Add and Edit Symbols on the Flash CS5 Stage - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

You can reuse a symbol after you add it to your Adobe Flash Creative Suite 5 library. Each copy of a symbol is referred to as an instance in Flash CS5. Although all instances of a symbol remain linked back to the original in the Library, you have the flexibility to scale, transform, and rotate each instance individually.

Follow these steps to add symbols to the stage:

  1. Locate in your library a symbol that you want to add to the stage.

  2. Drag a copy from the Library panel to the stage; repeat this step a few times so that you have several instances on the stage.

  3. Select each instance individually and experiment with different scaling, transforming, and rotating for each one.

After you create symbols, you can modify them from within the library or directly on the stage. Changes made to a symbol are applied to all instances of that symbol throughout the movie.


To edit a symbol from within the library, follow these steps:

  1. Select a symbol in the Library panel and choose Edit from the panel menu, or double-click any symbol in the Library panel.

    To see the true effect of editing the master symbol, use a symbol you dragged previously to the stage.

    The symbol appears on the stage in Edit mode.

  2. Make some changes in color, shape, or size.

  3. Exit the symbol by selecting Scene 1 from the navigation bar above the stage to return to the main Timeline.

    Instances of this symbol on the stage reflect the changes you’ve made to the symbol in the library.

Editing a symbol in place on the stage can be more intuitive, and you may want to modify it to work better with other artwork on the stage. You can directly edit a symbol from any of its instances on the stage, as shown, but keep in mind that regardless of which instance you edit, all instances are affected.


To edit a symbol in place, follow these steps:

  1. Select and double-click any symbol instance on the stage.

    You’re now in the symbol’s Edit mode, but you can still see other objects on the stage in the background. Flash dims objects in the background so that you can see your changes in context.

  2. Make changes and exit the symbol’s Edit mode by selecting Scene 1 on the navigation bar above the stage.

Duplicate symbols in Flash CS5

You may want to create a variation of one of your symbols that goes beyond what you can do on an instance-by-instance basis. A good example is two birds that are similar in appearance but one has different-shaped wings or a different base color. This instance is a good case for duplicating an existing symbol so that any changes can be made to the copy and treated as a new symbol.

To duplicate a symbol, select from the Library panel the symbol you want to copy, and then choose Duplicate from the panel menu in the upper-right corner of the panel. You’re given a chance to name the new version of the symbol when the Duplicate Symbol dialog box appears.

You can rename any symbol directly from the Library panel. Select the symbol and choose Rename from the panel menu.