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Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover

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Chapter 1. Introducing Adobe Edge Animate

Travelers on the World Wide Web expect strong graphics. They appreciate animation that contributes to the subject as long as it doesn’t waste their time. Done well, animation draws attention to important details, shows how things work, and helps site navigation. But, graphics certainly weren’t first and foremost when the Web was created. The language used to display web pages is called HTML—short for HyperText Markup Language. Like any language, HTML has evolved and continues to adapt to current needs and new ideas. The latest step in that evolution is HTML5, which combined with other technologies like CSS3, JavaScript, and jQuery, presents the beautiful interactive pages you visit today.

Instead of creating graphics and visual effects manually by writing code, artists can use Adobe Edge Animate—a tool that’s a much better fit for designers. This chapter starts off by explaining how Animate works to write HTML code that a web browser can read. Then it offers a quick introduction to the main parts of the Animate workspace. Finally, you’ll take Animate for a test drive, where you’ll make an image move and create text that fades in and out. Your first hands-on experience will be quick and easy. Consider this first adventure an overview—the following chapters will reveal the details.

Creating and Saving Edge Animate Projects

Animate’s role in life is to help you make web pages that come alive with motion. You design the graphics using familiar visual tools, while Animate writes the underlying code. It’s as if you hired an HTML/CSS/JavaScript/jQuery coder for your design team. One good way to understand what goes on behind the scenes is to create and save an empty Animate project. Fire up Edge Animate as you would any other application on your computer. That means the process is slightly different for Windows and Mac computers. If you plan on using Animate a lot (and why wouldn’t you?) you can use any of the familiar tricks to create handy shortcuts. In Windows, you can pin an Animate shortcut to your Start menu or the taskbar. On a Mac, you can add Animate to the Dock.

When you first start Animate, you’re greeted by a splash screen. On the right side of the screen, you see links to lessons and other Adobe resources. On the left are links to create a new file or open previously created files. Click Create New and then, once Animate is running, you reach a workspace with a number of panels and more links to Adobe lessons. Don’t worry about those details now; you’ll explore them later in this chapter. Create a new folder on your computer desktop and call it Edge Barebones. Next, do the project creation two-step. Go to File→New and then File→Save As. Find the Edge Barebones folder on your desktop and save your project with any name you want. Now, examine the contents of the folder. You’ll find five files and a folder like the ones in Figure 1-1. If you’ve spent time developing web pages, you’ll see some of the usual suspects and maybe a newcomer or two:

  • The .an file is used by Animate to keep track of your project.

  • The .html file describes a web page using HTML code, like any of the gazillion web pages on the Internet.

  • The .js files hold JavaScript code that’s specific to your project. Right now your project is barebones, but the code defines the empty animation stage and performs other tasks that are necessary for all Edge Animate projects.

Open the folder that’s named edge_includes, and you’ll find more JavaScript files. These are libraries of JavaScript code. One is specific to Animate; the others are standard JavaScript libraries. These libraries are referenced by the code in the HTML page that Animate created. They serve as the engine behind your Animate project. In short, they make things move.

Unlike a word processor or a spreadsheet, which create single files, Animate creates several files, and it needs those files to build the project and to display your masterfully designed page in a browser. If you delete or move one of these files, chances are you’ll confuse Animate and anyone who views the web page. So one thing to learn from this bare-bones exercise is proper folder and file management:

  • Create separate folders for each project you tackle, including the exercises in this book. (You may want to put them all in a main Animate project folder.)

  • Don’t delete, move, or rename the files and folders that Animate creates until you fully understand their relationships.

Note

Actually, all your projects could share the files in the edge_includes folder. For now, it’s easiest to let Animate create new files for each project. They don’t take up that much storage space on your computer.

Animate automatically creates several files and folders as you work. It’s important not to move, delete, or rename these files, or your animation won’t work as expected. You add your work to a website by copying these files to the web server.

Figure 1-1. Animate automatically creates several files and folders as you work. It’s important not to move, delete, or rename these files, or your animation won’t work as expected. You add your work to a website by copying these files to the web server.

A Tour of the Animate Workspace

Once you’ve gone past the splash screen by creating a new file or opening an old one, you see a workspace with several panels and a small toolbar, as shown in Figure 1-2. The name for each panel appears on a tab at the top. The Elements, Properties, and Timeline panels and the Tools toolbar all hold tools and widgets you use to create your animation masterpieces. The largest panel is the stage, where you build your animation. Its tab displays the name of your project.

  • The stage is where you display and animate the graphics and text for your web page audience. When you save your project, Animate records the text and graphics and saves the description as a web page in HTML code. Open the page in a browser, and it plays back just as it appeared on the Animate stage. The stage has defined boundaries, and it’s possible to hide or position elements so that they are offstage.

  • Elements are objects that you add to the stage, and as a result they appear on your finished web page. Elements may be artwork, photographs, or text.

  • Elements have properties that affect their position and appearance on the stage. You manage those properties using the Properties panel.

  • The Timeline keeps track of elements and their properties over the course of time. When an element’s properties change, that may change its position on the stage and its appearance.

  • The Library keeps track of images that you import into your project. It provides easy access to the symbols that you create in Animate.

  • Tools appear at the top of the main workspace. You use these to create, select, and modify elements on the stage. It’s a small toolbox, but you may be surprised at how much it can do.

  • The Lessons panel at right provides links to Adobe’s introductory lessons, which can be helpful when you’re starting out. The right panel gives you step-by-step instructions, with the results appearing in a sample file on the stage. After you’ve checked out the lessons, click the X on the Lessons tab to hide it and recover some valuable workspace.

Tip

You may think of these workspace boxes as panels or palettes, but Adobe lists them all under the Window menu, where you can show or hide each with a mouse click.

The Animate workspace consists of a few movable and resizable panels. Top, center is the stage, which you use as your canvas to display the graphic elements in your animation.

Figure 1-2. The Animate workspace consists of a few movable and resizable panels. Top, center is the stage, which you use as your canvas to display the graphic elements in your animation.

The Animate workspace takes its cues from other Adobe products. If you’ve used recent versions of Dreamweaver, Photoshop, or Flash, you’ll feel right at home. If this is your first foray into Adobe territory, the techniques you learn here can be applied when you explore other applications.

Initially, all the panels are pieced together like a puzzle, but you aren’t stuck with that arrangement. You can resize the panels within the workspace, or you can drag panels out so that they float independently. Want to make the timeline bigger? To resize it while it’s grouped snugly with the others, drag one of its edges. As it changes size, the surrounding panels change to accommodate the new arrangement. Want to move the Properties panel to a second monitor? Just drag its tab anywhere you want; the panel follows. If you have trouble freeing a window, click the small menu button in its upper-right corner (Figure 1-3) and choose Undock Panel. It will pop out from the main Animate workspace.

Use the menu in the upper-left corner of the individual panels to open, close, dock, and undock the panels. You can group several panels by dragging one tab over the edge of another panel. Panels that are grouped in this way are called frames.

Figure 1-3. Use the menu in the upper-left corner of the individual panels to open, close, dock, and undock the panels. You can group several panels by dragging one tab over the edge of another panel. Panels that are grouped in this way are called frames.

Saving a Custom Workspace

Two scenarios may arise when you start dragging panels all over the place: Either you love the new layout or you hate it. Suppose you find the perfect layout for your work style and equipment. Perhaps you have a dual-monitor system and you like to have the stage and timeline fill one screen while Properties, Elements, and Library panels camp out on the other. You can save the workspace layout using the Windows→Workspace. Initially, the menu is set to Default, as shown in Figure 1-4. Choose New Workspace, and a dialog box appears, where you can provide a custom name, such as “Dual Screen,” for your custom workspace. Click OK, and now your newly named workspace joins the workspace menu. Just choose it whenever you want to use your handy Dual Screen workspace.

On the other hand, perhaps through dragging, tugging, and hiding panels you’ve arrived at a completely unworkable situation. You just want everything back the way it was when you started. Choose Default or any of the other workspace options, and all those panels jump back in place. Use the Reset option to return the currently selected workspace to its last saved arrangement.

Use the menu to choose and create different layouts for the windows and panels you use in Animate. Use the New Workspace option to save your current workspace with a new name.

Figure 1-4. Use the menu to choose and create different layouts for the windows and panels you use in Animate. Use the New Workspace option to save your current workspace with a new name.

Note

To help you keep your bearings, most of the time this book uses the Default workspace.

Building Your First Animation

It’s a long-standing coder’s tradition to program a “hello world” test when first tackling a new language. In this case, Animate is going to write the code that displays your web page and animation, but why break with tradition? To dip your toe in the animation waters, you’ll develop a hello-world page Animate-style. The blue marble of the earth will rise onto the stage, and the words “Hello World” will fade in and then fade out. You can use your own earth picture, or you can use 01-1_Hello_World from www.missingmanuals.com/cds/animatemm. The folder contains one image, planet_earth.png, which is used for this exercise.

If you want to see the final working example before you build it yourself, grab 01-2_Hello_World_done from the Missing CD. Download and unzip it to find a folder that holds several files. You can view the completed project by opening 01-2_Hello_World_done.html in any browser that’s HTML5 capable. If you’re not sure whether your browser can handle HTML5, see the box on HTML5 Browsers on the Leading Edge.

Note

You can find all the examples for this book at www.missingmanuals.com/cds/animatemm. Animate projects produce several different files and folders, such as HTML, JavaScript, and graphics, so the files for each exercise are in a folder. Individual examples are numbered. In the case of 01-1_Hello_World, the 01 at the beginning stands for Chapter 1 and -1 indicates that it’s the first exercise in the chapter. Completed examples for comparison are often included and have the word done in the filename, as in 01-2_Hello_World_done.

  1. Start Animate and go to File→New to create a new document.

    When you create a new document, you start off with an empty stage. You see “Stage” as the only element listed in the Elements and Properties windows. As you see in the Properties panel, the stage has dimension, color, and other properties. You’ll learn more about each of these properties later.

  2. Create a folder for your project and then choose File→Save As to save your file with a name like Hello_World or First_Try.

    You can create a folder outside of Animate using Windows Explorer or Finder, or you can create a new folder as part of a File→Save As command. It’s a good practice to save your Animate project immediately with a helpful name. That way you won’t end up with a bunch of “untitled” projects that you don’t remember. Also, it makes it easy to save your work early and often with a quick Ctrl+S or ⌘-S. As explained on Creating and Saving Edge Animate Projects, it’s best to save each Animate project in its own folder because Animate creates several files and an edge_includes folder when you first save a project.

    Tip

    A quick look at the Animate window tells whether your most recent work has been saved. If your work is unsaved, Animate shows an asterisk next to the filename at the top of the window.

  3. In the Properties window, click the white Background Color swatch.

    A panel appears where you can choose a color (Figure 1-5). If you prefer a strictly visual approach, click the spectrum bar at the left for a basic hue and then click inside the square to fine-tune your selection. In some cases, you may have a specific color specification in RGB (red-green-blue) format or as a hexadecimal number. For more details on color management, see the box on Understanding Color Specs and the Color Picker.

  4. When the color picker appears, choose a dark blue color to represent deep space.

    If in doubt, try R=30 G=45 B=90 A=100 for this project. Animate uses Adobe’s standard method for choosing numbers. When you see a highlighted number, that means you can either click and then type in a number, or you can click and drag to “scrub” in a number. Drag right to increase the number, left to decrease.

    Animate uses the RGB (red-green-blue) color space used by most computer monitors and TV sets. The A stands for Alpha channel and controls opacity/transparency. The color picker lets you specify colors by pointing and clicking or typing in numbers.

    Figure 1-5. Animate uses the RGB (red-green-blue) color space used by most computer monitors and TV sets. The A stands for Alpha channel and controls opacity/transparency. The color picker lets you specify colors by pointing and clicking or typing in numbers.

  5. Still in the Stage properties panel, change the Overflow to hidden.

    The Overflow property controls the visibility of items when they are viewed in a web browser. On a web page, the stage may represent just a portion of the entire web page. You can control the visibility of elements outside of the stage’s rectangle. Change this property to hidden when you don’t want to see elements that are offstage.

  6. Choose File→Import. Using the Import window that appears, find and select planet_earth.png. Click Open to import the image into your project.

    The planet_earth.png image was in the 01-1_Hello_World from the Missing CD (www.missingmanuals.com/cds/edgepv7mm). After you import a file to your Animate project, it is listed in the Elements window and is displayed on the stage. It’s automatically selected, so you see the properties for the newly imported element in the Properties window. The “planet_earth” has visibility properties at the top of the panel. Right below are Position and Size properties. Below those, you see the Transform properties that let you rotate, skew, and scale elements. Below that, the source file is listed—a handy point to keep in mind when you’re trying to remember, “What the heck was the name of that file anyway?”

    Note

    There’s another bit of behind-the-scenes Animate magic going on here, too. When you import an image, Animate automatically creates an images folder in your project. It makes a copy of the image you select and puts the copy in the images folder. You’ll also find your imported image listed under Assets in the Library panel.

  7. In the Properties panel, click the ID box at the very top and change planet_earth to World.

    As Animate imports graphics, it names them using the file name. In some cases, that may be fine, but often you’ll want to rename the element inside of Animate. Keep in mind this doesn’t change the filename of your graphic. The ID World is used when you’re working in Animate.

    IDs serve an important function in HTML code, as you’ll learn later in this book. Notice that in the Elements panel your World appears with its new name. Because it’s on the stage, World also appears in the timeline.

    Tip

    Names of non-animated elements may or may not appear in the timeline. You can show and hide them using the “Only show animated elements” button below the timeline (see Figure 1-6).

  8. In the timeline, make sure the playhead is at 0:00.

    If you haven’t made any timeline changes since you created this project, the playhead is at 0:00, marking the first moment or frame of the animation, as shown in Figure 1-6. If you need to move the playhead, drag the gold-colored, bottom part of the playhead. The top part is called the pin. It should follow automatically. You’ll learn more about the two-part playhead in the following steps.

  9. Drag the World past the bottom of the stage.

    As mentioned in step 5, you can control whether offstage items are displayed on the web page. With Overflow set to hidden, when you’re in the Animate workspace, offstage elements appear a little darker than usual. When the final project is viewed in a browser, these elements will be hidden.

  10. In the timeline, make sure that the Auto-Keyframe Mode button is pressed.

    When the Auto-Keyframe Mode button (Figure 1-6) is pressed, keyframes are automatically created in the timeline as you make changes to element properties. Keyframe markers look like diamonds. You’ll learn all about keyframes and other timeline features in Chapter 4.

    Note

    In the timeline, buttons have a pushed-in appearance when they’re turned on. They may also sport a bit of color. For example, the Auto-Keyframe Mode button, which looks like a stopwatch, has a bright red face when it’s on.

  11. In the timeline, make sure that the Auto-Transition Mode button is pressed.

    When this button is pressed, Animate creates smooth transitions instead of abrubt changes. In this case, the World graphic will smoothly move from one position to another.

  12. Drag playhead to 0:01 on the timeline.

    In the timeline, 0:01 marks 1 second into the animation. A red line extends downward from the playhead, providing a marker for all the element and property layers.

  13. With the World still selected, in the Properties panel, go to Position and Size and click the diamond shaped buttons next to X and Y.

    Two diamond-shaped keyframes appear in the timeline marking the position for the Left and Top edge of the World graphic. The X and Y properties set the position of elements on the stage. (Position properties are covered in detail on Rectangles: Building a Basic Box.) By clicking the diamond next to Location in the Properties panel, you manually recorded the World’s location on the stage. As a result, the World stays in the same X/Y position for the first second of the animation.

    Note

    Animate automatically assigns a reference color to each element in your project. The color appears in the timeline next to the name, and it’s also used to display transitions—changes in property values. You see the same color next to the names in the Elements window. When you’re dealing with dozens or hundreds of elements, the color-coding comes in handy.

    The timeline keeps a running list of elements that appear on the stage. Not only that, it keeps track of their properties as they change. At this point, the initial properties for stage and World haven’t changed, so no properties are listed. Use the triangles next to the element names to expand and collapse their Properties lists.

    Figure 1-6. The timeline keeps a running list of elements that appear on the stage. Not only that, it keeps track of their properties as they change. At this point, the initial properties for stage and World haven’t changed, so no properties are listed. Use the triangles next to the element names to expand and collapse their Properties lists.

  14. Click the Toggle Pin button, then drag the bottom, gold part of the playhead to 0:03.

    To animate an element, you change its properties over a specific period of time. The playhead and the pin let you mark two points in time, as shown in Figure 1-7.

    The pin “pins” the current properties at that point of time, while the playhead marks another point in time when the properties will be different.

    Figure 1-7. The pin “pins” the current properties at that point of time, while the playhead marks another point in time when the properties will be different.

  15. Drag the World graphic so that Earth is visible on the stage.

    You can center the image on the stage, or you can choose some other eye-pleasing layout.

  16. Click the Toggle Pin button, then press the Home key and then press the space bar.

    When you press Home, the playhead returns to 0:00. Pressing the space bar plays your animation so you can preview the action on the stage.

  17. Move the playhead back to 0:00, and then in the toolbar, click the letter T.

    The text tool is selected, and the cursor changes to a cross.

  18. Click on the stage and type Hello World. When you’re done, close the text window by pressing ESC or clicking the X button in the upper-right corner.

    The words “Hello World” appear on the stage, but they’re probably not positioned or formatted as you want.

  19. In the Properties window, set the ID for the text box to HelloWorld.

    Naming your text makes it easier to identify in the timeline and the Elements panel. Animate doesn’t permit space in names, so you need to use HelloWorld or Hello_World.

  20. Using the Properties panel, format the text.

    Change the text color to white or a very light blue. Choose Arial Black or another bold font. Adjust the size so it nearly fills the screen (72 px works well with Arial Black). Animate notes each change to the text in the timeline, adding property layers and creating keyframes.

  21. Position the text.

    If you’re not sure about the placement, try it centered horizontally and about a third of the way down the stage.

  22. With the playhead still at 0:00, set the opacity to 0.

    The Opacity slider is at the top of the Properties panel. This means the text will not be visible at the beginning of the animation. Only the selection box shows and that will disappear as soon as you click something else. Don’t worry, though—you can select any element, whether it’s visible or not, by clicking its name in the Elements panel.

  23. Make sure Toggle Pin is turned off.

    When Toggle Pin is off, the button doesn’t appear pushed in and the pin moves with the playhead.

  24. Drag the playhead to 0:02. With the text selected, click the diamond next to Opacity in the Properties panel.

    As you drag the playhead, you see the World move on the stage. Filmmakers and animators refer to dragging the playhead as scrubbing, a quick and easy way to review a segment of your animation. Clicking the Opacity diamond creates a keyframe at the 2-second mark where the text is still invisible.

  25. Turn Toggle Pin back on, then drag the playhead to the 0:03 mark.

    With the pin at 0:02 and the playhead at 0:03, you’re ready to create another transition.

  26. With the HelloWorld text box selected, set its opacity to 100.

    Animate creates a transition so that the text gradually changes from 0 to 100 percent opacity between 0:02 and 0:03 in your animation.

  27. Drag the pin to the 0:03 mark, then drag the playhead to 0:04. Set the opacity back to 0.

    The text disappears again.

  28. Press Ctrl+S (⌘-S) to save your work.

    As explained earlier, Animate saves your animation as a collection of HTML and JavaScript files. The main HTML file uses the name you provided in step 2, when you first saved your project. So, for example, you may see Hello_World.html in the project folder. When you imported the planet_earth.png image, Animate created an images folder and placed a copy of the graphic in the folder.

Your simple animation is complete. You can preview it in Animate by pressing Home and then the space bar. The earth rises into view, and your message fades in and then fades out (Figure 1-8). The entire animation takes 4 seconds.

You can watch your entire animation inside of Animate by pressing Home and then the space bar. You can preview the animation in your web browser by choosing File→Preview In Browser.

Figure 1-8. You can watch your entire animation inside of Animate by pressing Home and then the space bar. You can preview the animation in your web browser by choosing File→Preview In Browser.

Viewing Your Animation in a Browser

Your audience won’t be viewing your animation in Animate; they’ll be watching it in the familiar comfort of their favorite web browser. That means you need to review your work in a browser—preferably more than one browser. For a quick look, choose File→Preview In Browser. Animate starts your browser, if it isn’t already running, and opens the HTML file that was created when you saved your project. That single HTML file describes the web page for your audience. All they have to do is load the page in a browser. The HTML code is actually the hub for all the other files the animation needs. It references the planet_earth.png image, which is stored as a separate file in the images folder. It also references the multiple JavaScript files needed to make everything run.

In animation, timing is everything. You may not be entirely pleased with the pace or other aspects of your Hello World experiment. In the coming chapters, you’ll learn all about fine-tuning elements on the page so they look just right.

Here’s a quick list of some important points to remember from this chapter:

  • Animate creates multiple files and folders, so it’s best to keep each project in a folder all its own.

  • You can create and save a custom workspace that suits your work habits and your equipment.

  • When you import a photo or graphic file, Animate creates a copy and stores that in the Images folder.

  • Select an element on the stage or in the Elements panel and you see its properties listed in the Properties panel.

  • To change the location or appearance of an element, select it and then change its properties. For example, change the location properties to move an element. Change the color or opacity properties to change its appearance.

  • In the timeline, keyframes record an element’s properties at a given point in time.

  • Animation occurs when properties change over time. These changes are marked by keyframes in the timeline.

  • Transitions can be smooth (gradually changing over time) or abrupt.

  • Handy keyboard shortcuts to remember: Home moves the playhead to the beginning of the timeline. Space plays the animation in Animate. Ctrl+Enter (⌘-Return) plays the animation in your web browser.

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