Daniel Dura

All About the Adobe Flash Platform

Comprehensive Review of Screenweaver

with 18 comments

Sometimes, we get into a groove, one that involves working on what seems to be the same projects, over and over again. Then comes along something that seems to spice up our lives a bit. This last week or two, I got a new toy. It is something that has breathed new life into my creative juices. Screenweaver, released by Rubberduck, has proven to be one of the most useful third party tools for flash that I have seen and used. Its advanced architecture, large ActionScript library, and extensive modularity have proven to me that this is a tool with unlimited possibilities. If you have ever thought of delving into the world of building desktop applications with Flash, Screenweaver will be a must have.

Events v Fscommands

One of the most powerful features of Screenweaver is its use of events. Up until now, the only way to interact with the desktop environment was via fscommands. These commands, for the most part, were very one way in their architecture. They never were to be used for true two-way communication between the desktop and the flash movie. Utilizing these commands required you to make loops that could check for a change in a variable. Not only were these loops a pain to program, but they could cause a needless burden on the processor. Using Screenweaver’s custom events, your application can just wait for the result to be returned. Also, these callbacks can return much more information regarding the users actions.

I have found this architecture to be most useful when communicating between multiple windows within a Screenweaver application. Using the swApplication.send() function, you can send objects to other windows. Once the other window receives the data, it fires off an event and the window can act in response to the new data.

Components

Now, there are many who are just not interested in delving deep into the world of ActionScript. Donít worry; Screenweaver has a solution! Included with the solution is a set of custom components. These components are easy to use and very robust. Some of these components include the Window Dragger, the Drag and Drop, the Message Box, and the Window Resizer components.

Lets say that you want users to be able to click on a certain movie clip on your screen and be able to drag your window around when clicking on it. All you do is drag the Window Dragger component onto the stage, and set its parameters (including which movie clip users will drag the window by). All done. And you didnít have to write one line of ActionScript! Many of the components even allow you to set custom callback functions so that more advanced users will find the components very useful.

Something else that might excite you is that Flashcomponents.net is already receiving custom components for Screenweaver from users. So, if you do not see the component you are looking for, check back often, someone may be working on it as we speak! You can also find this list of custom components on Screenweaver’s website.

Debugging

Another feature of Screenweaver that has proven useful is its debugging capabilities. First, there is list of commands that Screenweaver makes available that can help you see what is going on within your application when it is running within the Screenweaver environment. One of the most interesting applications that is included with Screenweaver is the Screenweaver monitor. This application will watch any .swf file you tell it that you are working on. When it notices a change in that .swf (when you publish it from within the flash authoring environment), it will automatically compile and run that application. It will also pop up the debug window so that you can watch the results of any debug commands that you have issued. Although simple, this feature will end up saving you a ton of time in testing.

Modularity

One last feature that I found interesting and which may prove very useful is its ability to be extended using Active Scripting (not ĎActioní Script), COM objects, and DLLs. Basically, you can run any of you VBScript or Jscript code that you want to. The Screenweaver documentation even includes a great example of how you can get data from an Access database using Active Scripting.

Well, hopefully this little overview of some of the features of Screenweaver will entice you to go download the program and play around with it. There is a demo that you can use to develop applications, it will expire programs it compiles after three days. If you have any questions about the software, and want some info from a third party, you can also drop me a line. Also, let me leave you with one last note regarding this software and itís creators: they are great. After submitting two minor bugs I had found in the interface of the Screenweaver builder, they released a patch the next day. You sure wont find that kind of service in many places. So, start firing up your creative juices, and lets see what you can create!

Written by Daniel Dura

January 30th, 2003 at 9:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

18 Responses to 'Comprehensive Review of Screenweaver'

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  1. Great review Danny, this will definatly answer a lot of peoples questions like “Why is Screenweaver better than Flash Studio” and things of the such. Great work…

    Josh Dura

    30 Jan 03 at 9:57 am

  2. The ActiveScrpting support is really cool. But you could take it even further. Use shellExecute to run a .wsf file! VBScript and JScript at the same time and file includes just for starters…

    cheers

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