Home / Articles / Adobe Flash / Using Symbols and the Library in Flash MX

Using Symbols and the Library in Flash MX

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter, you'll learn to use Flash MX's symbols, libraries, and the Movie Explorer to manage your movies and keep them small, fast, and organized. You will also learn how to use and how to import bitmaps.

You've learned to use Flash's tools and panels to create, modify, position, and import basic elements—such as text and graphics—for your Flash movies. Even using simple elements, your movies can quickly become large and complex. In this lesson, you'll learn to use symbols, libraries, and the Movie Explorer to manage your movies and keep them small, fast, and organized. You will also learn how to use and how to import bitmaps.

Figure 1This is what the ZooMX web site will look like after this lesson.


In this lesson, you will:

  • Learn about the file types that can be imported
  • Import bitmaps
  • Create a symbol
  • Explore the Library panel
  • Create a folder to organize the contents of the library
  • Open an existing movie as a library
  • Add instances of symbols to the movie
  • Edit symbols and groups
  • Use the Movie Explorer


This lesson takes approximately 1 hour to complete.


Media Files:


Downloadable as assets.zip

Starting Files:


Downloadable as zoo6.zip

Completed Project:


Downloadable as zoo13.zip

Importing Bitmaps

Flash supports two image formats: vector and raster. Vector graphics are created with lines, curves, and descriptions of their properties. Commands within a vector graphic tell your computer how to display the lines and shapes, what colors to use, how wide to make the lines, and so on. You have already added some vector graphics to your movie—the shapes you drew in Lesson 2. In fact, most strokes and fills drawn using Flash's drawing tools are vector graphics. You might have also used a drawing program, such as Macromedia FreeHand, to create such images. Raster images, also called bitmaps, are created with pixels. When you create a raster image, you map out the placement and color of each pixel, and the resulting bitmap is what you see on the screen.

You are by no means limited to artwork you can create in Flash. You can use your favorite draw program or you can import existing artwork. Flash can import the following formats in Windows and on a Macintosh: GIF and Animated GIF, JPEG, PNG, Adobe Illustrator (EPS, AI, version 6.0 or earlier), AutoCAD DXF (DXF), FreeHand (FH7, FH8, FH9, FH10), FutureSplash Player (SPL), and Flash Player (SWF) files.

In Windows, you can also import Bitmap (BMP), Enhanced Windows Metafile (EMF), and Windows Metafile (WMF) files. On a Macintosh you can also import PICT.

If QuickTime 4 is installed, you can import MacPaint (PNTG), Photoshop (PSD), QuickTime Image (QTIF), PICT, Silicon Graphics Image (SGI), TGA, and TIFF (TIFF) files. QuickTime also lets you import BMP on a Macintosh and PICT in Windows.

In this exercise, you will import some bitmap graphics to add to your movie.

1) Open zoo6.fla.

Figure 2

You'll find zoo6.fla in the Lesson03/Starting folder on the CD-ROM that comes with this book. This is the file you completed at the end of Lesson 2, so if you still have it open you're ready to go.

2) Select the Welcome Text layer and add a new layer above it. Name the new layer Main Page Bitmaps.

Figure 3

You are going to add your bitmap graphic to this new layer.

You might find it useful to lock all of the other layers so you don't accidentally move anything. Right-click (Windows) or Control+click (Macintosh) on the name of the newly added Main Page Bitmaps layer and choose Lock Others.

Remember, you can add a new layer by clicking the Insert Layer button at the bottom of the timeline. You can also choose Insert > Layer from the menu or right-click (Windows) or Control+click (Macintosh) on the Welcome Text layer and choose Insert Layer to add a new layer above the selected layer.


To delete a layer, just select that layer and click the Delete Layer button at the bottom of the timeline.

3) With the Main Page Bitmaps layer selected, choose File > Import. Browse to lion.jpg in the Lesson03/Assets folder on the CD, and select it. Click Open

Figure 4

Figure 5

A bitmap graphic, lion.jpg, should appear on the stage. Though Flash is a vector-based authoring tool, you can also use bitmap images in Flash. Bitmap images are not created natively in Flash; you need to use an external application such as Macromedia Fireworks to create the files and then import them into Flash.

Unlike vector graphics, bitmap images are not very scalable. Simple bitmap images are often larger in file size than simple vector graphics, but very complex bitmap images (photographs, for example) are often smaller than comparable vector graphics. Flash can use Bitmap (BMP), GIF Image, JPEG Image, PNG Image, Macintosh PICT Image, MacPaint Image (PNT), and TIFF Image.

Figure 6

You can resize imported artwork the same way you resize artwork drawn in Flash, but be careful when you resize bitmap graphics. When you scale a bitmap, you can get pixelation, which means that parts of the graphic will not appear smooth. When you resize a vector graphic, such as the graphics that you added in Lesson 2, the edges will stay smooth.

4) Select the arrow tool and click the bitmap you just imported. Use the Property inspector to set the X and Y to 20 and 70 respectively.

When you set the X and Y properties, the bitmap will appear near the top right corner of the stage. It will overlap the orange portion of the background a bit, but you'll fix that later in this lesson.

When you select imported bitmap, the Property inspector indicates that you have selected a bitmap. The usual Height (H), Width (W), X, and Y settings are available. The Property inspector also displays the name of the selected bitmap (lion, jpg, or lion.jpg, depending on your system). There are also two buttons in the Property inspector: the Swap button lets you swap the selected image with another imported image and the Edit button opens the imported image in an image editor if you have one installed.

Figure 7

5) Choose File > Import to Library. Import fish.jpg, frog.jpg, mara.jpg, and sleepy_tiger.jpg.

When you use the Import to Library command, Flash imports the graphics, but you won't see them on the stage as you did with the lion bitmap. That's because the images are imported directly into the library. Don't worry if you don't know what the library is yet, that's what you'll learn later in this lesson.

6) Select the lion.jpg bitmap image on the stage and choose Edit > Duplicate. Select the duplicate copy of the bitmap and use the Property inspector to set the X and Y to 160 and 50.

Figure 8

The Duplicate command creates an exact copy of the selected element and pastes the copy on the stage. The duplicated copy should be selected when it's created. If the duplicated copy is not selected when it's copied, use the arrow tool to select the copy. You can then use the Property inspector to move the bitmap to the desired coordinates.

7) Make sure you still have the second copy of the lion.jpg bitmap selected and click the Swap button in the Property inspector.

When you click the Swap button the Swap Bitmap dialog box opens. You should use this dialog box to swap the selected bitmap for one in the library.

8) Select mara.jpg in the Swap Bitmap dialog box and click OK.

After you click OK, the second instance of the lion.jpg graphic should be swapped with the mara.jpg graphic.

The Swap Bitmap dialog box displays all of the bitmap graphics in the library. You will only see one bitmap on the stage, the lion.jpg graphic, but you should see several bitmaps in the Swap Bitmap dialog box.

Figure 9

Click on each of the file names. As you do, you should notice a thumbnail of the image appear in the dialog box.

9) Save the file as zoo7.fla in the FlashTFS folder on your hard disk.

Now that you have some bitmaps in the movie, let's learn about symbols.

2. Creating a symbol | Next Section

Adobe Press Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Adobe Press and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Adobe Press products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.adobepress.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020