Controlling time intervals

Flash Player 9 and later, Adobe AIR 1.0 and later

When you develop applications using Adobe Flash CS4 Professional, you have access to the timeline, which provides a steady, frame-by-frame progression through your application. In pure ActionScript projects, however, you must rely on other timing mechanisms.

Loops versus timers

In some programming languages, you must devise your own timing schemes using loop statements like for or do..while.

Loop statements generally execute as fast as the local machine allows, which means that the application runs faster on some machines and slower on others. If your application needs a consistent timing interval, you need to tie it to an actual calendar or clock time. Many applications, such as games, animations, and real-time controllers, need regular, time-driven ticking mechanisms that are consistent from machine to machine.

The ActionScript 3.0 Timer class provides a powerful solution. Using the ActionScript 3.0 event model, the Timer class dispatches timer events whenever a specified time interval is reached.

The Timer class

The preferred way to handle timing functions in ActionScript 3.0 is to use the Timer class (flash.utils.Timer), which can be used to dispatch events whenever an interval is reached.

To start a timer, you first create an instance of the Timer class, telling it how often to generate a timer event and how many times to do so before stopping.

For example, the following code creates a Timer instance that dispatches an event every second and continues for 60 seconds:

var oneMinuteTimer:Timer = new Timer(1000, 60);

The Timer object dispatches a TimerEvent object each time the given interval is reached. A TimerEvent object’s event type is timer (defined by the constant TimerEvent.TIMER ). A TimerEvent object contains the same properties as a standard Event object.

If the Timer instance is set to a fixed number of intervals, it will also dispatch a timerComplete event (defined by the constant TimerEvent.TIMER_COMPLETE ) when it reaches the final interval.

Here is a small sample application showing the Timer class in action:

    import flash.display.Sprite; 
    import flash.utils.Timer; 
    public class ShortTimer extends Sprite 
        public function ShortTimer()  
            // creates a new five-second Timer 
            var minuteTimer:Timer = new Timer(1000, 5); 
            // designates listeners for the interval and completion events 
            minuteTimer.addEventListener(TimerEvent.TIMER, onTick); 
            minuteTimer.addEventListener(TimerEvent.TIMER_COMPLETE, onTimerComplete); 
            // starts the timer ticking 
        public function onTick(event:TimerEvent):void  
            // displays the tick count so far 
            // The target of this event is the Timer instance itself. 
            trace("tick " +; 
        public function onTimerComplete(event:TimerEvent):void 
            trace("Time's Up!"); 

When the ShortTimer class is created, it creates a Timer instance that will tick once per second for five seconds. Then it adds two listeners to the timer: one that listens to each tick, and one that listens for the timerComplete event.

Next, it starts the timer ticking, and from that point forward, the onTick() method executes at one-second intervals.

The onTick() method simply displays the current tick count. After five seconds have passed, the onTimerComplete() method executes, telling you that the time is up.

When you run this sample, you should see the following lines appear in your console or trace window at the rate of one line per second:

tick 1 
tick 2 
tick 3 
tick 4 
tick 5 
Time's Up!

Timing functions in the flash.utils package

ActionScript 3.0 contains a number of timing functions similar to those that were available in ActionScript 2.0. These functions are provided as package-level functions in the flash.utils package, and they operate just as they did in ActionScript 2.0.




Cancels a specified setInterval() call.


Cancels a specified setTimeout() call.


Returns the number of milliseconds that have elapsed since Adobe® Flash® Player or Adobe® AIR™ was initialized.

setInterval(closure:Function, delay:Number, ... arguments):uint

Runs a function at a specified interval (in milliseconds).

setTimeout(closure:Function, delay:Number, ... arguments):uint

Runs a specified function after a specified delay (in milliseconds).

These functions remain in ActionScript 3.0 for backward compatibility. Adobe does not recommend that you use them in new ActionScript 3.0 applications. In general, it is easier and more efficient to use the Timer class in your applications.

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