Today, Adobe released the final versions of both the Flex SDK and Flash Builder 4. I have been dabbling with the beta versions for some time now and so I thought this would be a good time than any to note down a couple of things that I found interesting about the two.
Spark – The main change in next version of this completely open source framework extraordinaire is no doubt, Spark, the new component architecture introduced in this version. At first it was a bit daunting, and I didn’t even know why Adobe felt the earlier Halo components needed tweaking. However, after reading more and with just a little effort, the advantages were obvious. Spark was designed to completely separate appearance from behavior, and achieves just that. New users of Flex, not used to MX, will find Spark much more easier to learn.
States – This is one change I’m sure no one will complain about. The earlier implementation of states in Flex was something archaic and one that always felt out of place. The new process is much easier and simply speaking, makes much more sense.
FXG – A new format that helps exporting project files within the platform. Developers/designers who use multiple tools will definitely like this. I used it when testing out the Flash Catalyst.
Easier binding – Throw out the [Bindable]. Welcome ‘@’.
Other new or improved features in Flex 4 include a new video component and wrapper, an ASDoc tool and support for the text layout framework. The text layout framework is a highly powerful framework that greatly enhances our text display capabilities. Something I’ve experienced in an earlier project. Now it comes built-in.
Flash Builder 4
Automatic getter/setter generation – The surprise would have been if this wasn’t included.
Network monitor – Something for which I had to rely upon third party tools, and that too in a non-direct methods. Extremely useful in testing and optimization. The built in network monitor helps easily identify which part of my Flex application eats up network resources so that I can modify it and make it more efficient. The feature is doubly useful when you are also in charge of the server side.
The data/service model – What I would rank as the best new feature. The data/service model and related features incorporated make development of client-server architecture solutions rapid and mind bogglingly easier. We can now view all the server side logic listed as a tree, what are the required parameters and the output types. We can now even unit test with test data each function and view the output. And if you are feeling lazy, it can even develop some server side Coldfusion or PHP classes for you on properly defining the database tables. A very helpful feature for developers who hate working on anything other than ActionScript. This feature is so powerful, it’s hard to believe that it’s a standard part of the IDE. I would have hardly minded throwing out some more money just for this feature alone.
Package explorer – You no longer have to make do with the old Flex Builder explorer which was just a file explorer posing as a package explorer.
Some of you might say that I missed the most obvious and most hyped introduction, the Flash Catalyst based work flow. It does simplify things, and definitely speeds up the process, but it still is a separate tool. Extremely useful for coders who have a designing handicap. Again, Flash builder 4 also features many other enhancements and features and also many under the hood changes such as improved debugger and others.