Build the User Interface in Macromedia Flash MX

If you haven't already done so, familiarize yourself with the Flash MX authoring environment (see Figure 3.2). In this series of chapters, you won't be getting into any advanced techniques; however, you should be familiar with the user interface, the timeline, and working with Flash UI components. The tutorials included with Flash MX are a good resource to learn the basics of the package.

Figure 3.2. Match your Flash MX environment to look similar to this.


In this exercise, you will create a simple Flash movie that will connect with the Communication Server and display a list of other people who have also connected. When finished, your Flash MX window should look like Figure 3.2.


The SimpleConnect component handles and maintains all server communication between the Flash player and the Flash Communication Server. SimpleConnect also provides a handy Login prompt for users to identify themselves. Using the SimpleConnect is easy. These next steps introduce you to the process of using the component in your applications:

  1. Open Flash MX and create a new movie. Save the movie (FLA file) in the flashcom/applications/myFirstApp/ folder. If you are working in Mac OS or not working directly on the development server, save the file in a working folder on your hard disk that is accessible by other computers.

  2. Open the Components panel by selecting Window, Components, or pressing Ctrl+F7.

  3. From the drop-down box, select Communication Components. If you do not see Communication Components in this drop-down, you need to manually install them. Review the section on manually installing Flash MX components in Chapter 1, in the section, "Communication UI Components."

  4. Drag the SimpleConnect component on to your Flash stage. The Flash stage is the white area in your workspace. The stage is what will be seen through Flash Player 6 when you publish this movie. You should see a hollow text box with a login button (see Figure 3.3).

    Figure 3.3. The SimpleConnect component on the Flash stage.


  5. With the SimpleConnect component selected, open the Properties panel (Window, Properties; or Ctrl+F3). Set the Application Directory to rtmp:/myFirstApp. There is only a single forward slash; it is not a typo. If you are connecting to a Communication Server that is not installed on your computer, you must enter a fully qualified host name, IP Address, or machine name of the server as follows (with a double slash after rtmp:):

rtmp://[computer name][:port]/myFirstApp 

That's it for setting up the connection. It's really that simple. This SimpleConnect component takes away the need for any ActionScript to make connections. To leverage additional features, however, you may need to customize this component. Don't worry; for this exercise, that won't be necessary.


Note the value myFirstApp. This is a direct reference to the folder you just created on the server in the applications folder. Notice how the applications folder was not declared here. This is because this folder is seen by the virtual host as the default folder for applications. It is mapped internally to the root of the Communication Server (in this case, localhost).

Adding the PeopleList Component

With the connection handled by SimpleConnect, let's add one more component that will let us see who is connected to the server. The PeopleList component displays a list of users who are currently logged into the server. Follow these steps to add the PeopleList component:

  1. From the Components panel, drag a PeopleList component to the Flash stage.

  2. With the new component selected, go to the Properties panel and assign it the instance name peopleList_mc.

With the component placed on the stage, you need to connect it to the Communication Server connection. This is done in the SimpleConnect component. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the SimpleConnect component on the stage again and double-click the [] next to Flash Com Components. A Values window appears, like the one in Figure 3.4.

    Figure 3.4. Add a new value, peopleList_mc, to the Values window of Flash Communication Components.


  2. Click the plus (+) sign. This creates a new row in the Values window. Double-click the default value and enter the instance name of the PeopleList component you just added?peopleList_mc?like what's shown in Figure 3.4.

  3. Click OK to close the Values window. The Properties window for the SimpleConnect should now look like what's shown in Figure 3.5.

    Figure 3.5. The Properties window for the SimpleConnect UI component.



Each Flash UI component connects to the SimpleConnect the same way. Declaring each instance name in the Flash Communication components list allows it to connect to the server. If you want to skip ahead, try placing a Chat UI component on the stage, giving it an instance name, and declaring it with the SimpleConnect. We will cover this in the next chapter.

Adding the ConnectionLight Component

ConnectionLight is a simple utility component that you have already seen in action. The Administration Console uses this component to show you when you are connected to the server. It will visually tell your users if they are connected. Add it by following these steps:

  1. From the Components panel, drag a ConnectionLight component to the Flash stage.

  2. With the new component selected, go to the Properties panel and assign it the instance name connectionLight_mc.

  3. Select the SimpleConnect component on the stage again and double-click [peopleList_mc] next to Flash Com Components. The Values window appears again.

  4. Click the plus (+) sign, and then enter the instance name of the ConnectionLight component you just added, connectionLight_mc.

The ConnectionLight changes color to yellow or red to illustrate a slow or closed connection with the Communication Server. Clicking on the component displays information about the local connection with the server. Details include the data latency rate and real time upload and download rates. It is a great tool to include in any Communication application.

That's it! You have just created your first Flash Communication application. Make sure that the SimpleConnect Properties panel looks like Figure 3.6. If you like, add in some simple user text prompts, using the Text tool, for your application (as shown in Figure 3.7). Now, let's test this movie and watch it connect. Don't forget to save your Flash file before you move on.

Figure 3.6. The Properties window for the SimpleConnect UI component should look like this before you test.


Figure 3.7. The myFirstApp.swf file running in the Flash MX debug player.


    Part I: 10 Quick Steps for Getting Started