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MAX 2005 – Visual Programming in Macromedia Flash & SOAP Web Services

Take advantage of the benefits of Flash

3.  Hide frmLoading by selecting it and changing the visible property in the Parameters inspector to false. This prevents the loading widget from appearing by default. Later you'll make this screen visible with ActionScript while the search is executing.

Connecting to Data Sources with Components
Flash MX Professional sports a new component architecture, both for UI components and the new data components. In Flash, components aren't compiled code libraries like DLLs. Rather, they are equivalent to controls in VB or Delphi. Flash Professional adds XMLConnector and WebServiceConnector components to automate the interfaces with these two common data sources.

New component bindings allow you to define inputs and outputs for data components. Using the visual design panels built into the IDE, you wire XMLConnector or WebServiceConnector parameters directly to UI components in your forms. Flash features a Parameter tab on the Component inspector that works just like the property pages in VB.

Here's how you use these techniques to connect your application to the Google search service:

1.  Drag a WebServiceConnector component from the Components panel to the frmSearch form screen. It doesn't matter where you put it; the component won't be visible in the published application. Give the component an instance name of GoogleSearch.

2.  Select the GoogleSearch component and open the Component inspector. This is where you establish the web service settings. Select the Parameters tab and set the WSDLURL parameter to Google's WSDL URI (as of this writing, it's http://api.google.com/GoogleSearch.wsdl). Flash automatically queries the service and retrieves its available operations. From the operations pop-up menu, select doGoogleSearch (see Figure 5).

3.  Select the Bindings tab in the Component inspector. This panel allows you to bind the web service inputs and outputs directly to a UI component in the application. Click the + icon to choose which parameters to bind. Input parameters are indicated by a right arrow and output parameters by a left arrow (see Figure 6). The Google interface requires all these input parameters, so add those one by one to the bindings list. Because you're also binding one output parameter, results.searchTime, add it to the list.

4.  For each binding in the list, you need to set a UI component, a variable reference, or a literal value to pass to or from the web service. First select params.q from the binding list - the search query string to pass to the Google service. To bind it to the TextInput component on the frmSearch form, click the "find" icon in the Bound To row. Flash opens the Bound To dialog box, which displays a hierarchical list of components in your application. Find the txtQuery component instance, select it, and click OK (shown in Figure 7).

5.  Fill in the rest of the input parameters for the Google service. The other parameters can take literal inputs. To define a literal input, follow the same procedure as in Step 4, except in the Bound To dialog check Use Constant Value and enter the literal into the corresponding text box. Listing 1 shows what values to use for each input parameter.

6.  Repeat Step 4 for the results.searchTime output parameter, binding it to the lblSearchTime component instance on frmSearch. The component system allows you to format the input or output before binding. Since the searchTime parameter is just a floating-point number, format this value to make it more intelligible to users. From the Formatter pop-up menu, select Compose String. Then click Formatter Options, and enter the following string into the dialog box:

Search time: <.> seconds
The parameter value will be substituted for the <.> placeholder when the component binds.

Note: By default, Macromedia Flash Player security restrictions prohibit Flash movies from accessing web services that reside outside the exact domain of the SWF attempting to access those web services. This restriction does not apply to SWFs that are run locally off your hard drive, only those that originate from a web server. A SWF can access a cross-domain web service if the server hosting that service contains a security policy file.

Attaching Script Actions
Macromedia Flash MX 2004 features a new version of the application's native scripting language. ActionScript 2 is object-oriented and complies with ECMA-262 Edition 4. Still, visual programmers need to become familiar with the unique way that Flash attaches script actions to events in the application.

New behaviors make the process of triggering scripted UI component events much easier than in previous versions of Flash.

Here's how you use a behavior to trigger the web service and display its results:

1.  Click the btnSearch button on frmSearch. In the Behaviors panel, click the + icon and choose Data > Trigger Data Source. In the resulting dialog box, select GoogleSearch WebServiceConnector and click OK (see Figure 8).

2.  With btnSearch still selected, open the Actions panel. You'll see that Flash automatically added the code to trigger the web service when the user clicks the Search button.

3.  Any web service output you don't bind in the Component inspector needs to be managed with code. Just before the trigger event, add the code in Listing 2. These event listeners allow you to intercept the web service's send and result events and perform additional operations with ActionScript.

on (click) {

// Trigger Data Source Behavior
// Macromedia 2003
this._parent.GoogleSearch.addEventListener("send", onGoogleSearch);
this._parent.GoogleSearch.addEventListener("result", onGoogleSearchResult);


More Stories By Ian Bogost

Ian Bogost is an academic videogame researcher, game designer, and educational publisher. Ian is Assistant Professor of Literature Communication and Culture at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he teaches and researches in undergraduate and graduate programs in digital media. He is also the founder of two companies, Persuasive Games, a game studio that designs, builds, and distributes electronic games for persuasion, instruction, and activism and Open Texture, a publisher of cross-media education and enrichment materials for families. He has over a decade of experience in digital media production for film, music, games, advertising, and eBusiness.

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Most Recent Comments
darcymonash 08/19/09 12:46:00 AM EDT

A good description on how to perform work and create new things in Flash. Its on the initial stages that I have come across such good expertise on it by going through your article. Its just like the starting of me learning How to draw Yoda and then perfect it.

NicJob 10/17/05 07:29:18 AM EDT

I agree that hierarchical forms take a bit of getting used to for Windows forms designers but you are right that the benefit is striking.

SYS-CON Australia News Desk 10/15/05 08:04:27 PM EDT

Visual Programming in Macromedia Flash and SOAP Web Services. If you are a visual programmer working in environments like Visual Basic, Delphi, REAL basic, or PowerBuilder, you may hesitate to take advantage of the benefits of Flash because of concerns about learning a new, unfamiliar environment. To show how easily you can transfer your existing knowledge to Flash MX Professional, in this article I will explain how you can create a simple web search application that queries the Google web API using SOAP web services:

MXDJ News Desk 10/15/05 05:30:42 PM EDT

MXDJ Special - Visual Programming in Macromedia Flash. If you are a visual programmer working in environments like Visual Basic, Delphi, REAL basic, or PowerBuilder, you may hesitate to take advantage of the benefits of Flash because of concerns about learning a new, unfamiliar environment. To show how easily you can transfer your existing knowledge to Flash MX Professional, in this article I will explain how you can create a simple web search application that queries the Google web API using SOAP web services:

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