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.

Using the movie expolorer

The Movie Explorer provides a hierarchical tree view of every element in your Flash movie. You can filter which categories of items in the movie are displayed in the Movie Explorer, as you will learn in this exercise. You can search, replace text and fonts, and find every instance of any symbol. You can also copy the contents of the Movie Explorer as text to the Clipboard or print the display list in the Movie Explorer.

You should still have zoo12.fla open from the last exercise.

1) Choose Window > Movie Explorer. Turn on only the Show Text and Show Buttons, Movie Clips and Graphics filters.

The Movie Explorer opens. Take a moment to look at the Movie Explorer. Move the pointer over each part—you should see tooltips when you move over the buttons across the top of the Movie Explorer.

Figure 39

You can turn on a filter by clicking its button. If the Show Text and Show Buttons, Movie Clips and Graphics buttons are already selected, don't click them. If any other buttons are selected, click on them to deselect. Right now, you only want the Show Text and Show Buttons, Movie Clips and Graphics buttons selected.

The buttons filter the categories of items in the Display List, which is the hierarchical tree view of the filtered elements. When you click the Show Text and Show Buttons, Movie Clips and Graphics buttons, only these elements will be in the Display List. Move your mouse over each of the other filter buttons to see their tooltips. The button on the far right, the Customize which Items to Show button, will open the Movie Explorer Settings dialog box, which lets you select any combination of items to show in the Display List.

Figure 40

The Display List is currently split into two major categories—Scene 1 and Symbol Definition(s). The Scene 1 category lists all of the elements currently in the movie. If you click on an item in the Scene 1 category, it selects the instance on the stage, as long as it's in an unlocked, visible layer. The Symbol Definition(s) category lets you open the symbols for editing—it refers to each symbols, and not the instances on the stage. But it does list only the symbols that are listed in the Scene 1 category.

2) Click the Options menu control in the top right corner of the Movie Explorer.

The Movie Explorer has a lot of commands available via the Options menu. Take a look at some of the options.

Figure 41

The Go to Location command makes the movie jump to the selected location (layer, scene, or frame) in the movie, while the Go to Symbol Definition command selects the symbol definition, in the Symbol Definition(s) category, for the symbol selected. If you have a symbol selected in the Symbol Definition(s) category and you choose the Select Symbol Instances, Flash selects the symbol instance(s) in the Scene 1 category.

You can use the Find in Library command to select the symbol in the Library panel. If the Library panel is not already open, choosing this command will open it. The Rename command lets you change the name of the selected symbol in the Library. If you choose Edit in Place or Edit in New Window, Flash will open the selected symbol in symbol-editing mode.

A particularly useful command found in the Options menu is Print. You can use this command to make a printed copy of the hierarchical structure in the Display List.

Take some time to explore some of the other commands in the Movie Explorer. As you use Flash, you will find that these commands make working with complex movies much easier.

3) Click the Show Frames and Layers filtering button.

Figure 42

The Display List should change dramatically. Now, instead of showing a list of all the symbols in the movie, the Display List shows how the elements in the movie are arranged by layers and frames. Each of the layers in the main movie is listed under the Scene 1 category. Right now you have only one frame in each layer, but that single frame is also listed, nested under each layer. Finally, you can see which instance is in each layer. Notice that the Frame layer doesn't look like it has anything—that's because while it does have contents in the layer, they aren't in the Movie Explorer because the filter only shows Text, Buttons, Movie Clips, and Graphics. But aren't the contents of the Frame layer graphics? Technically, yes, but they're graphics that aren't part of a symbol.

4) Click the Show Frames and Layers filtering button again. Now click the Show Video, Sounds and Bitmaps button.

When you click the Show Frames and Layers filtering button the second time, the Movie Explorer's display list switches back to the view you saw originally. After you click the Show Video, Sounds and Bitmaps button, you may not notice a change initially, but there is a change! If you look closely, you should notice that a plus sign (+) or expand triangle appears to the left of the Bitmap Animation symbol in the Symbol Definition(s) category.

5) Click the plus sign (+) (Windows) or the expand triangle (Macintosh) next to the Bitmap Animation symbol.

Figure 43

When you click a plus sign or expand triangle in the Movie Explorer, the item next to the plus sign expands, and you can see the filtered contents of that item. In this case, you're filtering for Video, Sounds and Bitmaps, so you'll see information about the bitmaps in the Bitmap Animation symbol. To collapse a symbol definition, click the minus sign (–) or the expand triangle next to the expanded definition.

6) Click the Lock/Unlock All Layers icon at the top of the timeline. Double-click the Welcome in the Movie Explorer. When the text becomes editable, change it to Welcome to ZooMX, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Macintosh).

Figure 44

You have to click on the Lock/Unlock All Layers icon to unlock all of the layers in the movie. If you click the icon and locks appear next to the name of each layer, click the icon again to make the locks disappear. You need the layer unlocked because you can't modify elements in locked layers, and the text you want to select is in a locked layer. You could have also unlocked only the Welcome Text layer, but it is quicker and easier to unlock all layers if you're not sure which layer the item you want to select is in.

You can change the text on the stage, and even symbols on the stage, from within the Movie Explorer. When you modify the text, the change takes place not only in the Movie Explorer, but also on the stage. You can modify the properties of just about anything in the Movie Explorer. If you decide that you'd like to use a different font, for example, you can select the text in the Movie Explorer and then change the font in the Property inspector. Notice when you select anything in the Movie Explorer, the contents of the Property inspector change to display the properties for whatever you have selected.

7) Save your movie as zoo13.fla.

You're done for now. Take a quick break, because in the next lesson you're going to be working on animation for your movie. You'll have the contents of your movie moving around in no time.

8. What you have learned | Next Section Previous 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