FOTD 07: Flash 8 – Object Drawing Mode

Although Flash old-timers have undoubtedly become comfortable with the way Flash handles object drawing on the stage – strokes and fills as separate entities, having objects ‘cut away’ from one another when drawing overlapping shapes, etc – Flash 8 now supports both the traditional Flash object drawing mode (now dubbed ‘Merge’ mode) and a more Freehand/Illustrator behavior familiar to vector designers (‘Object’ mode) that treats objects more like traditional vector applications- fill and stroke acting as a single object when moving or transforming, and no ‘cutting out’ of objects behind other objects on the same layer.


Now I really love this- as I grew up in vector applications like FreeHand where objects were really independent objects- they didn’t cut each other out by default when drawing over each other. Admittedly, as I got more comfortable with Flash, there were definitely some benefits to its default ‘Merge’ mode- particularly when creating complex shapes. But I always secretly wished that Flash would work both ways. And now it does!First, note the all-important Object Drawing mode toggle key- ‘J’. Just hit J when you’ve got any of the drawing tools up (Pencil, Line, Polygon, Pen, Brush, Oval and Rectangle tools, for the nitpicky), and you’ll toggle in and out of Object Drawing Mode. For the icon-lovers, you’ve also got a new little icon in the Toolbar to toggle Object/Merge modes, as shown here:

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The Object Mode toggle icon

The basics are pretty self-explanatory- when drawing an oval atop another oval on the same layer in good ‘ol Merge mode – and then selecting/moving the second shape away, you essentially cut the overlapping areas out of the lower (first) object. Good if that’s what you want, but sometimes annoying if you don’t. It looks like so, if you’re not painfully familiar with the basics here:

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Merge Mode, after drawing and moving a second object
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Object Mode, after drawing and moving a second object

Pretty straightforward! Now as opposed to stroke and fill showing their selected state separately with that old familiar ‘stippled’ background selection state (and being separate objects) in Merge Mode- in Object Mode, a blue ‘selected’ rectangle shows up around the entire object, allowing you to move stroke and fill as a complete entity, without affecting other objects on the layer. Nice, eh?If you want to perform boolean operations (unions, intersects, crops, punches) on the new Objects, there’s a new “Modify > Combine Shapes…” menu that allows for all of those operations to be performed as well. Note that if you add other types of objects (for example, text objects) into an Object shape, it will try to group them and give you a warning dialog as so:

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Autoconversion warning from drawing object to group

When selecting objects in Object mode, you don’t need to marquee the entire object to select both stroke and fill anymore- much more intuitive to vector illustrators. You can select your drawing mode as a preference as well (or just hit ‘J’ to switch to Object mode on the fly), so moving between the two modes should present no problem whatsoever if you prefer one or the other for specific tasks. And on a side note- there are also several new API calls that allow access to both deleting envelopes and the boolean functions (union, intersect, punch, crop) mentioned earlier, developers- show us what you can do with ‘em!So that’s pretty much it- Object Drawing Mode is really that simple, as you’ll notice when you start using it yourselves. It’s a small update that really makes a big difference, in my opinion- another great ‘expressive’ feature of Flash 8 that makes it a much more flexible and approachable toolset for creative pros. As a result- old school vector-heads picking up Flash 8 for the first time should become productive much, much faster than ever before, and veteran FLAnimators have a new way to work- win/win situation all the way around. Enjoy it, y’all- and I’ll see you tomorrow, for the next Fireworks feature of the day.