BaseUI v3 layout manager

| 5 min read

Hi everyone,

Before going on holiday, here is a BaseUI major release :)

It means code written for the previous might not work for this version (even is there isn’t any major change in the structure, some internal code has been changed). If you want to update your code with this version, unless you were using the version 1, it won’t take a long time to adapt it.

Before we could say that BaseUI was an assets manager, now it is becoming a real layout manager.

The two main classes BaseUI and ElementUI allow you to handle assets positioning by using properties on your DisplayObject like top, bottom, width, percentage width, horizontal center and so on, to make them working with the resize event (when the browser is resized by the user). It makes you able to handle liquid layouts, but also works with fixed layouts.

In the first version, BaseUI has been built mainly to work on the stage. It is working now from the version 2 with any reference, stage or another DisplayObject (see properties like onstage and reference).

As I’m also a Flex user and I’ve started to build layout for Flash taking example of the Flex framework.

In this version you’ll find a canvas, a horizontal box, a vertical box and a tile. Those new classes will be found in a layout package: CanvasUI, HBoxUI, VBoxUI and TileUI. All kind of components you can find in the Flex framework, even the name is very close so you don’t get lost with alien class name. Let’s keep things simple.

Before we start on the new classes, let’s see what the changes in BaseUI and ElementUI are. Well, almost nothing changed in appearance. Bugs have been solved and few methods and properties added.


Method: contains Return true of false if the BaseUI instance already contains the DisplayObject, like you can find in a DisplayObjectContainer such as Sprite or MovieClip.

Property: autoRefresh (default true) This is a global setting, meaning all the ElementUI created by adding DisplayObject to the BaseUI instance will get the same setting, it can be overridden in each ElementUI instance. By default, when you set a property on an ElementUI instance, the size and positions of the DisplayObject are automatically calculated and “refreshed”. Using autoRefresh set to false, you’ll have to refresh yourself the element by using the refresh methods. This applies only for setting properties, the elements will still be automatically “refreshed” when the Event.RESIZE is triggered. This property is useful if you have a lot of DisplayObject and you don’t want to execute some useless code.


Property: autoRefresh (default true) See BaseUI autoRefresh description above.

Properties: forceReferenceHeight and forceReferenceWidth BaseUI is using width and height to set the position of the DisplayObject, sometimes the size can be disturbed by mask or components. They are some properties to help you handle these problems, for example: useInitialSize or bypassSize. I’ve added these two properties and they are the strongest reference that will be used for calculate a new position.

Other layouts will be built, at least a Grid and another Canvas to handle overlapping. I'm basically waiting the official Flash Player 10 release as it has a nice text layout manager!

I’ll write a complete tutorial in the future, let’s see the layouts classes in details.

HBoxUI, VBoxUI and TileUI are subclasses of CanvasUI that is a subclass of MovieClip.

A canvas is containing: - a Wrapper to handle the size of the canvas - a Sprite container containing the children added in the canvas - a Mask to hide the content that is outside of the canvas (optional) - a Scrollpane component to handle scrollbars if the content is bigger than the canvas (optional)


The main meaning of a canvas is having an area you can resize without having the content resized. As in Flex, the canvas is an absolute layout and children can overlap. It will be possible to handle some behaviors impossible without. It is also the easiest way to have a centered fixed area in the browser and easily handle ElementUI inside.

To create a canvas:

 var canvas:CanvasUI = new CanvasUI(); 

A canvas constructor can take 4 optional parameters: width, height, layoutScroll, layoutMask. By default, CanvasUI build a mask to show only the content within the size specified and creates scrollbars (scrollpane instance) if the content is bigger than the size specified. If you don’t need the mask or the scrollbar, just set them to false when you create the instance. If you set the layoutScroll to false, you don’t need a scrollpane component in the flash library (or SWC for Flex SDK user), it will not be imported or created. For example:

 var canvas:CanvasUI = new CanvasUI(200, 200, false, false); 

A canvas has a background color and alpha (default is 0), you can set those values if you want to see your canvas:

 canvas.canvasColor = 0xFF0000; canvas.canvasAlpha = 0.5; 

You can use all the ElementUI properties, for example: top, bottom, width, ratio, etc… straight on the canvas. The only difference, unlike ElementUI, the width and height percentage is set with others properties (percentWidth and percentHeight). For example:

 canvas.horizontalCenter = 0; canvas.percentWidth =80%; // or “80” or 80 canvas.bottom = 20; canvas.height = 300; 

A canvas has an internal BaseUI instance (for wrapper, mask and scrollpane) and another for the children. The internal BaseUI instance has the property autoRefresh set to false to keep good performance. It means when you are done setting the properties for the canvas, you must refresh it (this is only for the canvas, you don’t need to do that after adding children):


You can add children as you would do with a Sprite or other DisplayObjectContainer using the addChild method. You can also use addChildUI to add a child and an ElementUI instance will be created. You can also set ElementUI properties on the children, for example:

 var el:ElementUI = canvas.addChildUI(mySprite); el.ratio = ElementUI.RATIO\_IN; = {top:10, bottom:10, left:10, right:10}; 
 var el:ElementUI = canvas.getChildUI(mySprite); canvas.getChildUI(mySprite).bottom = 20; canvas.getChildUIByName("mySprite").right = 20; canvas.removeChildUI(mySprite); 

CanvasUI is a mix between inheritance and polymorphism to make behaviors working properly. Most of the MovieClip methods and properties are accessible from the canvas instance. You might find some missing or not working properly, testing all methods and properties between DisplayObjectContainer and MovieClip is a hudge work as some are applied on the wrapper, others on the canvas and others on the container. If you’ve got a problem, you can access to the internal elements through properties.

HBoxUI, VboxUI and TileUI

These layouts are subclassing the CanvasUI and you’re not free to set the position of the children, they are calculated internally. You’ll find some properties common in the Flex layouts.

HBox horizontally lays out its children one by one, you have access to properties like horizontalGap, alignChildren, verticalCenterChildren and padding. Here is an example:

 var hbox:HBoxUI = new HBoxUI(); addChild(hbox); hbox.horizontalGap = 5; hbox.alignChildren = HBoxUI.ALIGN\_CENTER; hbox.verticalCenterChildren = 40; hbox.padding = new Padding(10, 10, 25, 10); = "hbox"; hbox.reference = this; hbox.percentWidth = "50%"; hbox.height = 200; hbox.right = 20; hbox.bottom = 20; hbox.canvasAlpha = .4; hbox.refresh(); hbox.addChild(mySprite1); hbox.addChild(mySprite2); hbox.addChild(mySprite3); 

VBox vertically lays out its children one by one, you have access to properties like verticalGap, alignChildren, horizontalCenterChildren and padding. Here is an example:

 var vbox:VBoxUI = new VBoxUI(); addChildUI(vbox); vbox.alignChildren = VBoxUI.ALIGN\_CENTER; vbox.horizontalCenterChildren = 40; vbox.padding = new Padding(10, 25, 10, 10); = "vbox"; vbox.reference = this; vbox.percentWidth = "50%"; vbox.height = 200; vbox.right = 20; vbox.bottom = 20; vbox.canvasAlpha = .4; vbox.refresh(); vbox.addChild(mySprite1); vbox.addChild(mySprite2); vbox.addChild(mySprite3); 

TileUI lays out its children in a grid of equal-sized cells. You can set additional properties like horizontalGap, verticalGap, direction and padding. Here is an example:

 var tile:TileUI = new TileUI(); addChildUI(tile); tile.direction = TileUI.DIRECTION\_HORIZONTAL; tile.padding = new Padding(10, 10, 10, 10); = "tile"; tile.reference = this; tile.percentWidth = "50%"; tile.height = 200; tile.right = 20; tile.bottom = 20; tile.canvasAlpha = .4; tile.refresh(); tile.addChild(mySprite1); tile.addChild(mySprite2); tile.addChild(mySprite3); 

Demo Tween

It is not working smoothly in some browsers (Firefox seems the slowest one), but you can easily tween a new position and size after a resize event. ElementUI is using an Event before applying the new values to the DisplayObject. You can add a listener, stop the propagation and handle yourself the movements. The demo link is at the end of the post or in the source.

I’ve included the demos in the source, Flex SDK users and Linux users will find a SWC of the Scrollpane classes and skin.

Hope you like it and find it useful.

Demo BaseUI
Demo CanvasUI
Demo HBoxUI
Demo VBoxUI
Demo TileUI
Demo Tween