Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Adobe Flex

Adobe Flex: Article

Creating Panels in Macromedia Fireworks

When it comes to designing and optimizing web graphics, it doesn't get much better than Macromedia Fireworks

When it comes to designing and optimizing web graphics, it doesn't get much better than Macromedia Fireworks - given its available tools and workflow. However, Fireworks is not necessarily limited to the tools that come with it in the default installation. You can modify the interface to include new, custom panels that unlock hidden functionality, introduce new functionality, or simply improve your workflow.

As a developer and designer, I find such extensions to the Fireworks interface invaluable in helping me quickly and easily obtain my graphics goal. In Part 1 of this tutorial, I will show you how you too can make your own custom panels for Fireworks using Macromedia Flash. Not only will I show you how they are made but I will also cover workflow tips for making panels and techniques to help you successfully debug them.

Understanding SWF Panel Interactions
Custom panels in Fireworks are made with Flash. They consist simply of a Flash SWF file, which Fireworks plays using an internal Flash player embedded within a panel window that looks and operates like any other panel that's native to the application. The SWF provides the panel with its own interface and a means for interacting with Fireworks using ActionScript. If you've ever used the Align panel in Fireworks (see Figure 1), you've seen a custom SWF panel at work.

A custom panel window is capable of receiving commands from the SWF it's playing through ActionScript. One ActionScript command in particular instructs the window to relay information - or, more specifically, a JavaScript command - from the SWF to the main Fireworks application. This command is the MMExecute() command:

MMExecute( JavaScriptCommand:String ) : String;

MMExecute has one parameter, a string representing a Fireworks JavaScript command that is to be sent to Fireworks. When Fireworks receives this command (see Figure 2), it runs it just as though it were on the Commands menu. When the command has completed, MMExecute also returns any result of that command back to Flash in the form of a string. This allows the SWF to react to any command sent by MMExecute if needed.

In its simplest form, MMExecute is about all you need to create a simple panel and use it to interact with Fireworks. You can see how simple it is with the first example, the Create Ellipse panel.

Example 1: The Create Ellipse Panel
This example represents your basic first panel example, similar to "Hello World" examples you might encounter when learning programming languages. Because Fireworks is a graphics editing program and not a new programming language, I will use an ellipse in place of "Hello World."

The Create Ellipse panel creates an ellipse in the current Fireworks document. The panel interface consists of a single button that, when clicked, creates the ellipse. As you might have guessed, MMExecute is used to instruct Fireworks to draw the ellipse when the button is clicked. The code for actually creating the ellipse can be written by hand if you are familiar enough with Fireworks JavaScript programming. But it's easier to extract it from the History panel after you first draw one yourself in Fireworks.

The History panel in Fireworks is much like the history panels in other applications that record your every action, step by step, within the program. In Fireworks, however - as well as other Studio applications such as Flash and Dreamweaver - the History panel records not only your steps but also the JavaScript command(s) used to generate those steps. You can therefore copy the JavaScript associated with any step(s) in your history to the Clipboard and reuse it elsewhere, such as in your custom commands or, as you will see in this example, custom panels.

Creating the Code for the Panel
Here is the procedure to get the code you need to create this panel:

  • Open a new Fireworks 8 document. Within it, draw an ellipse that you would like Create Ellipse to generate for you.
  • In the History panel, find the Ellipse command (see Figure 3), select it, and use the Copy icon to copy the script to the Clipboard.
  • Launch Flash 8 and open the Create Ellipse template.
  • Source Files/Templates/Create Ellipse.fla
  • It should consist of a Button component with the label "Create Ellipse."
  • In Flash, select the Create Ellipse button and open the Actions panel, adding the following script:


In the quote string in the MMExecute call, paste the Fireworks JavaScript command you copied from the History panel in Fireworks (see Figure 4). You should have something that looks like the following:

({left:6, top:5, right:98, bottom:61});"); }

Publish your movie to create the SWF. You now have a SWF containing a button that, when clicked, uses MMExecute to send a command to the Macromedia application running the SWF. Ideally this should be Fireworks but simply publishing the SWF does not make Fireworks recognize it as a panel.

Making Fireworks Recognize the SWF
Fireworks recognizes custom panels by scanning for SWF files located in the Configuration/Command Panels folder within the Fireworks installation folder whenever the application launches. Each SWF located there is interpreted as a panel and is listed along with those available in the Windows menu. The name given to the panel in Fireworks is simply the SWF's filename, not including the extension. For your Create Ellipse SWF to be recognized as a panel, you must put it in the Command Panels folder:

  • Locate your Create Ellipse panel's SWF. If you are using the default publish settings for your Create Ellipse Flash document, it should reside in the same folder as the FLA itself.
  • Find the Configuration/Command Panels folder in your Fireworks 8 installation folder.
  • Place a copy of your published Create Ellipse.swf file in the folder:
  • (Windows) C:\Program Files\Macromedia\Fireworks 8\Configuration\Command Panels (Mac OS) Macintosh Hard Drive:Applications:Macromedia:Fireworks 8:Configuration:Command Panels
  • Restart Fireworks.
  • Open the Windows menu and select Create Ellipse.
  • You should now see Create Ellipse.swf within the Fireworks interface as a panel.
  • Create a new Fireworks document.
  • Click the Create Ellipse button (see Figure 5).
You should see a new ellipse created in your Fireworks document. Its size and shape should match exactly the one you created previously in Fireworks in order to get the command code from the History panel.

Workflow Tips for Fireworks JavaScript
The Create Ellipse panel was pretty straightforward. As you begin to make more complex panels, however, it will become important to develop a process that makes creating and testing your panels as painless as possible. This is important because you're not only dealing with two applications but also two programming languages that must interact to make your custom panels work. Developing a good workflow can help make the process run smoothly.

Test Fireworks Scripts in Fireworks First
Although custom Fireworks panels use Flash SWF files to operate, the real functionality of the panel lies within the Fireworks JavaScript code that MMExecute sends to Fireworks from the SWF. When you decide to make a panel, it is often a good idea to start by creating Fireworks JavaScript scripts separately and testing them directly within Fireworks without a panel interface. That way, when you start working in Flash, you can at least know that you are working with functional Fireworks commands.

Dreamweaver 8 happens to be a great editor for creating and testing Fireworks JavaScript files. Although Dreamweaver 8 supports Fireworks JavaScript files, it does not inherently treat them like other JavaScript (.js) files. Included with this tutorial's source files is an extension which allows Dreamweaver to recognize JSF files as normal JavaScript files, providing code coloring and code hints:

  • Open DW_JSFSupport.mxp with the Macromedia Extension Manager.
  • Restart Dreamweaver.
Also included with the source files is another extension, a Command Prompt panel (see Figure 6) for Fireworks. This custom panel provides a very simple text editor for writing and executing Fireworks JavaScript from directly within Fireworks.

Here's how you install the Command Prompt extension:

  • Open FW_CommandPrompt.mxp with the Macromedia Extension Manager.
  • Restart Fireworks.
  • Access the Command Prompt panel from the Window menu in Fireworks.
Use the Fireworks History Panel to Help
As you saw when creating the Create Ellipse panel, having access to the commands created by Fireworks through its History panel is a great time-saver. Use it whenever you can to create commands quickly for your scripts rather than typing them by hand. You may even be able to learn something new by looking at the code generated by the History panel.

More Stories By Trevor McCauley

Trevor McCauley first began working with Macromedia products while attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he instructed classes and taught workshops covering Flash, Director, and Fireworks as an aside to earning a BA in Visual Arts. Currently Trevor works for a small production company developing content for websites and interactive CD/DVD ROMs. In his free time, he develops Flash and Fireworks content for his personal site, senocular.com, and moderates forums on popular Flash-related sites such as Kirupa.com, ActionScript.org, and UltraShock.com.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
DevOpsSummit New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of bus...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER give you detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO also offers s...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO" has announced that its Call for Papers is now open. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expe...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...