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Learning Lab

ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition

A Study in Flash Form Submission

by Colin Moock, author of ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition and ActionScript for Flash MX Pocket Reference

In HTML, fill-in forms are a breeze to create: take one <form> tag; add user-input tags to taste; bake at 350 degrees for one hour; serve and enjoy.

Historically, the creating forms in Flash hasn't been so simple. With the release of Flash MX's Flash UI components, things got a lot easier, but form submission is still trickier in Flash than it is in HTML. In HTML, forms can be submitted via a submit button or "automagically" via the Enter key. Flash does not have built-in support for Enter-key form submission, so we must handle the Enter key manually. The remainder of this article explains how to do just that. Download the source code for the following discussion here.

Flash forms are typically a collection of user interface components. To "submit" a form to a server-side script or application, we must manually assemble the value of each component into either a LoadVars or an XML object, and then invoke that object's sendAndLoad() or send() method.

These steps are usually handled by a custom function or method. Consider, for example, a simple login form with a user name text field, a password text field, and a submit button. The text fields are single-line input text fields with instance names of username_txt and password_txt. The submit button is an FPushButton instance named submit_pb. To handle form submission, we define a custom submitForm() function. The code on our form's timeline looks like this:

// Prepare the data transfer object. To keep 
// things simple, we'll assume that the login
// results will be displayed as a web page in
// the browser rather than in Flash.
var sender = new LoadVars();

// Custom form-submission function.
function submitForm () {
  // Assemble text field values into our LoadVars object.
  sender.user = username_txt.text;
  sender.pass = password_txt.text;
  // Transfer the data to the server-side script.
  sender.send("http://www.somesite.com/cgi-bin/login.pl", "_blank", "GET");

To make our submit button (submit_pb) invoke submitForm() when pressed, we use the FPushButton component's setClickHandler() method as follows:

// This code must be on a frame in the same 
// timeline as the earlier submitForm() function definition.

Now for the tricky part: when the Enter key is pressed, we want to invoke submitForm(), but only if one of the text fields in the form is focused. To handle the Enter key, we'll add new custom methods to the TextField class. First, let's rough out a new method to check for Enter keystrokes. We'll call the method onKeyDown() so that any TextField instance can register to receive keystroke event notifications from the built-in Key object.

TextField.prototype.onKeyDown = function () {
  if (Key.getCode() == Key.ENTER) {
    // Enter was pressed.

Our new method has a problem: if the user holds down the Enter key, we'll get multiple keystroke events. We're only interested in the first keystroke, so let's modify onKeyDown() to discard all but the first press of the Enter key. We'll add a property, pressedOnce, to track the first Enter key press, and we'll add a new method, onKeyUp(), to clear the pressedOnce property when the Enter key is released.

TextField.prototype.onKeyDown = function () {
  if (Key.getCode() == Key.ENTER && this.pressedOnce == undefined) {
    // Make a note that Enter was pressed so we don't bother
    // handling it next time we get an onKeyDown event notification.
    this.pressedOnce = true;

TextField.prototype.onKeyUp = function () {
  // When the Enter key is released, reset the single-press detection property.
  if (Key.getCode() == Key.ENTER) {
    this.pressedOnce = undefined;

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