I’m not a big fan of Flash’s built-in code editor, but I do love using it for drawing, design and animation.
There’s always room for improvement, however, which is where the Adobe Extension Manager comes in handy. Once you have that installed (check you get the right version) you can download MXP files, extensions that add extra abilities to Flash.
Here are my favourites.
1. Selection Tools
Flash’s pointer tool doubles as its rectangular selection tool, which means that if you try to select a rectangle inside a drawing, you end up dragging the fill instead:
You can get around this by drawing a rectangle made out of lines, selecting the inside of the rectangle, and deleting the lines, but that’s messy and irritating.
Selection tools gives you a separate rectangular selection tool that avoids the problem entirely:
It also includes a tool that selects a line (either vertical or horizontal) stretching across the entire image.
This extension is by Patrick Mineault, and can be found here at his old blog.
2. Animation Pencil
This records anything you draw to a series of keyframes. It’s silly, and fun. Here’s one I did just now:
3. Frames-to-Symbol (and Symbol-to-Frames)
Have you ever spent ages working on a long, complicated animation, with multiple layers and symbols, on the main timeline, only to realise “oops, that should have been in a symbol”?
Is that just me?
Well, anyway, Frames-to-Symbol fixes that. You just select the layers and frames you want to put into a MovieClip, click the button, and it does all that irritating work for you. Made by FlashWhip; more info (and download link) here.
There’s also a sister extension that does the opposite, taking a MovieClip-based animation and moving its contents onto the main timeline. It’s called, not surprisingly, Symbol-to-Frames.
4. Queasy Tools
This gives you an extra panel with shortcuts for common tasks. You can see what all the buttons do from the screenshot. The only problem is that the tool tip text gets covered up by the mouse pointer:
Not a big deal, as it’s obvious what the buttons do by the icons.
5. Kuler Panel for Flash CS3
Do you use Adobe Kuler? It’s a web app for making colour themes. Naturally this is very useful if you’re trying to come up with a design.
This extension adds a panel that lets you browse these designs from within Flash, add swatches to the stage, and use the eyedropper to pick the colours. Flash CS4 does come with its own Kuler Panel; I’d be interested to hear how they compare.
It’s by Ben Pritchard of Pixelfumes, and is available here at his blog. He’s also written an article on how he created the panel, which is definitely worth a read if you want to have a go at making your own.
6. Pixel Tools
This adds a set of pixel drawing tools to your toolbox. They all seem to work by drawing squares of “fill”. In the image above, I’ve turned on the grid to show how sharp the edges of the boxes are.
Rather than attempting to demonstrate these by drawing anything myself, I’ll just direct you to this awesome Flash animation that used them: Move Your Feet.
This is another of Patrick Mineault’s extensions, and is available at his old blog, here.
Do you know of any great extensions that I missed? Please share them in the comments!