Maintain Your Sanity with IndieVolume!

May 10th, 2010
Flash Quick Tips

Do you ever find yourself wishing you could temporarily mute the audio in a FLA while working on it?  It’s easy enough, of course.  I’m not sure how it works on a Mac (surely just as easily), but on Windows, you simply mute the volume control in the system tray.

Ah, but there’s the rub!  On Windows—XP at least, which is what I’m using—that’s an all-or-nothing “solution.”  The trouble is, I like to listen to music while I work, and most of the time that means playing audio files directly on my computer.  If my system is muted, it’s muted.

For years, I’ve simply been dealing with this, but I finally had enough.  Just last week, I started searching online for ways to selectively mute individual applications on WinXP.  For my money, IndieVolume wins, hands down.  Not only can I mute Flash—which temporarily silences both my FLAs and SWFs—I can also selectively mute, say, Safari or Firefox, which lets me enjoy the same benefit when testing in a browser.

Even better, I can leave my apps audible, but adjust their volumes individually (panning, too), which means I can keep my Flash content quiet while leaving my audio player and other system alerts/sounds going strong.

If you’re interested, try giving IndieVolume a shot!  The developer offers a free trial period, and you even get a discount for endorsing the product on your blog.  I’ve been spreading the word anyway, because this app is one of those cases of “it’s the little things that count.”  I’m truly a happier coder for the quiet.  :)

Layers Magazine Samples Files Available

July 8th, 2009

This is just a quick note.  When I originally recorded my Layers Magazine tutorials, Flash CS4 wasn’t yet publicly available, which means I wasn’t able to supply Layers with my sample files at the time.  I followed up with them shortly after CS4 hit the market and provided a set of ZIP files, but didn’t check to see that the files had actually made it — my fault! — so thanks to prompting from a recent Layers visitor, Adamanta, I followed up again.  As of yesterday, the files are now available.  Enjoy!

Drinking from the Fire Hose

June 30th, 2009
Flash General

A good friend of mine, Branden Hall, uses a startling metaphor to describe what it’s like when scheduling has gone insane, when too many projects are due at once, and when, in general, “overwhelmed” isn’t a strong enough adjective.  He aptly calls this feeling “drinking from the fire hose,” which fairly describes how I felt while writing my books last year.  Somehow, the image always makes me chuckle.

It’s been about six months since I last wrote an entry here, and that’s much too long!  A handful of regular readers have even checked in to ask what’s going on, which I appreciate.  The simple truth is that I’ve been catching up on things other than Flash (and work in general), and it has honestly taken this much time.  In fact, I’m still not as caught up as I’d like.  (For example, I have nearly two hundred comments to get to from this blog!  I feel awful about the delay — some messages are easily a year old — but I keep chipping away at them and do intend to eventually work my way through.)  Keep reading »

Four Chapter Excerpts from The ActionScript 3.0 Quick Reference Guide

December 23rd, 2008
ActionScript 2.0 ActionScript 3.0 Flash

I just got word from Adobe that a number of The ActionScript 3.0 Quick Reference Guide excerpts are freely available in PDF format from the Developer Connection’s ActionScript Technology Center:  Check ’em out!

Combine those with the freebie excerpts at, and you’ll find you have a decent selection to help you choose if this book would be useful to you.  Keep reading »

Flash Troubleshooter Chronicles

December 19th, 2008
ActionScript 2.0 Flash

Most of us have at least one mentor, even if it’s someone we haven’t met in person.  In fact, if you’re anything like me, you have a different mentor for each field that interests you:  someone who inspires you to keep practicing the piano, to get creatively crazy in the kitchen, to learn yet another unicycle trick, and to keep strengthening your grasp on Flash (or Photoshop, or Dreamweaver … you get the idea).

When it comes to Flash, one of my mentors has helped me significantly with troubleshooting — with making things work when, against all expectation, they simply don’t work. In a recent four-part series I wrote for, I explored a single theme — troubleshooting — from a variety of angles, sharing with readers what my mentor has shared with me.  Along the way, the series turns up a few quirks involved in working with Flash, but more importantly, it reviews how to approach arriving at useful workarounds, regardless what the issue is.

The first of four articles is free and investigates a puzzling visual issue I encountered while working on a set of custom UI tabs.  (It was originally published back in November, but I didn’t realize at the time it was a freebie!)  The follow-up articles go into other scenarios, and each one stands alone.  Community MX offers free trial memberships, so it’s possible to read all four without cost, in addition to other CMX content.  If you want to subscribe, do — but there’s no obligation.  :)

Creating a Smart Skip Intro Button in Flash

October 15th, 2008
ActionScript 2.0 ActionScript 3.0 Flash

Generally speaking, Flash designers have become more considerate. In the late 1990s, it was common to encounter dozens of Flash websites a day with bloated, pointless intro animations. Ultimately, sure, content was king: users would eventually get to the meat of a website, but all too often, were subjected to unnecessary bells and whistles, simply because Flash was the shiny new kid on the block. Nowadays, bloated intros are largely a thing of the past, but back then, designers were proud of these intros and assumed users were thrilled to see them. Frankly, it just wasn’t so.

Fortunately, designers began to change their ways. Best practices took hold, and the “Skip Intro” button became a fashionable device (in fact, it appeared so often it became an industry joke). If users were really lucky, they’d even see an “Always Skip Intro” button, which remembered their preference for the next visit. In this freebie Community MX tutorial, you’ll learn how to create such a button.

Sent to the Printer!  The ActionScript 3.0 Quick Reference Guide

October 10th, 2008
ActionScript 3.0 Flash General

Back in March, I made a quick blog post (“New O’Reilly Title, Coming Soon!”) about a book I had just finished co-authoring.  My eleven chapters were done, and I was happy with my portion of the book (the other chapters were not yet completed).  This one aims to help folks migrate their existing skill set from ActionScript 2.0 to ActionScript 3.0.  Which folks in particular?  Not the hardcore programmers.  There’s a whole community of advanced developers, most of whom are now using Flex, that doesn’t need this book  This reference is for people who have a decent understanding of timeline coding, who may have begun writing custom classes in AS2, but do most of their programming in the Actions panel and are bewildered by the changes in ActionScript 3.0.  From a standpoint of tone and encouragement, I like to think this book has a lot in common with Colin Moock’s article “ActionScript 3.0:  Is it Hard or Not?,” which I’m quick to recommend on various forums as a confidence booster.  You can read a few chapter excerpts from the links below.  Keep reading »

Flash CS4 Video Tutorials from Layers Magazine

September 23rd, 2008
Flash General

Adobe has announced the CS4 lineup!

Hop around to your usual favorite Adobe-focused blogs, and you’ll find quite a few sites demonstrating new features (and there are tons of new features in all of these apps!).  Chris Georgenes, for example, spells out a number of Flash UI improvements at his site.  Colin Smith demonstrates some slick new Photoshop features at

And me?  I created four Flash CS4 video tutorials at the companion website for Layers magazine,  Check ’em out!  If any of you are curious what I sound like, now you’ll know.  ;)   I’ve enjoyed working with the Layers folks very much, and will be happy to do so again, so this might just be the beginning!  Quick note:  I did include sample files with some of those videos, but until Adobe makes Flash CS4 available for purchase or trial download, you wouldn’t be able to use them (they’re saved as CS4 files, which means they don’t open in CS3 — you can actually save CS4 files as CS3 files, but naturally the new features disappear when you do).  I’m assuming Layers will update those pages when the time comes.  If not, I’ll pester them, and/or you can email me for the sample files.  Keep reading »

Back to Basics

September 17th, 2008
Flash General

Flashforward 2008 Speaker Slam

Last night, at the stroke of midnight (I kid you not), I finished the very last exercise for the very last chapter on my plate for a new book for friends of ED.  When I lifted my hands from the keyboard, I was beaming.  Why?  Because it’s been a long time since I’ve had a normal work week.  This is all about to change, and wowzers, am I looking forward to it!

The main reason I’m happy is that I’m about to get more time with my family—time where I’m not bleary-eyed and half asleep.  ;)   Another part of my happiness, though, honestly, is that I’m about to get more time to spend on this blog, on forums, and on tardy email replies.  I’ve added a special folder to Outlook just for blog comments.  I really do read every single question, and I do my best to answer them.  If you’re still waiting to hear from me, please keep hangin’ on!  I’ve been behind on replies for months (that Outlook folder has 62 items as I write this) … but that’s about to change too.  Keep reading »

Building Click-and-Rotate Content in Flash

June 24th, 2008
ActionScript 2.0 ActionScript 3.0 Flash

In one implementation of the QuickTime VR format, known as QTVR Object Movies, the user can click-and-drag an image to seemingly rotate it, as if spinning the real-life object on a lazy Susan.  This simulated 3D interactivity can improve multimedia curb appeal, and makes for a nifty way to showcase merchandise.  But it doesn’t stop there:  the same basic principle can also bring click-and-drag responsiveness to short video sequences and even user input widgets, such as the click-and-scrub input fields of numerous Adobe dialog boxes.  Keep reading »