General Question

Link's avatar

What is ActionScript?

Asked by Link (327points) March 12th, 2009

I’m learning how to use FLASH CS3, and I’ve noticed the term ActionScript mentioned a few times in reference with FLASH CS3. What exactly is ActionScript? Does it have anything to do with HTML? What’s the difference between 2.0 and 3.0?

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15 Answers

robmandu's avatar

from Wikipedia :

ActionScript is a scripting language based on ECMAScript. ActionScript is used primarily for the development of websites and software using the Adobe Flash Player platform (in the form of SWF files embedded into Web pages).

So, basically, it’s very similar in nature to Javascript (which is also a flavor of ECMAScript).

I should think that if you’re relatively familiar with Javascript already, then you’d have a leg up on getting around in ActionScript.

Be sure to read the Wikipedia article… and check out the external links they provide to the Adobe developer and support sites.

dynamicduo's avatar

ActionScript is the programming language that Flash uses to allow animators to manipulate items, data, and events that occur inside the Flash SWF.

With Flash, you can create and animate things in two ways (and they can be combined, these are not exclusive at all): through the visual interface (with keyframes, tweens, the circle and line tool), and through programming via ActionScript. For instance, when making a simple Snake game (where you eat fruit and can’t touch your snake body), you would make the art assets externally or in the Flash visual interface, but all the game logic and animation (the snake moving, getting longer when eating a piece of fruit, the distribution of the fruit itself) would be done in ActionScript. The entire game may actually be only a few frames long (one for the title screen, one for the game board and each level, one for the death screen) and all the work is done by the AS in the background.

The differences between the version of AS are used to designate what set of functions and capabilities are in each version number, just as with all other versioning systems. The exact differences between 2.0 and 3.0 are well discussed elsewhere. Here is one page that not only describes the difference but seems to be a great AS3 beginning course.

ActionScript has nothing to do with HTML whatsoever beyond the fact that they are both commonly accessed through an internet browser. AS does have the ability to read and write to databases, and may have the ability to take in URL variables via POST or GET, but in general HTML and AS do not regularly interact beyond you using HTML to insert the Flash SWF onto the page.

Jamspoon's avatar

ActionScript is pretty entertaining stuff – if you thought making tables with HTML was fun just you wait until you make fully controllable turtle, he goes up, he goes down, he goes left, he goes right; imbued with the powers of godliness you shall be!

drClaw's avatar

ActionScript is the shiz-nit!!!

Link's avatar

Okay thanks all for the help. Do I need to fully understand AS in order to use Adobe Flash CS3?


dynamicduo's avatar

Again, it depends on what you intend to do with Flash. Feel free to reply with the details and I can make a final verdict.

Are you going to be making an animated video, working on the Stage all the time? If so, you never ever need to touch AS other than to wire up your loading screen.

Are you going to be making a game or need to access variables or databases? If so, then yes you will need to understand AS pretty well.

In no case do you need to understand AS fully. Not even the best developers understand every function thoroughly. That’s why we have reference guides! :)

drClaw's avatar

You can definitely work in the Flash CS3 program without knowing AS, but as @dynamicduo said “it really depends on what you intend to do.” When I started learning Flash I quickly realized that I would need to also know AS if I ever wanted to get good at building things like video games, video players, etc… If you want to get your feet wet you can find some tutorials here:

Good luck and if you ever want any help just send me a message.

Link's avatar

Thanks guys. Thanks drClaw for the link. I don’t intend to make video games or video players, but what if I wanted to make a web site? Is it even possible to make a web site in Flash CS3? Is it better than, say, Dreamweaver? Would I need to know AS? Please keep me posted.


dynamicduo's avatar

Making a website inside of Flash is completely inadvisable. Not only will your target audience be limited to those who can access Flash (no iPhones for instance), but your site will not be search indexed as the text inside the movie cannot be indexed by Google et al. Furthermore, small insignificant updates would likely require the entire SWF be recompiled, which discourages updates to the site. It’s certainly possible, but it’s extremely not advisable.

If you did want to make a site inside Flash, you do not need to know a lot of AS. You would simply make each page on a different keyframe, then include simple AS to code the navigation buttons to jump to and stop at the appropriate frame.

Yes, Dreamweaver is hands down better to build a website in than Flash. That’s what DW’s purpose is, to code HTML. The problem with previous versions of it is that it creates bloated code, tags that immediately open and close with no content, etc. I still use Dreamweaver for some of my websites, but I use it in code view primarily so I can ensure the site remains the way I want it to. Newer versions of the program produce substantially higher quality code, but I will never ever trust a WYSIWYG editor to code a site correctly, it just never works. You need to truly be a code master in order to make a website conform between browsers and OSes and even then you still need a bag of hacks.

drClaw's avatar

I agree with @dynamicduo. You will be much better off building it in Dreamweaver (HTML & CSS) and if you really like the movement flash allows then look into using jQuery.

Link's avatar

LOL with that said, I’m currently using a WYSIWYG (QuarkXPress 8) to build a web site. I’m also currently learning HTML (on, but the QX8 makes building the site seem so simple, and you don’t have to be a code master. What drawbacks are there to using a WYSIWYG? Is there a “best” way to use a WYSIWYG? Do I have to learn other code languages other than HTML to build a web site the way you would do it? Once I’m done building my web site in QX8, what HTML editor would you suggest I use in case I have to adjust anything.

Sorry to keep this thread going, but I sort of need to know. I appreciate all the knowledge guys.

dynamicduo's avatar

The drawbacks to using a WYSIWYG editor is that they often produce code that looks great in some but not all browsers. As well, sometimes they include lines in your document that only the editor knows how to use, so it’s bloat if you change the WYSIWYG editor (Dreamweaver does this). But in general the main concern with WYSIWYG is it does not look the same across browsers and screen sizes and OS.

Being a code master means you can make that code do whatever you want it to do, make it look consistent across browsers, etc. Being a WYSIWYG master means you can do only what the tools let you do, and sometimes it’s the tool itself that makes the site broken in Firefox etc. That’s exactly it, using QX8 seems simple but in reality the code it produces is not guaranteed to work or look the same. The odds are substantially higher that my hand coded sites will look more consistent and work similarly over different browsers than any WYSIWYG site will.

Oh, and some WYSIWYGs use tables as their core method for creating sites. Ugh. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Use whatever HTML editor you feel like. Dreamweaver adds bloat, I do not at all recommend using it to manage the QX8 files cause then you’ll have QX8 bloat plus Dreamweaver bloat, kilobytes of wasted bandwidth. If I just need to pop in and make a quick change I often use Notepad++ which is a free program. If I’m designing a site completely, I do it in Dreamweaver but I rarely use the menu options to insert elements. IMO, the best way to use a WYSIWYG is in code view. The WYSIWYG preview view is sometimes an outright lie so I ignore it completely.

Other than HTML you would need to learn CSS. HTML for the content, CSS for the design, generally speaking.

Link's avatar

Hey thanks for all the help man. I’m learning HTML as we speak, and I will download Notepad ++ (assuming a simle google search will help me find it) to let me make minor changes to the WYSIWYG files—such as centering the page. I’ll have to take my chances with QX8’s WYSIWYG for now, until I learn CSS and get more hands-on practice with HTML. But again, thanks for all the help dude.


dynamicduo's avatar

Dudette. I’m a girl, you know :)

Good luck. Wrangling HTML is sometimes frustrating, but nothing beats creating a website with your bare hands.

Link's avatar

Oh sorry lol. I’m learning it now on, but some concepts are complicated, like “absolute” and “relative” links. I’m not even sure what block elements mean at this point. But I’m not too down on it. I find it interesting. But let me stop rambling. Thanks again dudette lol.


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