What’s new in ActionScript 3.0

Although ActionScript 3.0 contains many classes and features that will be familiar to ActionScript programmers, ActionScript 3.0 is architecturally and conceptually different from previous versions of ActionScript. The enhancements in ActionScript 3.0 include new features of the core language and an improved Flash Player API that provides increased control of low-level objects.

Note: Adobe® AIR™ applications can also use the Flash Player APIs.

Core language features

The core language defines the basic building blocks of the programming language, such as statements, expressions, conditions, loops, and types. ActionScript 3.0 contains many new features that speed up the development process.

Run-time exceptions

ActionScript 3.0 reports more error conditions than previous versions of ActionScript. Run-time exceptions are used for common error conditions, improving the debugging experience and enabling you to develop applications that handle errors robustly. Run-time errors can provide stack traces annotated with source file and line number information, helping you quickly pinpoint errors.

Run-time types

In ActionScript 2.0, type annotations were primarily a developer aid; at run time, all values were dynamically typed. In ActionScript 3.0, type information is preserved at run time, and used for a number of purposes. Flash Player 9 and the Adobe AIR runtime perform run-time type checking, improving the system’s type safety. Type information is also used to represent variables in native machine representations, improving performance and reducing memory usage.

Sealed classes

ActionScript 3.0 introduces the concept of sealed classes. A sealed class possesses only the fixed set of properties and methods that were defined at compile time; additional properties and methods cannot be added. This enables stricter compile-time checking, resulting in more robust programs. It also improves memory usage by not requiring an internal hash table for each object instance. Dynamic classes are also possible using the dynamic keyword. All classes in ActionScript 3.0 are sealed by default, but can be declared to be dynamic with the dynamic

Method closures

ActionScript 3.0 enables a method closure to automatically remember its original object instance. This feature is useful for event handling. In ActionScript 2.0, method closures would not remember what object instance they were extracted from, leading to unexpected behavior when the method closure was invoked. The mx.utils.Delegate class was a popular workaround, but it is no longer needed.

ECMAScript for XML (E4X)

ActionScript 3.0 implements ECMAScript for XML (E4X), recently standardized as ECMA-357. E4X offers a natural, fluent set of language constructs for manipulating XML. In contrast to traditional XML-parsing APIs, XML with E4X performs like a native data type of the language. E4X streamlines the development of applications that manipulate XML by drastically reducing the amount of code needed. For more information about the ActionScript 3.0 implementation of E4X, see “Working with XML” on page 207. To view ECMA’s E4X specification, go to http://www.ecma-international.org.

Regular expressions

ActionScript 3.0 includes native support for regular expressions so that you can quickly search for and manipulate strings. ActionScript 3.0 implements support for regular expressions as they are defined in the ECMAScript (ECMA- 262) edition 3 language specification.


Namespaces are similar to the traditional access specifiers used to control visibility of declarations (public, private, protected). They work as custom access specifiers, which can have names of your choice. Namespaces are outfitted with a Universal Resource Identifier (URI) to avoid collisions, and are also used to represent XML namespaces when you work with E4X.

New primitive types

ActionScript 2.0 has a single numeric type, Number, a double-precision, floating-point number. ActionScript 3.0 contains the int and uint types. The int type is a 32-bit signed integer that lets ActionScript code take advantage of the fast integer math capabilities of the CPU. The int type is useful for loop counters and variables where integers are used. The uint type is an unsigned, 32-bit integer type that is useful for RGB color values, byte counts, and more.


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