Adobe recently announced that Flex will now be known by Flash Builder; my feelings about this are mixed however. There were many times I had to explain the differences between Flex and Flash (and, saying ‘Flash’ in that sentence I mean the capital ‘F’ Flash CS4 authoring vs the little ‘f’ flash which is the compiled output), as well as explain in the end that there really WAS no difference as it was all flash in the end (note the little ‘f’).
But at the same time being an old Macromedia Director developer who remembers when Flash was still FutureSplash, was part of the Flash 3 and 4 beta team and was one of the first using Flash inside of Director for my work for Marvel — I still shy away from saying I ‘do Flash’. Why? Because my experience with Flash (big ‘F’) as an authoring environment has been painful to say the least. FutureSplash originally was just a little vector graphics drawing and animation package; there was never really any room for any scripting other than the most simplest imaginable. When Macromedia bought it and renamed it Flash, Actionscript 1 was things like the old ‘goto(20)’ stuff; Flash was still very much an animations package and tied down to the use of a timeline. Even coming from Director – where one could use the MessageWindow to create objects in memory and manipulate them without ever committing anything to a script as such (and common now with things like Ruby and the irb) Flash seemed like a step BACKWARDS. Director had objects – Flash didn’t. Director had bitmaps. Flash didn’t. Vector graphics? Really? Why then was Photoshop the standard and Illustrator not so much?
But for the web, Flash started to grow, to overtake it’s big brother. Now I could go off on Macromedia’s choices in this and why this happened (the difference with the plugin installs, Director’s unfocus in regards to platform, it’s shirking of really interesting technologies such as Beatnik which I have strong opinions about, how Macromedia just kept glomming onto a busted engine without re-writing it) but irregardless of grandpa’s tirades, it DID happen. Flash became the standard, and I left Director behind. But it was painful; having seen what an (almost real) programming tool could offer, Flash 4/MX/CS3 was just…urrrgh.
But then I picked up Flex and it was …. different. In some ways I’d say it was BETTER than Director — ok in a LOT of ways. Here was a true programming language (either with ActionScript3 or MXML), and EXTENSIBLE in ways that Director never was. A real skinnable interface. Things that originally were first in Director (bitmapData) were now in Flash. Now once in awhile I do still miss the MessageWindow but on the whole, I’ve drunk the Kool Aid and found that it was good…
At AdobeMax in 2007 I got to see what was coming – Gumbo (Flex 4) looked fantastic, and Thermo took photoshop and allowed designers to add the rudimentary logic to an interface. I’ve been waiting…
And so Gumbo — I’m sorry, Flex 4 — I’m sorry, Flash Builder beta has just been released. And I’m still drinking the Kool Aid. I’ve had a little bit of a poke around it today (I’ve got work I gotta do!) and there are some really cool things I’ve found..
First off, while scripting I found you were given hints and additional information while adding components; this will save time if a developer just needs some quick information rather than have them open up the full help. Another huge time saver is having the IDE generate additional functions automatically either while scripting or in a component’s properties window for all the scriptable items.
Themes are huge as well – especially after developers like Juan Sanchez of ScaleNine and Degrafa fame brought Flex’s skinning engine the attention it deserved. Though I really don’t like the new default ‘spark’ theme (it seems like we’ve gone back in time to retro computer land) support for the extension, creation and packaging of themes are stronger than ever. Working hand in hand with Flash Catalyst the skins output can be selected with Flash Builder’s new theme browser, with single items still being customizable.
I’ve yet to really play yet though; I want to dive into the CSS support; I was confused by the previous incarnation of Gumbo’s CSS editor — it seemed as if one couldn’t get to the visual representation of the ui elements as one could in Flex 3, but it might have been my bunglings… I had a weird issue with this version of Gumbo – the Flash Builder beta — when ‘tab’ wasn’t finishing the autocomplete, but was instead tabbing out of eclipse, but again, suppose that was my fault as well…
Strangely enough, I’d probably have more time for play from work if I was using ‘Flash Builder’ – as I’m dealing with skinning issues in Flex 3. The universe mocks me.
** originally posted on www.grimmwerks.com/blog