Supporting the drag-in gesture

Adobe AIR 1.0 and later

To support the drag-in gesture, your application (or, more typically, a visual component of your application) must respond to nativeDragEnter or nativeDragOver events.

Steps in a typical drop operation

The following sequence of events is typical for a drop operation:

  1. The user drags a clipboard object over a component.

  2. The component dispatches a nativeDragEnter event.

  3. The nativeDragEnter event handler examines the event object to check the available data formats and allowed actions. If the component can handle the drop, it calls NativeDragManager.acceptDragDrop() .

  4. The NativeDragManager changes the mouse cursor to indicate that the object can be dropped.

  5. The user drops the object over the component.

  6. The receiving component dispatches a nativeDragDrop event.

  7. The receiving component reads the data in the desired format from the Clipboard object within the event object.

  8. If the drag gesture originated within an AIR application, then the initiating interactive object dispatches a nativeDragComplete event. If the gesture originated outside AIR, no feedback is sent.

Acknowledging a drag-in gesture

When a user drags a clipboard item into the bounds of a visual component, the component dispatches nativeDragEnter and nativeDragOver events. To determine whether the component can accept the clipboard item, the handlers for these events can check the clipboard and allowedActions properties of the event object. To signal that the component can accept the drop, the event handler must call the NativeDragManager.acceptDragDrop() method, passing a reference to the receiving component. If more than one registered event listener calls the acceptDragDrop() method, the last handler in the list takes precedence. The acceptDragDrop() call remains valid until the mouse leaves the bounds of the accepting object, triggering the nativeDragExit event.

If more than one action is permitted in the allowedActions parameter passed to doDrag() , the user can indicate which of the allowed actions they intend to perform by holding down a modifier key. The drag manager changes the cursor image to tell the user which action would occur if they completed the drop. The intended action is reported by the dropAction property of the NativeDragEvent object. The action set for a drag gesture is advisory only. The components involved in the transfer must implement the appropriate behavior. To complete a move action, for example, the drag initiator might remove the dragged item and the drop target might add it.

Your drag target can limit the drop action to one of the three possible actions by setting the dropAction property of NativeDragManager class. If a user tries to choose a different action using the keyboard, then the NativeDragManager displays the unavailable cursor. Set the dropAction property in the handlers for both the nativeDragEnter and the nativeDragOver events.

The following example illustrates an event handler for a nativeDragEnter or nativeDragOver event. This handler only accepts a drag-in gesture if the clipboard being dragged contains text-format data.

import flash.desktop.NativeDragManager; 
public function onDragIn(event:NativeDragEvent):void{ 
    NativeDragManager.dropAction = NativeDragActions.MOVE; 
        NativeDragManager.acceptDragDrop(this); //'this' is the receiving component 

Completing the drop

When the user drops a dragged item on an interactive object that has accepted the gesture, the interactive object dispatches a nativeDragDrop event. The handler for this event can extract the data from the clipboard property of the event object.

When the clipboard contains an application-defined format, the transferMode parameter passed to the getData() method of the Clipboard object determines whether the drag manager returns a reference or a serialized version of the object.

The following example illustrates an event handler for the nativeDragDrop event:

import flash.desktop.Clipboard; 
public function onDrop(event:NativeDragEvent):void { 
    if (event.clipboard.hasFormat(ClipboardFormats.TEXT_FORMAT)) { 
    var text:String = 

Once the event handler exits, the Clipboard object is no longer valid. Any attempt to access the object or its data generates an error.

Updating the visual appearance of a component

A component can update its visual appearance based on the NativeDragEvent events. The following table describes the types of changes that a typical component would make in response to the different events:




The initiating interactive object can use the nativeDragStart event to provide visual feedback that the drag gesture originated from that interactive object.


The initiating interactive object can use the nativeDragUpdate event to update its state during the gesture. (This event does not exist in AIR for Linux.)


A potential receiving interactive object can use this event to take the focus, or indicate visually that it can or cannot accept the drop.


A potential receiving interactive object can use this event to respond to the movement of the mouse within the interactive object, such as when the mouse enters a “hot” region of a complex component such as a street map display.


A potential receiving interactive object can use this event to restore its state when a drag gesture moves outside its bounds.


The initiating interactive object can use this event to update its associated data model, such as by removing an item from a list, and to restore its visual state.

Tracking mouse position during a drag-in gesture

While a drag gesture remains over a component, that component dispatches nativeDragOver events. These events are dispatched every few milliseconds and also whenever the mouse moves. The nativeDragOver event object can be used to determine the position of the mouse over the component. Having access to the mouse position can be helpful in situations where the receiving component is complex, but is not made up of sub-components. For example, if your application displayed a bitmap containing a street map and you wanted to highlight zones on the map when the user dragged information into them, you could use the mouse coordinates reported in the nativeDragOver event to track the mouse position within the map.

// Ethnio survey code removed