’ve selected a sound file, the Sound Properties dialog box appears.

  • Delete. You can delete any item in the library by selecting it and clicking the Delete icon or pressing the Delete key. Be careful, however: If you delete a symbol, all instances of that symbol will vanish from the movie. If you delete a folder, Flash will delete everything contained in the folder without giving you a warning or asking for confirmation.

If more than one document is open, the panel displays the library contents of whichever document is in the foreground. To see the contents of another document’s library, you can select the document’s name from the pop-up menu above the viewing pane.

The Pin icon to the right of that menu allows you to “pin” the current library in place—that is, to keep the current document’s contents visible in the Library panel even if you bring a different document to the foreground. Click the icon once to “pin” the library; click it again to “un-pin” it.

The next icon to the right is the New Library Panel icon, which opens another copy of the current library in a separate panel. Doing this can be useful if you want to drag items between panels to copy them.

Most of the library’s other features can be found in the Options menu, which you open by clicking the three-line icon on the upper right of the panel. You can get an almost identical contextual menu by right-clicking (Windows) or Control-clicking (Mac) anywhere in the Library panel.

Some of the menu items, such as New Folder and Delete, are alternative ways to access features we’ve already looked at; others, such as Rename and Select Unused Items, are self-explanatory. Two menu items that need special explanation are those that deal with use counts.

Among the features that become visible when you widen the Library panel is the Use Count column (Figure 29b). For each item in the library, the Use Count column tells you how many instances of that item have been used in the movie. By default, the numbers in this column are refreshed only when you right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) the Library panel and choose Update Use Counts Now from the contextual menu. If you want the use counts to be updated automatically, you can choose Keep Use Counts Updated; however, this option can place a drag on the program’s performance.

Figure 29b

Figure 29b Widening the Library panel reveals previously unseen columns, including Use Count.