A Flash component is a stand-alone piece of content (movie clip), which has defined adjustable parameters and can be reused within Flash projects. Up-to-date Flash components are building blocks for creating rich Internet applications on the web. By providing complex pieces that behave in a consistent way and are ready to use and customize, components significantly reduce the time and effort needed to develop applications from scratch. As well as built-in Flash files, components can include both graphics and code. Self-contained functionality of Flash components enables their easy integration into any project. For example, a component can be a scroll bar, a site form, a gallery, or even something that has no graphics at all, such as a timer, a server connection utility, or a custom XML parser.
Macromedia Flash 5 contained the Smartclips feature, which is considered to be the predecessor to Flash components. This was a movie-clip symbol that allowed its variables (or "clip parameters") to be set via a graphic user interface (GUI) in the authoring tool.
The notion "Flash component" first appeared within Macromedia Flash MX (as version 6, released on March 15, 2002). Components replaced and extended Smart Clips introduced in earlier versions of Flash. Macromedia Flash MX included seven Flash UI components: CheckBox, ComboBox, ListBox, PushButton, RadioButton, ScrollBar, and ScrollPane. Users could use those components separately to add simple user interaction to Flash movies, or together to create a complete user interface for Web forms or applications.
Ever since the Flash MX version, developers have had an opportunity to create and distribute their own Flash components. The history of Flash components produced by third-party developers starts from this point.
Flash MX 2004 delivered an extended component library with a new architecture. In addition to the UI components, Flash MX 2004 Pro came with Media Components and Data Components. All this plus significant updates in ActionScript gave more opportunities to third-party developed components as well.
The next noticeable update to the Flash component library was made within the Adobe Flash CS3 version. The file size and performance of projects using components improved. Developers gained the ability to style and skin components to update the graphics that could fit their custom designs.
In Adobe Flash CS4, version components have grown into powerful tools for creating rich interactive applications on the web. By providing complex blocks that behave in a consistent way and are ready to use and customize, components significantly reduce the time and effort needed to develop applications from scratch.