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What is ActionScript and Why Should I Care?

Module by: R.G. (Dick) Baldwin. E-mail the author

Summary: This tutorial lesson is the first in a continuing series of lessons dedicated to teaching object-oriented programming (OOP) with ActionScript.

Preface

This tutorial lesson is the first in a continuing series of lessons dedicated to teaching object-oriented programming (OOP) with ActionScript.

Note:

Note that all references to ActionScript in this lesson are references to version 3 or later.

Developing ActionScript programs

There are several ways to develop programs using the ActionScript programming language. For most of the lessons in this series, I will use Adobe's Flash Builder 4 or the free FlashDevelop as an integrated development environment (IDE) .

An earlier lesson titled The Default Application Container provided information on how to get started programming with Adobe's Flex Builder 3, which was the predecessor to Flash Builder 4. (See Baldwin's Flex programming website. ) You should read that lesson before embarking on the lessons in this series.

What is ActionScript?

According to the ActionScript Technology Center,

"Adobe ActionScript is the programming language of the Adobe Flash Platform. Originally developed as a way for developers to program interactivity, ActionScript enables efficient programming of Adobe Flash Platform applications for everything from simple animations to complex, data-rich, interactive application interfaces.
First introduced in Flash Player 9, ActionScript 3.0 is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language based on ECMAScript -- the same standard that is the basis for JavaScript -- and provides incredible gains in runtime performance and developer productivity."

What is the Adobe Flash Platform?

According to Adobe Flash Platform ,

"The Adobe Flash Platform is an integrated set of technologies surrounded by an established ecosystem of support programs, business partners, and enthusiastic user communities. Together, they provide everything you need to create and deliver the most compelling applications, content, and video to the widest possible audience."

The primary delivery mechanisms for applications built with the Adobe Flash Platform are the Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Air .

What is the Adobe Flash Player?

According to Adobe Flash Player ,

"Flash Player is a cross-platform browser plug-in that delivers breakthrough Web experiences to over 99% of Internet users."

What is Adobe Air?

According to Adobe Air ,

"The Adobe AIR runtime lets developers use proven web technologies to build rich Internet applications that run outside the browser on multiple operating systems."

What about game programming?

As of November 2009, a significant portion of the game programming marketplace involved Flash games that are launched from Facebook and similar social networking sites. According to the Adobe Facebook page ,

"The Adobe Flash Platform and Facebook Platform provide the ideal solution for building rich, social experiences on the web. Flash is available on more than 98% of Internet-connected PCs, so people can immediately access the applications, content, and video that enable social interactions. The Facebook Platform is used by millions of people every day to connect and share with the people in their lives. Together, both platforms allow you to:

  • Share: Create rich interactions for users to share with friends.
  • Have fun: Make games social; let users compete against their friends.
  • Connect: Let users connect to your RIAs with Facebook Connect.
  • Solve problems: Build RIAs that harness the power of community.
  • Reach people: Reach millions of Facebook users through social distribution.

The new ActionScript 3.0 Client Library for Facebook Platform API, fully supported by Facebook and Adobe, makes it easy to build applications that combine the strengths of the Flash Platform and Facebook Platform."

What about iPhone programming

According to Adobe Labs Applications for iPhone ,

"Flash Professional CS5 will enable you to build applications for iPhone and iPod touch using ActionScript 3 . These applications can be delivered to iPhone and iPod touch users through the Apple App Store.*

A public beta of Flash Professional CS5 with prerelease support for building applications for iPhone is planned for later this year."

Why should I care?

Adobe ActionScript is the programming language of the Adobe Flash Platform.

Applications developed with the Adobe Flash Platform are primarily delivered to the client via the Adobe Flash Player.

The Adobe Flash Player is a cross-platform browser plug-in that delivers Web experiences to over 98% of Internet users.

Flash Professional CS5 will enable you to build applications for iPhone and iPod touch using ActionScript 3.

Therefore, if you want to learn a programming language that allows you to tap into a market consisting of more than 98% of Internet users or if you want to learn a programming language that will enable you to build applications for iPhone and iPod touch, ActionScript may be the programming language for you.

Examples of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)

Here are some websites that use Rich Internet Applications built with the Adobe Flash Platform (November 2009) :

Live streaming TV feeds

There are many other live streaming TV feeds that were built with the Adobe Flash Platform. You can find them with a Google search.

Prerequisites for study

In the event that you will be studying this material for the purpose of learning about OOP with ActionScript, there are a few thing that you need to know.

Not for beginners

First, this is not a beginners programming course. In developing this material, I will assume that you already know how to program in some procedural programming language and that you already understand such fundamental concepts as programming logic, functions, parameter passing, etc.

Instead, this series of lessons will be designed to teach more advanced concepts involving object-oriented programming (OOP) using ActionScript.

ActionScript 3 or later will be required

The lessons in this series will emphasize OOP and will be based on ActionScript 3 or a later version. No attempt will be made to achieve backward compatibility with ActionScript 1 or ActionScript 2.

Resources

I will publish a list containing links to ActionScript resources as a separate document. Search for ActionScript Resources in the Connexions search box.

Miscellaneous

This section contains a variety of miscellaneous materials.

Note:

Housekeeping material
  • Module name: What is ActionScript and Why Should I care?
  • Files:
    • ActionScript0102\ActionScript0102.htm
    • ActionScript0102\Connexions\ActionScriptXhtml0102.htm

Note:

PDF disclaimer: Although the Connexions site makes it possible for you to download a PDF file for this module at no charge, and also makes it possible for you to purchase a pre-printed version of the PDF file, you should be aware that some of the HTML elements in this module may not translate well into PDF.

-end-

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