Mirror Magazine

17th February 2002

The Sunday Times on the Web
















Techno Page

By Harendra Alwis

  • A little more Flash
  • Windows Easter Eggs ......
  • A little more Flash

    Hey Techno people, are you ready to take a head on dive into Flash? Well, let me first share a simple fact with you. You cannot learn Flash just by reading this article or even by memorizing it. You will have to go sit in front of a computer that has Flash 5 installed in it and experiment with what is written. If you have any problems, just write in and we will do our best to help you out.

    We have already tackled the keyframes, the blank keyframes and a few basic concepts about the timeline and managed to animate a triangle in the process using 'shape-tween'. This week I will introduce you to symbols and motion tweening.

    Macromedia Flash 5 is mainly used to author animated graphics for the web. Due to this, it is very important to keep the file size low, so that it will load up faster. Naturally, no one would want to wait for ages just for one web page to load up, so one way to keep the hit counter ticking is to make the pages load up fast.

    Flash has a few tricks that help keep the file size down and one of them is to convert pictures into vector shapes. Because of this, we can resize the images without worrying about the image quality. If you do not have a clear idea of what I am talking about, open any picture that has been saved with the .jpg, .jpeg or .gif extension. These are the other common types of images used in the web. Now choose the option to zoom in to the picture until you reach the limit. You will see that it is now blurred and all you can see is a bunch of squares. This is not the case with the static pictures you create with Flash. Because Flash saves the picture as a combination of vectors, the whole image holds together no matter how much you zoom in.

    Another probably more important trick that Flash employs to help you keep the size of your Flash movies low is the use of 'Symbols'. Open a new Flash file and draw a circle on your stage. Make sure that the fill colour is different to the line colour. Now select the line tool and draw a line across the diameter of the circle to divide it roughly into two halves. Repeat this to draw a line at a right angle to the previous one to divide the circle into four parts. Now select the paint bucket tool and fill the quarters with different colours as shown.

    Now select the whole circle and choose Insert>Convert to Symbol (or press the shortcut F8). In the option dialog name it for example as 'cartwheel', chose the type 'Graphic' and click 'OK'. Notice the grid of dots disappear and is replaced by a blue box around the circle and a small cross in its centre. This is the sign that the object you are working with right now is a symbol. Symbols have many special properties, one of them being the fact that they get stored in the private library of the file you are working with. To see this you can go to the 'Window' menu and chose 'Library' or use the shortcut Ctrl+L. You will see that you can actually drag and drop many 'instances' (reference to a symbol on the stage) of our cartwheel on to the stage. This is how Flash cuts down on file size. See the cartwheel needs to be saved only once but it can be used anywhere in the movie. This way we can avoid saving the same image a couple of times inside the movie, increasing its file size. Besides it makes life easy for us by letting us drag symbols on to the stage instead of drawing them all over again. You get the point, don't you?

    Now let us try to animate out little cartwheel. This time we will be using motion tween. Remember that motion tween can be used only on grouped objects and symbols. In other words on objects that display a light blue square around them when you chose it. Motion tween gives you better control over your animation.

    First choose frame 15 in the timeline and insert a keyframe there. By now you should know that you can add a keyframe by choosing the frame and pressing F6. You will see that Flash has created a replica of the object in frame 1 on frame 15. Chose the instance of the cartwheel on frame 15 and in the 'Transform' panel, enter 50% for 'scale' (make sure the check box 'constrain' is ticked) and 180 for 'Rotate'. Now move the object across to the other side of the stage. Keep the 'Shift' key pressed while you drag the object. This will help you move it along a perfectly horizontal or vertical line. Practise this as it will be a useful tool when you have to move objects on the stage without losing their alignment. You can also experiment with the Alignment panel to do the job. Then right-click on any frame between frame 1 and frame 15 and select 'Create Motion Tween'. You have just completed your first motion tween and press Ctrl+Enter or choose Control>Test Movie to test your movie.

    Experiment with Flash and try out your own creative animations, and keep us informed about your progress. Write in if you have any problems and mail any of your Flash animations to technopage_lk@yahoo.com. By the way... try and keep the file size down.

    Windows Easter Eggs ...... 

    1)Secret FreeCell Games

    1. Run FreeCell.

    2. Click on Game - Select Game (or press F3) and then enter either -1 or -2 into the dialog box.

    3. Click OK and enjoy the "New" game!!

    2)Windows 98 Lost its New Commands

    1. Right click on a shortcut on your desktop, and select Properties.

    2. Click on "Change Icon" button, double click the icon already selected, and then click OK to close the Properties dialog box.

    3. Right click any place on the desktop, and highlight "New". Now, see how Windows 98 lost its New commands!!

    3)Pipes Screensaver

    1. Right click any place on your desktop, and select Properties.

    2. Move to Screen Saver tab, and then select 3D Pipes (OpenGL).

    3. Click on Settings, and set the "Joint Type" to Mixed. 4. Click OK, and then click on Preview.

    Every time a new screen saver comes on, look closely. Every once in a while, a very small"teapot joint" will appear!!!

    4)Exploring from the Start Menu

    1. Click on the Start button, Settings, Taskbar & Start Menu.

    2. Click on the Start Menu Programs tab, and then click on Advanced.

    3. On the Explorer window, type "C:\" (without quotes) inside address bar. Guest what will happen if you press Enter after it.

    Now press Enter. Enjoy the message!!

    5)Mystify Your Mind Screen Saver

    1. Right-click on your desktop, select Properties, then Screen Saver.

    2. Select the screen saver "Flying Through Space". Click on Settings. Notice the caption of the window that appears, Options _FOR_ Flying Through Space.

    3. Now select the screen saver "Mystify Your Mind". Click on Settings.

    Notice the caption, Options _TO_ Mystify Your Mind. Microsoft's idea of a joke.

    Sent in by Sasanga Amaratunga.

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