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What Happens When You Create A Flexbox Flex Container?




What Happens When You Create A Flexbox Flex Container?

Rachel Andrew



In a short series of articles, I’m going to spend some time in detailed unpacking of Flexbox — in the same way I have done in the past with grid. We’ll have a look at the things Flexbox was designed for, what it really does well, and why we might not choose it as a layout method. In this article, we will take a detailed look at what actually happens when you add display: flex to your stylesheet.

A Flex Container, Please!

In order to use Flexbox, you need an element that will be the flex container. In your CSS, you use display: flex:

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: display: flex; by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

Let us spend a little while thinking about what display: flex really means. In the Display Module Level 3, each value of display is described as actually being a combination of two things: an inner display model, and an outer display model. When we add display: flex, we are really defining display: block flex. The outer display type of our flex container is block; it acts like a block level element in normal flow. The inner display type is flex, so items directly inside our container will participate in flex layout.

This is something you might never have really thought about but probably understand anyway. The flex container acts like any other block on your page. If you have a paragraph following by a flex container, both of these things behave as we have become accustomed to block elements behaving.

We can also define our container with a value of inline-flex which is like using display: inline flex, i.e. a flex container that acts like an inline level element, with children that participate in flex layout. The children of our inline flex container behave in the same way that children of our block flex container behave; the difference is how the container itself behaves in the overall layout.

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: display: inline-flex; by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

This concept of elements having an outer display type, which defines how they behave as a box on the page (plus an inner display type) dictating how their children behave is quite useful. You can apply this thinking to any box in CSS. How does this element act? How do the children of this element act? The answers relate to their outer and inner display models.

Rows Or Columns?

Once we have defined our flex container, some initial values come into play. Without our adding any extra properties, the flex items display as a row. This happens because the initial value of the flex-direction property is row. If you don’t set it, you get a row.

The flex-direction property is how we set the direction of the main axis. Other values for flex-direction are:

  • column
  • row-reverse
  • column-reverse

With our items in a row, the items are placed with the first item at the start edge of the inline dimension and display in the order that they appear in the source. In the specification, this edge is described as main-start:


main-start is at the beginning of the row


main-start is at the start of the inline dimension (Large preview)

If we use the value column, the items begin to lay out from the start edge of the block dimension and therefore form a column.


Items laid out as a column, main-start is at the top


main-start is the start of the block dimension (Large preview)

When we use row-reverse, the location of main-start and main-end are switched; therefore, the items lay themselves out one after the other ending up in reverse order.


Items start at the end of the row


main-start is at the end of the inline dimension (Large preview)

The value column-reverse does the same thing. It’s important to remember that these values don’t “switch the order of items” although this is what we see happening, they change the place where the flow of items starts: by switching where main-start is. So our items do display in reverse order, but that is because they start laying out at the other end of the container.

It is also important to remember that when this happens, the effect is purely visual. We are asking the items to display themselves starting at the end edge; they are still flowing in the same order and this is the order that your screen reader uses and also the order they can be tabbed through. You should never use row-reverse when what you really want to do is change the order of the items. Make that change in your document source.

The Two Axes Of Flexbox

We have already exposed an important feature of flexbox: the ability to switch the main axis from row to column. This axis switching is why I think that often it is easier to understand things like alignment in Grid Layout first. With Grid, working in two dimensions, you can align on both axes in pretty much the same way. Flexbox is a little trickier because different things happen depending on whether you are working with the main axis, or the cross axis.

We have already encountered the main axis, i.e. the axis that you define as the value of flex-direction. The cross axis is the other dimension. If you have set flex-direction: row, your main axis is along the row, and your cross axis is down the columns. With flex-direction: column, the main axis is down the column and your cross axis along the rows. It is here where we need to explore another important feature of Flexbox, and that is the fact that it is not tied to the physical dimensions of the screen. We don’t talk about a row running from left to right, or a column from top to bottom, because that is not always the case.

Writing Modes

When I described row and column above, I mentioned the block and inline dimensions. This article is written in English, which is a horizontal writing mode. This means that when you ask Flexbox to give you a row, you get a horizontal display of your flex items. In this case, main-start is on the left — the place in which sentences start in English.

If I were working in a right-to-left language such as Arabic, then the start edge would be on the right:

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: row with rtl text by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

The initial values of flexbox mean that if all I do is create a flex container, my items would start on the right and be displayed moving towards the left. The start edge in the inline direction is the place where sentences start in the writing mode you are using.

If you happen to be in a vertical writing mode and ask for a row, your row will run vertically, because that is the way in which rows of text run in a vertical language. You can try this by adding the writing-mode property to your flex container and setting it to the value vertical-lr. Now, when you set flex-direction to row, you get a vertical column of items.

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: row with a vertical writing mode by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

So a row can run horizontally, with a main-start of the left or the right, and also run vertically with main-start at the top. It’s still a flex-direction of row even if our horizontal text accustomed minds find it hard to think of a row running vertically!

To cause the items to lay themselves out in the block dimension, we set the value of flex-direction to column or column-reverse. In English (or in Arabic), we then see the items displaying one on top of the other down the page, starting at the top of the container.

In a Vertical Writing Mode, the Block dimension runs across the page, as this is the direction blocks are laid out in those writing modes. If you ask for a column in vertical-lr, your blocks will run left to right vertically:

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: column in vertical-lr writing mode by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

However, no matter in which direction the blocks are displayed, if you are working with a column then you are working in the block dimension.

Understanding the fact that a row or a column can run in different physical directions is helpful in understanding some of the terminology being used for Grid and Flexbox. We don’t refer to ‘left and right’ or ‘top and bottom’ in Flexbox and Grid because we don’t make any assumption as to the writing mode of our document. All of CSS is becoming more writing mode aware; if you are interested in some other properties and values being implemented to make the rest of CSS behave in this same way, read my article on Logical Properties and Values.

As a summary, remember that:

  • flex-direction: row

    • main axis = inline dimension
    • main-start will be where sentences begin in that writing mode
    • cross axis = block dimension
  • flex-direction: column

    • main axis = block dimension
    • main-start will be where blocks start to lay out in that writing mode
    • cross axis = inline dimension

Initial Alignment

Some other things happen when we apply display: flex. Some initial alignment happens. In a future article in this series, we will take a good look at alignment; however, in our exploration of display: flex, we should look at the initial values that are applied.

Note: It is worth noting that while these alignment properties started life in the Flexbox specification, the Box Alignment specification will ultimately supersede those defined in the Flexbox specification, as explained in the Flexbox specification.

Main-Axis Alignment

The initial value of justify-content is set to flex-start. It is as if our CSS was:

.container 
    display: flex;
    justify-content: flex-start;

This is the reason that our flex items line up at the start edge of the flex container. It’s also the reason why when we set row-reverse they switch to the end edge because that edge then becomes the start of the main axis.

When you see an alignment property which begins with justify-, then it applies to the main axis in Flexbox. So justify-content performs main-axis alignment and aligns our items to the start.

The other possible values for justify-content are:

  • flex-end
  • center
  • space-around
  • space-between
  • space-evenly (added in Box Alignment)

These values deal with the distribution of available space in the flex container. This is why the items are moved around, or spaced out. If you add justify-content: space-between, then any available space is shared out between the items. However, this can only happen if there is free space to start with. If you had a tightly packed flex container (with no extra space after all the items had been laid out), then justify-content would do nothing at all.

You can see this if you switch your flex-direction to column. Without a height on the flex container there is no free space, so setting justify-content: space-between won’t achieve anything. If you add a height and make it so that the container is taller than is required to display the items, then the property has an effect:

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: column with a height by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

Cross-Axis Alignment

Items are also aligned on the cross axis with a single line flex container; the alignment that we are performing is to align the boxes against each other in the line. In the next example, one of our boxes has more content in than all the others. Something is telling the other boxes to stretch to the same height. That something is the align-items property, which has an initial value of stretch:

See the Pen Smashing Guide to Layout: clearfix by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

When you see an alignment property which begins with align- and you are in flexbox, then you are dealing with cross-axis alignment, and align-items aligns the items within the flex line. The other possible values are:

  • flex-start
  • flex-end
  • center
  • baseline

If you do not want the boxes to all stretch to the height of the tallest, then setting align-self: flex-start will cause them all to align to the start edge of the cross axis.

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: align-items: flex-start by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

Initial Values For The Flex Items

Finally, the flex items themselves also have initial values, they are set to:

  • flex-grow: 0
  • flex-shrink: 1
  • flex-basis: auto

This means that our items will not grow by default to fill the available space on the main axis. If flex-grow were set to a positive value, this would cause the items to grow and take up any available space.

The items can shrink, however, as flex-shrink is set to the positive value of 1. This means that if we have a very narrow flex container, then the items will get as small as they can before any overflow happens. This is sensible behavior; in general, we want things to stay inside their boxes and not overflow if there is space to display them.

In order to get the best possible layout by default, flex-basis is set to auto. We will have a proper look at what that means in a future article in this series, however, most of the time you can think of auto as “big enough to fit the content”. What you will see happen, when you have flex items that fill the container, and one of those items has a larger amount of content than the others, the larger item will be given more space.

See the Pen Smashing Flexbox Series 1: initial values of flex items by Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) on CodePen.

This is Flexbox’s flexibility in action. With a flex-basis of auto and no sizing applied to the items, the flex items have a base size of the max-content size. This would be the size they would be if they stretched out and did no wrapping whatsoever. Then, space is taken away from each item in proportion, detailed in the following note in the flexbox specification.

“Note: The flex shrink factor is multiplied by the flex base size when distributing negative space. This distributes negative space in proportion to how much the item is able to shrink, so that e.g. a small item won’t shrink to zero before a larger item has been noticeably reduced.”

The larger item has less space taken away and so we get the final layout. You can compare the two screenshots below, both taken using the example above. However, in the first screenshot, the third box has a smaller amount of content, and therefore our columns have a more equal distribution of space.


The example with a larger item shows the item taking up more space


The items flex to give the larger item more room (Large preview)

Flexbox here is helping us to end up with a reasonable end result given no other input from the person writing the CSS. Rather than reduce the space evenly and end up with a very tall item with a couple words on each line, it assigns that item more space to lay itself out. Within this kind of behavior is the key to the real use cases for Flexbox. Flexbox is at its best when used to lay sets of things out — along one axis — in a flexible and content aware way. I’m touching on a little of the detail here, but we will take a proper look at these algorithms later in this series.

Summary

In this article, I’ve taken the initial values of Flexbox, in order to explain what actually happens when you say display: flex. It’s a surprising amount once you begin to unpack it, and contained within these few properties are many of the key features of flex layouts.

Flex layouts are flexible: they try to make good choices by default about your content — squishing and stretching to get the best readability. Flex layouts are writing mode aware: the directions of row and column relate to the writing mode being used. Flex layouts allow alignment of the items as a group on the main axis, by choosing how space is distributed. They allow alignment of items within their flex line, moving the items on the cross axis in relationship to each other. Importantly, flex layouts understand how big your content is, and try to make good basic decisions in order to display it. In future articles, we will explore these areas in more depth, and consider further exactly when and why we might choose to use Flexbox.

Smashing Editorial
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What Happens When You Create A Flexbox Flex Container?

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What Do You Need To Know When Converting A Flash Game Into HTML5?




What Do You Need To Know When Converting A Flash Game Into HTML5?

Tomasz Grajewski



With the rise of HTML5 usage, many companies start redoing their most popular titles to get rid of outdated Flash and match their products to the latest industry standards. This change is especially visible in the Gambling/Casino & Entertainment industries and has been happening for several years now, so a decent selection of titles has already been converted.

Unfortunately, when browsing the Internet, you can quite often stumble upon examples of a seemingly hasty job, which results in the lover quality of the final product. That’s why it’s a good idea for game developers to dedicate some of their time for getting familiar with the subject of Flash to HTML5 conversion and learning which mistakes to avoid before getting down to work.

Among the reasons for choosing JavaScript instead of Flash, apart from the obvious technical issues, is also the fact that changing your game design from SWF to JavaScript can yield a better user experience, which in turn give it a modern look. But how to do it? Do you need a dedicated JavaScript game converter to get rid of this outdated technology? Well, Flash to HTML5 conversion can be a piece of cake — here’s how to take care of it.

How To Improve HTML5 Game Experience

Converting a game to another platform is an excellent opportunity to improve it, fix its issues, and increase the audience. Below are few things that can be easily done and are worth considering:

  • Supporting mobile devices
    Converting from Flash to JavaScript allows reaching a broader audience (users of mobile devices); support for touchscreen controls usually needs to be implemented into the game, too. Luckily, both Android and iOS devices now also support WebGL, so 30 or 60 FPS rendering usually can be easily achieved. In many cases, 60 FPS won’t cause any problems, which will only improve with time, as mobile devices become more and more performant.

  • Improving performance
    When it comes to comparing ActionScript and JavaScript, the latter is faster than the first one. Other than that, converting a game is a good occasion to revisit algorithms used in game code. With JavaScript game development you can optimize them or completely strip unused code that’s left by original developers.
  • Fixing bugs and making improvements to the gameplay
    Having new developers looking into game’s source code can help to fix known bugs or discover new and very rare ones. This would make playing the game less irritating for the players, which would make them spend more time on your site and encourage to try your other games.
  • Adding web analytics
    In addition to tracking the traffic, web analytics can also be used to gather knowledge on how players behave in a game and where they get stuck during gameplay.
  • Adding localization
    This would increase the audience and is important for kids from other countries playing your game. Or maybe your game is not in English and you want to support that language?

Why Skipping HTML And CSS For In-Game UI Will Improve Game Performance

When it comes to JavaScript game development, it may be tempting to leverage HTML and CSS for in-game buttons, widgets, and other GUI elements. My advice is to be careful here. It’s counterintuitive, but actually leveraging DOM elements is less performant on complex games and this gains more significance on mobile. If you want to achieve constant 60 FPS on all platforms, then resigning from HTML and CSS may be required.

Non-interactive GUI elements, such as health bars, ammo bars, or score counters can be easily implemented in Phaser by using regular images (the Phaser.Image class), leveraging the .crop property for trimming and the Phaser.Text class for simple text labels.

Such interactive elements as buttons and checkboxes can be implemented by using the built-in Phaser.Button class. Other, more complex elements can be composed of different simple types, like groups, images, buttons and text labels.

Note: Each time you instantiate a Phaser.Text or PIXI.Text object, a new texture is created to render text onto. This additional texture breaks vertex batching, so be careful not to have too many of them.

How To Ensure That Custom Fonts Have Loaded

If you want to render text with a custom vector font (e.g. TTF or OTF), then you need to ensure that the font has already been loaded by the browser before rendering any text. Phaser v2 doesn’t provide a solution for this purpose, but another library can be used: Web Font Loader.

Assuming that you have a font file and include the Web Font Loader in your page, then below is a simple example of how to load a font:

Make a simple CSS file that will be loaded by Web Font Loader (you don’t need to include it in your HTML):

@font-face 
    // This name you will use in JS
    font-family: 'Gunplay';
    // URL to the font file, can be relative or absolute
    src: url('../fonts/gunplay.ttf') format('truetype');
    font-weight: 400;

Now define a global variable named WebFontConfig. Something as simple as this will usually suffice:

var WebFontConfig = 
   'classes': false,
   'timeout': 0,
   'active': function() 
       // The font has successfully loaded...
   ,
   'custom': 
       'families': ['Gunplay'],
       // URL to the previously mentioned CSS
       'urls': ['styles/fonts.css']
   
};

It the end, remember to put your code in the ‘active’ callback shown above. And that’s it!

How To Make It Easier For Users To Save The Game

To persistently store local data in ActionScript you would use the SharedObject class. In JavaScript, the simple replacement is localStorage API, which allows storing strings for later retrieval, surviving page reloads.

Saving data is very simple:

var progress = 15;
localStorage.setItem('myGame.progress', progress);

Note that in the above example the progress variable, which is a number, will be converted to a string.

Loading is simple too, but remember that retrieved values will be strings or null if they don’t exists.

var progress = parseInt(localStorage.getItem('myGame.progress')) || 0;

Here we’re ensuring that the return value is a number. If it doesn’t exist, then 0 will be assigned to the progress variable.

You can also store and retrieve more complex structures, for example, JSON:

var stats = 'goals': 13, 'wins': 7, 'losses': 3, 'draws': 1;
localStorage.setItem('myGame.stats', JSON.stringify(stats));
…
var stats = JSON.parse(localStorage.getItem('myGame.stats')) || {};

There are some cases when the localStorage object won’t be available. For example, when using the file:// protocol or when a page is loaded in a private window. You can use the try and catch statement to ensure your code will both continue working and use default values, what is shown in the example below:

try 
    var progress = localStorage.getItem('myGame.progress');
 catch (exception) 
    // localStorage not available, use default values

Another thing to remember is that the stored data is saved per domain, not per URL. So if there is a risk that many games are hosted on a single domain, then it’s better to use a prefix (namespace) when saving. In the example above 'myGame.' is such a prefix and you usually want to replace it with the name of the game.

Note: If your game is embedded in an iframe, then localStorage won’t persist on iOS. In this case, you would need to store data in the parent iframe instead.

How To Leverage Replacing Default Fragment Shader

When Phaser and PixiJS render your sprites, they use a simple internal fragment shader. It doesn’t have many features because it’s tailored for a speed. However, you can replace that shader for your purposes. For example, you can leverage it to inspect overdraw or support more features for rendering.

Below is an example of how to supply your own default fragment shader to Phaser v2:

function preload() 
    this.load.shader('filename.frag', 'shaders/filename.frag');


function create() 
    var renderer = this.renderer;
    var batch = renderer.spriteBatch;
    batch.defaultShader = 
        new PIXI.AbstractFilter(this.cache.getShader('filename.frag'));
    batch.setContext(renderer.gl);

Note: It’s important to remember that the default shader is used for ALL sprites as well as when rendering to a texture. Also, keep in mind that using complex shaders for all in-game sprites will greatly reduce rendering performance.

How To Change Tinting Method With A Default Shader

Custom default shader can be used to replace default tinting method in Phaser and PixiJS.

Tinting in Phaser and PixiJS works by multiplying texture pixels by a given color. Multiplication always darkens colors, which obviously is not a problem; it’s simply different from the Flash tinting. For one of our games, we needed to implement tinting similar to Flash and decided that a custom default shader could be used. Below is an example of such fragment shader:

// Specific tint variant, similar to the Flash tinting that adds
// to the color and does not multiply. A negative of a color
// must be supplied for this shader to work properly, i.e. set
// sprite.tint to 0 to turn whole sprite to white.
precision lowp float;

varying vec2 vTextureCoord;
varying vec4 vColor;

uniform sampler2D uSampler;

void main(void) 
    vec4 f = texture2D(uSampler, vTextureCoord);
    float a = clamp(vColor.a, 0.00001, 1.0);
    gl_FragColor.rgb = f.rgb * vColor.a + clamp(1.0 - vColor.rgb/a, 0.0, 1.0) * vColor.a * f.a;
    gl_FragColor.a = f.a * vColor.a;

This shader lightens pixels by adding a base color to the tint one. For this to work, you need to supply negative of the color you want. Therefore, in order to get white, you need to set:

sprite.tint = 0x000000;  // This colors the sprite to white
Sprite.tint = 0x00ffff;  // This gives red

The result in our game looks like this (notice how tanks flash white when hit):

Example of the custom default shader in game development
Custom default shader (tanks flashing white).

How To Inspect Overdraw To Detect Fill Rate Issues

Replacing default shader can also be leveraged to help with debugging. Below I’ve explained how overdraw can be detected with such a shader.

Overdrawing happens when many or all pixels on the screen are rendered multiple times. For example, many objects taking the same place and being rendered one over another. How many pixels a GPU can render per second is described as fill rate. Modern desktop GPUs have excessive fill rate for usual 2D purposes, but mobile ones are a lot slower.

There is a simple method of finding out how many times each pixel on the screen is written by replacing the default global fragment shader in PixiJS and Phaser with this one:

void main(void) 
    gl_FragColor.rgb += 1.0 / 7.0;

This shader lightens pixels that are being processed. The number 7.0 indicates how many writes are needed to turn pixel white; you can tune this number to your liking. In other words, lighter pixels on screen were written several times, and white pixels were written at least 7 times.

This shader also helps to find both “invisible” objects that for some reason are still rendered and sprites that have excessive transparent areas around that need to be stripped (GPU still needs to process transparent pixels in your textures).


Example of the Overdraw shader in action in game development


Overdraw shader in action. (Large preview)

The picture on the left shows how a player sees the game, while the one on the right displays the effect of applying the overdraw shader to the same scene.

Why Physics Engines Are Your Friends

A physics engine is a middleware that’s responsible for simulating physics bodies (usually rigid body dynamics) and their collisions. Physics engines simulate 2D or 3D spaces, but not both. A typical physics engine will provide:

  • object movement by setting velocities, accelerations, joints, and motors;
  • detecting collisions between various shape types;
  • calculating collision responses, i.e. how two objects should react when they collide.

At Merixstudio, we’re big fans of the Box2D physics engine and used it on a few occasions. There is a Phaser plugin that works well for this purpose. Box2D is also used in the Unity game engine and GameMaker Studio 2.

While a physics engine will speed-up your development, there is a price you’ll have to pay: reduced runtime performance. Detecting collisions and calculating responses is a CPU-intensive task. You may be limited to several dozen dynamic objects in a scene on mobile phones or face degraded performance, as well as reduced frame rate deep below 60 FPS.


Example of the difference in the scene of a game with and withour Phaser physics debug overlay displayed on top


Phaser’s physics debug overlay. (Large preview)

The left part of the image is a scene from a game, while the right side shows the same scene with Phaser physics debug overlay displayed on top.

How To Export Sounds From A .fla File

If you have a Flash game sound effects inside of a .fla file, then exporting them from GUI is not possible (at least not in Adobe Animate CC 2017) due to the lack of menu option serving this purpose. But there is another solution — a dedicated script that does just that:

function normalizeFilename(name) 
   // Converts a camelCase name to snake_case name
   return name.replace(/([A-Z])/g, '_$1').replace(/^_/, '').toLowerCase();


function displayPath(path) 
   // Makes the file path more readable
   return unescape(path).replace('file:///', '').replace('


fl.outputPanel.clear();

if (fl.getDocumentDOM().library.getSelectedItems().length > 0)
   // Get only selected items
   var library = fl.getDocumentDOM().library.getSelectedItems();
else
   // Get all items
   var library = fl.getDocumentDOM().library.items;

// Ask user for the export destination directory
var root = fl.browseForFolderURL('Select a folder.');
var errors = 0;

for (var i = 0; i < library.length; i++) 
   var item = library[i];
   if (item.itemType !== 'sound')
       continue;

   var path = root + '/';

   if (item.originalCompressionType === 'RAW')
       path += normalizeFilename(item.name.split('.')[0]) + '.wav';
   else
       path += normalizeFilename(item.name);

   var success = item.exportToFile(path);
   if (!success)
       errors += 1;
   fl.trace(displayPath(path) + ': ' + (success ? 'OK' : 'Error'));


fl.trace(errors + ' error(s)');

How to use the script to export sound files:

  1. Save the code above as a .jsfl file on your computer;
  2. Open a .fla file with Adobe Animate;
  3. Select ‘Commands’ → ‘Run Command’ from the top menu and select the script in the dialogue that opens;
  4. Now another dialogue file pops up for selecting export destination directory.

And done! You should now have WAV files in the specified directory. What’s left to do is convert them to, for example, MP3’s, OGG, or AAC.

How To Use MP3s In Flash To HTML5 Convertions

The good old MP3 format is back, as some patents have expired and now every browser can decode and play MP3’s. This makes development a bit easier since finally there's no need to prepare two separate audio formats. Previously you needed, for instance, OGG and AAC files, while now MP3 will suffice.

Nonetheless, there are two important things you need to remember about MP3:

  • MP3’s need to decode after loading, what can be time-consuming, especially on mobile devices. If you see a pause after all your assets have loaded, then it probably means that MP3’s being decoded;
  • gaplessly playing looped MP3’s is a little problematic. The solution is to use mp3loop, about which you can read in the article posted by Compu Phase.

So, Why Should You Convert Flash To JavaScript?

As you can see, Flash to JavaScript conversion is not impossible if you know what to do. With knowledge and skill, you can stop struggling with Flash and enjoy the smooth, entertaining games created in JavaScript. Don't try to fix Flash — get rid of it before everyone is forced to do so!

Want To Learn More?

In this article, I was focused mainly on Phaser v2. However, a newer version of Phaser is now available, and I strongly encourage you to check it out, as it introduced a plethora of fresh, cool features, such as multiple cameras, scenes, tilemaps, or Matter.js physics engine.

If you are brave enough and want to create truly remarkable things in browsers, then WebGL is the right thing to learn from the ground up. It’s a lower level of abstraction than various game-building frameworks or tools but allows to achieve greater performance and quality even if you work on 2D games or demos. Among many websites which you may find useful when learning the basics of WebGL would be WebGL Fundamentals (uses interactive demos). In addition to that, to find out more about WebGL feature adoption rates, check WebGL Stats.

Always remember that there's no such thing as too much knowledge — especially when it comes to game development!

Smashing Editorial
(rb, ra, yk, il)


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What Do You Need To Know When Converting A Flash Game Into HTML5?

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Contributing To MDN Web Docs




Contributing To MDN Web Docs

Rachel Andrew



MDN Web Docs has been documenting the web platform for over twelve years and is now a cross-platform effort with contributions and an Advisory Board with members from Google, Microsoft and Samsung as well as those representing Firefox. Something that is fundamental to MDN is that it is a huge community effort, with the web community helping to create and maintain the documentation. In this article, I’m going to give you some pointers as to the places where you can help contribute to MDN and exactly how to do so.

If you haven’t contributed to an open source project before, MDN is a brilliant place to start. Skills needed range from copyediting, translating from English to other languages, HTML and CSS skills for creating Interactive Examples, or an interest in browser compatibility for updating Browser Compatibility data. What you don’t need to do is to write a whole lot of code to contribute. It’s very straightforward, and an excellent way to give back to the community if you have ever found these docs useful.

Contributing To The Documentation Pages

The first place you might want to contribute is to the MDN docs themselves. MDN is a wiki, so you can log in and start to help by correcting or adding to any of the documentation for CSS, HTML, JavaScript or any of the other parts of the web platform covered by MDN.

To start editing, you need to log in using GitHub. As is usual with a wiki, any editors of a page are listed, and this section will use your GitHub username. If you look at any of the pages on MDN contributors are listed at the bottom of the page, the below image shows the current contributors to the page on CSS Grid Layout.


A list showing names of people who contributed to this page


The contributors to the CSS Grid Layout page. (Large preview)

What Might You Edit?

Things that you might consider as an editor are fixing obvious typos and grammatical errors. If you are a good proofreader and copyeditor, then you may well be able to improve the readability of the docs by fixing any spelling or other errors that you spot.

You might also spot a technical error, or somewhere the specs have changed and where an update or clarification would be useful. With the huge range of web platform features covered by MDN and the rate of change, it is very easy for things to get out of date, if you spot something – fix it!

You may be able to use some specific knowledge you have to add additional information. For example, Eric Bailey has been adding Accessibility Concerns sections to many pages. This is a brilliant effort to highlight the things we should be thinking about when using a certain thing.


A screenshot of the Accessibility Concerns section


This section highlights the things we should be aware of when using background-color. (Large preview)

Another place you could add to a page is in adding “See also” links. These could be links to other parts of MDN, or to external resources. When adding external resources, these should be highly relevant to the property, element or technique being described by that document. A good candidate would be a tutorial which demonstrates how to use that feature, something which would give a reader searching for information a valuable next step.

How To Edit A Document?

Once you are logged in you will see a link to Edit on pages in MDN, clicking this will take you into a WYSIWYG editor for editing content. Your first few edits are likely to be small changes, in which case you should be able to follow your nose and edit the text. If you are making extensive edits, then it would be worth taking a look at the style guide first. There is also a guide to using the WYSIWYG Editor.

After making your edit, you can Preview and then Publish. Before publishing it is a good idea to explain what you added and why using the Revision Comment field.


Screenshot of this field in the edit form


Add a comment using the Revision Comment field. (Large preview)

Language Translations

Those of us with English as a first language are incredibly fortunate when it comes to information on the web, being able to get pretty much all of the information that we could ever want in our own language. If you are able to translate English language pages into other languages, then you can help to translate MDN Web Docs, making all of this information available to more people.


A screenshot showing the drop-down translations list


Translations available for the background-color page. (Large preview)

If you click on the language icon on any page, you can see which languages that information has been translated into, and you can add your own translations following the information on the page Translating MDN Pages.

Interactive Examples

The Interactive Examples on MDN, are the examples that you will see at the top of many pages of MDN, such as this one for the grid-area property.


Screenshot of an Interactive Example


The Interactive Example for the grid-area property. (Large preview)

These examples allow visitors to MDN to try out various values for CSS properties or try out a JavaScript function, right there on MDN without needing to head into a development environment to do so. The project to add these examples has been in progress for around a year, you can read about the project and progress to date in the post Bringing Interactive Examples to MDN.

The content for these Interactive Examples is held in the Interactive Examples GitHub repository. For example, if you wanted to locate the example for grid-area, you would find it in that repo under live-examples/css-examples/grid. Under that folder, you will find two files for grid-area, an HTML and a CSS file.

grid-area.html


<section id="example-choice-list" class="example-choice-list large" data-property="grid-area">
    <div class="example-choice" initial-choice="true">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: a;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div>
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: b;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div>
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: c;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div> 
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: 2 / 1 / 2 / 4;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div> 
</section>
    
<div id="output" class="output large hidden">
    <section id="default-example" class="default-example">
        <div class="example-container">
            <div id="example-element" class="transition-all">Example</div>
        </div>
    </section>
</div>

grid.area.css


.example-container 
    background-color: #eee;
    border: .75em solid;
    padding: .75em;
    display: grid;
    grid-template-columns: 1fr 1fr 1fr;
    grid-template-rows: repeat(3, minmax(40px, auto));
    grid-template-areas: 
    "a a a"
    "b c c"
    "b c c";
    grid-gap: 10px;
    width: 200px;
    
    
    .example-container > div 
    background-color: rgba(0, 0, 255, 0.2);
    border: 3px solid blue;
    
    
    example-element 
    background-color: rgba(255, 0, 200, 0.2);
    border: 3px solid rebeccapurple;
    

An Interactive Example is just a small demo, which uses some standard classes and IDs in order that the framework can pick up the example and make it interactive, where the values can be changed by a visitor to the page who wants to quickly see how it works. To add or edit an Interactive Example, first fork the Interactive Examples repo, clone it to your machine and follow the instructions on the Contributing page to install the required packages from npm and be able to build and test examples locally.

Then create a branch and edit or create your new example. Once you are happy with it, send a Pull Request to the Interactive Examples repo to ask for your example to be reviewed. In order to keep the examples consistent, reviews are fairly nitpicky but should point out the changes you need to make in a clear way, so you can update your example and have it approved, merged and added to an MDN page.


Screenshot of a tweet asking for help with HTML examples


MDN looking for help with HTML Interactive Examples. (Large preview)

With pretty much all of CSS now covered (in addition to the JavaScript examples), MDN is now looking for help to build the HTML examples. There are instructions as to how to get started in a post on the MDN Discourse Forum. Check out that post as it gives links to a Google doc that you can use to indicate that you are working on a particular example, as well as some other useful information.

The Interactive Examples are incredibly useful for people exploring the web platform, so adding to the project is an excellent way to contribute. Contributing to CSS or HTML examples requires knowledge of CSS and HTML, plus the ability to think up a clear demonstration. This last point is often the hardest part, I’ve created a lot of CSS Interactive Examples and spent more time thinking up the best example for each property than I do actually writing the code.

Browser Compat Data

Fairly recently the browser compatibility data listed on MDN Pages has begun to be updated through the Browser Compatibility Project. This project is developing browser compat data in JSON format, which can display the compatibility tables on MDN but also be useful data for other purposes.


An example screenshot of the old tables on MDN


The Old Browser Compat Tables on MDN. (Large preview)


An example screenshot of the new tables on MDN


The New Browser Compat Tables on MDN. (Large preview)

The Browser Compatibility Data is on GitHub, and if you find a page that has incorrect information or is still using the old tables, you can submit a Pull Request. The repository contains contribution information, however, the simplest way to start is to edit an existing example. I recently updated the information for the CSS shape-outside property. The property already had some data in the new format, but it was incomplete and incorrect.

To edit this data, I first forked the Browser Compat Data so that I had my own fork. I then cloned that to my machine and created a new branch to make my changes in.

Once I had my new branch, I found the JSON file for shape-outside and was able to make my edits. I already had a good idea about browser support for the property; I also used the live example on the shape-outside MDN page to test to see support when I wasn’t sure. Therefore making the edits was a case of working through the file, checking the version numbers listed for support of the property and updating those which were incorrect.

As the file is in JSON format is pretty straightforward to edit in any text editor. The .editorconfig file explains the simple formatting rules for these documents. There are also some helpful tips in this checklist.

Once you have made your edits, you can commit your changes, push your branch to your fork and then make a Pull Request to the Browser Compat Data repository. It’s likely that, as with the live examples, the reviewer will have some changes for you to make. In my PR for the Shapes data I had a few errors in how I had flagged the data and needed to make some changes to links. These were simple to make, and then my PR was merged.

Get Started

You can get started simply by picking something to add to and starting work on it in many cases. If you have any questions or need some help with any of this, then the MDN Discourse forum is a good place to post. MDN is the place I go to look up information, the place I send new developers and experienced developers alike, and its strength is the fact that we can all work to make it better.

If you have never made a Pull Request on a project before, it is a very friendly place to make that first PR and, as I hope I have shown, there are ways to contribute that don’t require writing any code at all. A very valuable skill for any documentation project is that of writing, editing and translating as these skills can help to make technical documentation easier to read and accessible to more people around the world.

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