Flash/Working with Symbols

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In Flash, a symbol is a reusable flash element that is stored in the library. An instance is a reference of that symbol. A Flash document can consist of as many as 100 or as little as 1 instance of a symbol.

Create a Symbol

If you add shapes or drawings to the stage, it will not automatically become a symbol. You can have objects that are not symbols in your document, however those objects will not be able to animate. An appropriate time to have an object that is not a symbol would be a rectangle with a colour fill or gradient for the background of your animation.

This rectangle was made with the Rectangle Tool (R). When I select it with the Selection Tool (V), Flash tells me it is a Shape in the properties panel.


To make this object a symbol, select the object, go to Modify > Convert to Symbol or F8 on your keyboard. You can also right click on the object and select Convert to Symbol.

Name your symbol.

  • Note: Never use spaces when naming symbols. It is best practice to start the name of your symbol with an abbreviation of the type of symbol it is. Example: if it is a movie clip start it with mc_NameOfSymbol, or a button would be btn_NameOfButton. That way your library, which is organized by name, will group your symbols more conveniently.


Understanding Symbols

Symbols are reusable flash elements. These elements can consist of graphics, video, bitmap images, sounds, and animation. All the symbols are stored in the Library. You can drag the symbols from the library onto the stage to create references of the symbols. These references are called instances. Each instance is only referenced to one symbol. Instances are not stored in the Library, but on the stage. A symbol can be 1 of 3 things: graphic, button, or movie clip.