Testing Flash apps in a browser can be cumbersome, but it needs to be done for some browser only functionality, such as deep linking and back button functionality – as well as checking other things that might change once you are out of the Flash “test movie” sandbox, and into the browser – things like file path issues. The convenient trace window is not available in the browser, but there are alternatives.
Flash Content Debugger and “Allow Debugging”
A quick tip that took me a while to notice – the “Allow Debugging” checkbox in Flash’s Publishing Settings dialog, actually causes the Flash compiler to add debugging symbols to the compiled swf, symbols that give you useful information like the actual line number of an error, in addition to the stack trace. The “Allow Debugging” verbiage, is most definately not enough to communicate that difference – I thought it was more of a locking mechanism. Hopefully you haven’t stumbled around for too long with that, like I did when I first switched to AS3..
Check out the Firebug Console API for more information.
Once Firebug is installed, you will notice a little bug (insect) icon in the bottom right hand corner of the browser window, on the status bar. Click that to open and enable Firebug for the page you are currently viewing. Firebug will only turn itself on, on a site by site basis, and only after you click on that bug icon. Once it has popped open, you will see some tabs, with many goodies like the fabulous “Net” tab (very useful to make sure swfs are being loaded in the browser), and the “HTML” tab, which contains a live, nested version of your html code, which can be edited in real time – it’s hard to describe how much better life is in the Web Development since Firebug. Anyway, the tab we are interested in, is the “Console” tab – click that. On the actual tab, there will be a little down arrow – click that to open a menu, then click “Enabled” to turn the console on (the onscreen instructions are a little odd, their picture is of the “Script” tab – the arrow you want is on the “Console” tab, not the “Script” tab).
Tracing to the Console
From Actionscript you’ll need something like this:
ExternalInterface.call("console.log", "your message");
You should now be able to trace (or something like it) in the browser. Next time I’ll cover some more advanced uses, as well as some more specific snafus with deep linking and browser back button functionality.