Archive for September, 2006

On ScrollPane (or, “Scroll Pain”) Customization

It seems that documentation and clear examples for how to customize Flash 8’s ScrollPane component are somewhat scarce. In fact, just a quick Google search yields many messageboard postings bemoaning the difficulty of using ScrollPane, with little to nothing in response.

It’s important to note that the old methods of UI Component customization – setting values for “face”, “arrow,” “scrollTrack,” and the like, seem to have fallen by the wayside.

The recommended method these days is something much more in-depth and complicated, with poor documentation thrown in just to make sure you don’t get it right the first time. For example, the documentation on LiveDocs provides the following table of applicable styles for ScrollPane:

Style Theme Description
themeColor Halo The base color scheme of a component. Possible values are "haloGreen", "haloBlue", and "haloOrange". The default value is "haloGreen".
borderStyle Both The ScrollPane component uses a RectBorder instance as its border and responds to the styles defined on that class. See RectBorder class.The default border style is "inset".
scrollTrackColor Sample The background color for the scroll track. The default value is 0xCCCCCC (light gray).
symbolColor Sample The color of the arrows on the scrollbar buttons. The default value is 0x000000 (black).
symbolDisabledColor Sample The color of disabled arrows on the scrollbar buttons. The default value is 0x848384 (dark gray).

Great! Looks like we can change the arrow or track color of the scrollbar on a ScrollPain instance. All you need to do is set myScrollPane.scrollTrackColor, right?

Wrong.

Try it. Put a ScrollPane on the stage and set that scrollTrackColor. Set it all day long until you’re 0x0000FF in the face. You won’t see any changes to the scrollbar’s appearance.

Why?

Pay close attention to that “theme” column. It provides the key to why your customization isn’t going as planned. If you want to customize the scroll track or arrow color, those properties are available but what isn’t mentioned here is that you must first install the “Sample” theme from Macromedia’s libraries. A detailed description of how to do this is available in “About Themes” on LiveDocs.

So, we’ve dragged the Library over, installed the sample theme, and Presto! We now have a customized scrollbar color. We can also set symbolColor to change the color of the arrows.

It’s only a slight improvement. The problem is, we’ve now been left with chunky, gray, Windows 3.1-style scrollbars, and the only ActionScript customization options are for the arrows and the track.

You can improve the look and feel of the arrows manually, by editing the symbols in the Scrollbar Assets folder we dragged over during the Sample theme install. But who has the time or energy for that?

A little bit of digging around in the symbols that the Sample theme carried over reveals some hidden, undocumented goodness: there is also a highlightColor and shadowColor property available to these scrollbars. highlightColor applies to the “main” color of the arrow buttons and “thumb” element, while shadowColor is the small shadow to the bottom right of each piece.

(To see this for yourself, have a look at the “BrdrHilght,” “BrdrFace”, “BrdrBlk”, and “BrdrShdw” symbols.)

Here’s a diagram of the different parts of the scrollbar and where the different colors apply. Note: Please, never, under any circumstances, for any reason, use a color scheme like this. I only did it so I can show where the different parts are.

Sometime’s, it’s really amazing what you can find just by poking around in Macromedia’s samples.

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First-ever piece of relevant content

ObjectDumper

Like many Flash developers, I was frustrated at trying to see the contents of complex ActionScript objects and being left with the irritatingly vague “[Object object]”

So it should come as no surprise that I was ecstatic at the discovery of the ObjectDumper. It’s a hidden, undocumented tool in Flash for tracing (or otherwise outputting) all the contents of an object, in a friendly, bracketed format. Macromedia’s Jen DeHaan explains it in detail.

This tool has proved invaluable to me, and I highly recommend it.

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First blog post

I’m going to bite the bullet and do this.

I messed around with some free, open-source (read: unnecessarily complicated) blog systems, while still in the process of deciding whether to turn my old portfolio site into a blog.

Then, quite by accident, I discovered that my web host offered WordPress as part of my hosting package. Score! No more password.php, config.txt, install.sql, you know the drill. I just clicked the button and now I have a blog. They get an A+ for user experience.

The originally Nerdabilly.com was hatched in the fall of 2001 as an online portfolio and showcase of my college works. Now, 5 years later, the site had only ever had one major overhaul and was showing the signs of its age. I’m at a point in my life where experience speaks for itself, and I’m finding that an online portfolio and resume may be a bit more work than it’s really worth.
I work mainly as a Flash developer now, although I do find myself delving into JavaScript and XML on occasion, so expect some insight into my daily trials and discoveries of the world of Flash.

What does nerdabilly.com mean, anyway?

Funny you should ask!
The name “nerdabilly” came to me in a dream during the summer of 2001. I had fallen asleep at my desk while working a temp position at a soul-crushingly-dull call center operation. The original vision was to have a site showcasing my own work as well as tutorials and info on anything I deemed tutorial-or-info-worthy. In some ways, this blog is a continuation of that idea. The name is a combination of “nerd” (which, at this point, needs no further elaboration) and “rockabilly,” and was inspired by the tendency of rockabilly fans to add the suffix “-(a)billy” to any imaginable root.

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