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Intro - Flash History

Flash ActionScript

Building User Interfaces

Object Oriented Techniques

Beyond Flash MX





Author Notes

Figure Captions


Email Dianne


Using Flash MX ActionScript

Beyond Flash MX

Communication Outside of Flash MX

Flash MX can communicate with the outside world, which make it even more dynamic. Bhangal write that using the following commands are how you can accomplish communication outside of Flash MX (p. 420-421, 2002):

  • getURL() – This is one of the simplest and most commonly used methods of reaching outside of Flash. Essentially, what getURL() does is send an HTTP request to the browser. This means that we can make Flash open up other web sites, send emails, and activate JavaScript functions all by utilizing getURL(). The getURL() command doesn’t actually return any data as such – it simply sends out HTTP requests.
  • loadVariables() – Although loadVariables() is an old Flash 5 function, it’s still highly useful today. With the loadVariables() command, we can call a web page, script, or text file, and retrieve data from it. The data comes back in a format that Flash can read, and we can use that data as variables. The data is sent in a format known as name/value pairs. A string of data in the name/value pair format might look something like this: variable1=data&variable2=moreData&variable3=lostOfData&… Each name/value pair is separated by an ampersand (&). This data could be stored in a text file, or generated dynamically by a server script. Once a loadVariables() function is issued, the server responds and then the connection is closed.
  • The LoadVars object – This is similar to loadVariables(), except that everything is neatly contained within an object, which allows for easy transmission and receipt of data. The LoadVars object has a number of associated send and receive methods, and data is also transmitted in name/value pairs. Once the send and response is complete, the connection is closed.
  • The XML object – This object is similar to the LoadVars object, except it sends and receives its data formatted as an XML document rather than in name/value pairs. When an XML document is loaded, the connection is closed.
  • The XMLSocket Object – This object differs from the other data retrieval formats because once an XMLSocket Connection has been established, the connection remains open, and any data can flow freely back and forth between server and Flash movie. Generally XML formatted data is sent across, but the XMLSocket object can actually transmit any format of data, as long as our Flash movie knows how to interpret and respond to it.

Flash MX, ColdFusion, and Flash Remoting

Flash MX offers many ways for programmers to connect clients with data and logic living on application servers. Through Flash Remoting, Flash MX can talk directly to application servers, such as ColdFusion, as though they were local to the client. Flash Remoting takes care of data-type conversion, object lifetime management, serialization, and other details of client-server communications. Flash Remoting allows the programmer to pass data easily while also implementing a way to create reusable components on the server-side too. Baldwin states that Flash Remoting transfers data between Flash and the server via the Action Message Format (AFM). AFM is transferred over HTTP and provides a more effective and efficient means of communication (p. 18, 2002). Flash Remoting enables tight integration between Flash MX and ColdFusion MX, and makes the programmer’s job easier. Flash Remoting brings the gap between the rich-client development capabilities of Flash MX and the growing wealth of enterprise data and functionality residing on application servers, like ColdFusion. Kollmeyer offers the following possibilities for using Flash Remoting, Flash MX, and ColdFusion (or another application server, such as .NET) (at http://www.blueedgedata.com/flash/flashremoting.htm, 2002):

  1. Local data storage for your application, for example, being able to save a quote that you have created locally
  2. Building solid database applications, including rich user interface elements, such as robust, event driven controls, lists, multiple windows, drag and drop and many more
  3. Integrated on-line help, with streaming audio and video
  4. True, interactive, graphical interfaces, including creating images and objects that the user can manipulate
  5. Real-time collaborative applications, including multi-user drawing, live video, remote control and many more
  6. Running “outside the browser” and off-line through the Flash Player
  7. True printing capabilities, such as printing documents that are different from what is currently seen on the screen
  8. Minimal deployment concerns
  9. Integrate with your existing databases, web services, and .NET applications
  10. Running the same system on various platforms with no or minimal changes, including the iPAQ and the wireless Nokia 9200 cell phone / PDA combination
  11. Full programming language, with complete component architecture that is easily created for your own reusable components
  12. Small, download of the runtime environment because an earlier version of Flash is probably already installed on your users’ computers

If you go to http://www.beyondflash.com/content/index.htm, you can learn more about other ways to go beyond Flash MX.

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