What is ActionScript?

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha is currently an Information Technology Specialist and a EdD student at the University of Delaware.

ActionScript is an object-oriented programming language for Adobe Flash player, now known as Adobe Animate CC. Action Script is used by developers to create animations and video games. In this lesson, we will learn about the fundamentals of ActionScript.

History of Action Script

ActionScript was originally developed by the company Macromedia that created Macromedia Flash, the multimedia software platform that could be used to develop interactive video games and applications. Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005, and Macromedia Flash began to be known as Adobe Flash. Flash had a run-time component known as the Flash player, and a developer component known as Flash Professional that included the ActionScript programming language. Developers used the ActionScript programming language to develop interactive animations which included images with motion and allowed for users to interact with the images. Adobe Flash Professional is now known as Animate and ActionScript 3.0 is the latest version of the programming language.


The timeline is the fundamental concept in ActionScript. In Flash, each image is inserted into what is known as a frame. The concept is similar to picture frames. Imagine you are capturing photographs of a horse jumping over a fence. Suppose you take 10 pictures of the horse as it jumps over the fence, place them in 10 picture frames and arrange the frames in sequence. Now anyone who looks at the frames from beginning to end will have a clear picture of the different positions of the horse as it started the jump, went over the fence, and then ended the jump. In ActionScript, the timeline is similar to the sequence of frames and plays like a movie clip that allows you to see the action in real time. In Flash, the timeline is a graphic representation of a movie clip as it moves from one frame to another in sequence, over a period of time.

Key Frame

A keyframe is a frame where a new image is introduced, or a change is made to an existing image. So, for example, in the timeline of the horse jumping over the fence, you would have a sequence of frames where the horse is running and then there would be a key frame where the fence is introduced. Another keyframe could capture the horse as it rises on its hind legs to make the motion of jumping over the fence. On a timeline, each keyframe is represented by a solid dot.

Motion Tweens

Motion tween represents the motion of an object or image as it moves across the timeline. In the example of the horse jumping over the fence, if you take a picture at every second of the horse's movement you would capture every change in the position of the horse as it runs toward the fence and then jumps over the fence. Since each frame in a motion sequence would represent some change in the moving object, you could even represent each of the frames as a key frame with each keyframe representing a change in the position of the moving horse or object.

Shape Tweens

Using ActionScript, you can create a shape that changes in shape. For example, if you wanted to show a smiley face changing to a sad face you would create the smiley face in the first frame. Then you would create a number of frames, where each frame shows the transition of the lips from smiling to sad. When the movie is played, you will see the smiling face changing to a sad face in real time. In a shape tween, there is no movement of the object, only the shape of the object is changed.

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