Friday, June 5, 2009

visual test toolkit

I'm a big fan of the Flash player, the SWF format and the Actionscript language, but I'm not crazy about the Flash IDE. It belongs on the B-list of many categories.

Want an animation tool? Check out After Effects (or Toon Boom Studio). Flash is a light-weight by comparison. Want a vector-drawing app? Use Illustrator (especially now that it has the Blob Brush!). Want a coding IDE? Use Flex or FDT. Flash dips its toes into many pools but refuses to dive into any of them.

However, I do find Flash useful for one thing -- so useful that I start it up at least once a day: Flash is a faux command-line interpreter for Actionscript! It's not really an interpreter, of course. It's more of a compiler. But it beats everything else for quickly trying out a bit of Actionscript. You don't need to create a project, a class or even a function. Just throw some code on the timeline, press Command+Enter and Bob's your uncle. That's a terrible way to code anything real, but it's a great way to quickly test out a bit of functionality.

Sometimes, when I'm doing these tests, I need visual elements. And I waste time creating little circles, square and text fields. So I quit doing that. Instead, I created a little testing file that I use over and over. It's got a stage full of doodads and whatnots, and everything is labeled with its instance name. Also, items in the library have Export for Actionscript turned on, so I can create new instances with code if need be.

I leave this file open all day, with frame 1 of the timeline exposed in the AS editor. If I need to run a quick test, I'm all set to go.

Here's the file.

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