Handling a Click Event

This is a short segment from my Programming for e-Learning Developers book.

We will cover ToolBook and Flash in this post and finish with JavaScript and Silverlight in a future post.

ToolBook – OpenScript

OpenScript® is the name of ToolBook’s internal programming or scripting language. It can be used for native CBT as well as for automation tools. OpenScript has one of the easiest syntaxes for handling events. Here is the syntax for a simple “buttonClick” handler.

to handle buttonClick
	get ASYM_MessageBox("This is a test","Programming 101", "information", "OK")
end buttonClick

With OpenScript, unlike some of the other environments we’ll examine, the script editor does not provide a list of available events, though you can find the list in the online help. To designate that you are handling an event (as opposed to writing a function, which we will learn to do later), you use the to handle syntax. Next, we forward the message. A powerful feature of ToolBook is the concept of the message hierarchy, allowing messages to “bubble” to higher levels.

After forwarding the message, we call a function or, more generically, a method, of the language. In this case, the function is ASYM_MessageBox. It has four parameters that we are using:

  1. The text of the message.
  2. The caption of the message box.
  3. The name of the icon to use.
  4. What button(s) to display.
ToolBook – Actions Editor

The Actions Editor is a visual programming environment that is a front end for OpenScript when in author mode or when deploying that native .tbk and is a front end for JavaScript when your ToolBook book is exported to HTML. Once you open the Actions Editor for a particular object, it will pick a default event (on click in the case of a button). You can click on the event and see a list of all available events. Any events which have actions associated with them are shown in bold. Once you have selected the desired event, you then drag actions (methods using our terminology from the previous section) from the Actions Palette. There is only a single parameter for the Display alert method: the text to be shown in the message box.


Flash is actually the most complicated of the environments for handling events, though its approach is quite powerful as well. Beginning with ActionScript 3, Flash no longer allows script within objects but rather only in a layer, usually named the Actions layer for obvious reasons. You can insert a layer by right-clicking on the timeline and choosing Insert Layer. You would normally name it Actions and make it the top layer, but that is not required. I like to hide the layer to avoid putting objects on that layer. Again, nothing prevents that but most developers recommend keeping objects off the Actions layer. You then click on the desired frame and go to the Window menu – Actions (or press F9) to bring up the editor. The lowercase a in the frame indicates that there are actions in the layer.

ActionScript uses the concept of the listener. In simple terms, a listener associates an event such as a button click with a method or event handler. This method must have the right signature, meaning that it must have the kind of parameters that the event generates. For example, a “key press” event will send parameters (also called arguments in this context) that tell the method what key was in fact pressed and whether the Ctrl, Alt, etc. keys were held down at the same time. The nice thing about listeners is that you can set up multiple functions that listen for a single event or one function that listens for multiple events. This can be quite handy, as we’ll see in some of the examples later in the book. The hard part to get your hands around is that you need to set up the listener relationship explicitly as shown below.


function runInitialLoad():void {
	// set up listener
	Button1.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, alertMessage);

function alertMessage(eventId:MouseEvent):void {
	DisplayText.text = "This is a test.";

We start by calling the runInitialLoad function. In Flash, a call like this that is not inside a function will be called as soon as the movie enters the frame. We use this function to set up the listener before anything else happens (in particular, before the user clicks the button). Note that lines like this end in a semicolon (;). I tend to use Flash like a page or form-based environment like ToolBook or Silverlight, but code like the stop(); line remind you that it is timeline-based. The stop line keeps us from moving to the next frame.

The first thing to note is that Flash uses function for all methods. Any parameters to the function go between the parentheses. If there are no parameters, as in this case, you still need to include the parentheses. After that, you should specify the return type (though it is not required). A return type of void means that this function does not return anything . The reason I recommend specifying the return type is that the programming language will then let you know if you try to do something invalid. We’ll see more examples of this technique later in the book. At the end of the line is the left bracket { that shows the beginning of the function. This can go on the next line if desired but the most common syntax is to put it at the end of the line. Basically, any line without a bracket needs a semicolon instead.

The next line is a comment (denoted by // in ActionScript) so that someone reading the code will understand what you are doing. Finally, we set up the actual listener. This is the typical way to call methods or set properties (covered in a later section) across languages. We call the addEventListener method of the Button1 object. The first parameter is the type of event you want to handle. You can type the first part (MouseEvent) and then the . to get a popup list of options. The events are shown in all capitals like CLICK. If you wanted a different event like RIGHT_CLICK, you could choose that instead. The second parameter is the name of the function that you want to call, alertMessage in this case. We then end the function with the right bracket }. This typically goes on its own line and is indented to match the indentation of the line with its matching left bracket. So in this case, it lines up with the word function.

Finally, we have the alertMessage function. Since it is handling an event, its signature has to have an event object (of type MouseEvent) as the parameter. We again set the return type as void, meaning that the function doesn’t return a value. Since ActionScript 3 does not have an Alert component, we set the text of a field instead.


About Jeff Rhodes
Jeff Rhodes is the Chief Technical Officer and owner of Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation, a leader in developing commercial software that Improves the Lives of Training Developers. He graduated at the top of his class at the Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Jeff received a Masters degree in Economics from the London School of Economics, which he attended under a British Marshall Scholarship. Jeff is the author of "Programming for e-Learning Developers: ToolBook, Flash, JavaScript, & Silverlight" and "VBTrain.Net: Creating Computer and Web Based Training with Visual Basic .NET." He also co-wrote "The ToolBook Companion." He has had numerous articles on training development published and is a frequent presenter at conferences both in the U.S. and Europe. Jeff lives in Colorado Springs with his wife Sue and sons Derek and Michael.

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