Available Flex 4 Books

Often books are used as a measure of success for a technology platform. For instance, O’Reilly used to publish a bi-yearly report on the state of the technology book market. (They may still, though I can’t find one more recent than last year.)

And since today I received an email letting me know that a new book called “Effortless Flex 4 Development” was released (written by Larry Ullman, a well known author of many technology books), I decided to check Amazon to see how many Flex 4 books have been released.

A quick search for “flex 4” yielded 18 results for published and soon to be published books on Flex 4, plus one curiously titled “Handbook of School-Gymnastics of the Swedish System” (Note to Amazon: you may want to work on your search algorithm.)

The highest rated book is from Adobe: Adobe Flex 4: Training from the Source, Volume 1. The second highest is the Flex 4 Cookbook: Real-world recipes for developing Rich Internet Applications (Oreilly Cookbooks), based on recipies from the Adobe Developer Connection Cookbook site. Either of them would be great books for someone looking to come up to speed on Flex development.

There are 67 books available for Flex 3, which has been out for about 2 1/2 years. Flex 4 books are already nearly 1/3 of the way to that total, only 6 months into release.

Template Components in Flex4

Template Components can be quite common in different sort of applications. Maybe the most common one is the Panel, which has a predefined set of components (title bar, status bar, close button, etc) and an specific area where we can instantiate any other component we wish.
In Flex3 you could use the technique explained in the [...]

Mirroring Layouts in Flex

Now that Flex 4 is out the door, don’t be fooled into thinking the Flex SDK team is resting on their laurels! We are planning a followup release to Flex 4 which should come out in the first half of 2010. This release will include support for Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2 as well as contain some new feature work and critical bugfixes.

The feature I’m most excited about is the new “layout mirroring” feature. This feature allows developers to mirror their layouts for right-to-left locales. The intent of this feature is to trivialize repurposing a Flex UI designed for a left-to-right language (like English or French) for a right-to-left language (like Hebrew or Arabic).

To support layout mirroring, some new APIs have been added. The two most important are layoutDirection (defined by the new interface mx.core.ILayoutDirectionElement) that is settable on any UIComponent, GraphicElement, SpriteVisualElement or UIMovieClip. [Note: on UIComponent, layoutDirection is a style and for GraphicElement, SpriteVisualElement and UIMovieClip, layoutDirection is implemented as a property].

The new layoutDirection property can be set to “ltr”, “rtl”, or null. When set to “rtl”, a mirroring transform is applied to mirror the layout. This mirroring transform is implemented atop the advanced layout features that was introduced in Flex 4.

What about text? First off, applications that depend on layout mirroring need to use FTE text which supports bi-directionality. If you have a Spark based application or component, FTE is used by default. If you intend to mirror a Flex 3 application, you need to enable FTE text in order to have bi-directional text. Once the text in your application is FTE-based, all you need to do is turn “on” bi-directionality by setting direction=”rtl” on the text components (this style inherits, so you can simply set it at the top-level and it will percolate down). This will ensure the default embedding level of all text blocks in your application is right-to-left.

There are definitely some parts of your application you will want to hand-tweak as the UI gets mirrored. However, in order to get your feet wet, I’d suggest taking the application you want to mirror and setting layoutDirection=”rtl” and direction=”rtl” on the top-level container of your application. This will percolate down through the display list and mirror according to the default Flex implementation.

So, what does this all mean? Well, on Tuesday, 3/31/10 the layout mirroring feature signed off! This is a huge accomplishment for the SDK Dev and QA teams as this feature required a lot of coordination across multiple engineers on the team (as well as input from our globalization teams and external customers). I encourage people to use the multi-SDK feature in Flash Builder 4 to download a build containing the newly landed layout mirroring feature, and give it a try. The best build to download would be 4.1.0.15132 or any build posted after that changelist. To learn more about the layout mirroring feature, please read the specification and if you find issues, file them in JIRA.

InfoWorld rated Flash Builder 4 as a must-have tool for data-driven RIA development

This morning, James Borck posted his review of Flash Builder 4 on InfoWorld. Overall, it is a great summary of the key features in this shipping version. Here are some highlights from Jame’s review:

  • A big step forward to bring designers and developers closer to bridging the production gap between data presentation and interface programmability of rich Internet applications.
  • Excellent client-side data management and paging features that bring efficiency to large data set handling. Further, the new speedy two-way data binding dramatically simplified database updates without extra coding — a nice touch for a common task.
  • Easing the life of developers with the wizard-driven code generation on everything from services to event handling. This goes a long way toward helping devs avoid errors and improve code quality.
  • Regardless of which server-side technology you’re using for data, Flash Builder has you covered, supporting ASP.Net, J2EE, HTTP/REST and SOAP Web services, PHP, BlazeDS, ColdFusion, and LiveCycle Data Services for streaming data.
  • Builder made it a cinch to introspect my data sources (whether WSDL or class files) and wire up UI components to the resulting data sets. Simple drag/drop of methods onto data grids, lists, and the like were all that was required to light up my UI component.
  • The onboard debug tools within Builder are quite helpful. They offer all the anticipated trace elements, as well as conditional breakpoints and complex expression evaluation for faster isolation of trouble points. They’re so good, in fact, that I’d love to see Builder better tied to Flash Pro down the road, as it provides a much better interface for ActionScript coding.
  • Other improvements to the Flex 4 Spark architecture offer more flexible runtime layout opportunities, new transition animations, and the 3-D capabilities supported by the Flash Player 10
  • There are new additions for Adobe-centric design shops as well, such as easy integration and editing of Flash Pro content directly from Builder. Although this seemingly lends to a reblending of developer/designer stratification, it could be a helpful shortcut in small shops.

 
The bottom line: James rated Flash Builder 4 is a must-have tool for anyone developing data-driven applications on Flex. The IDE will demonstrably shorten the development cycle by exposing data, streamlining workflow, and simplifying change management so that your Flex apps will remain nimble.

To read the entire review, visit InfoWorld’s website. If you haven’t yet, you can download a 60-day free trial version of Flash Builder 4 and the Flex In A week free training video at Adobe Developer Center. We’d love to hear your thoughts about this release.

Flex 4 Sample Application using a Java Back-End, BlazeDS 4 and Flash Builder 4 Data Wizards

I put together a new Test Drive environment to allow you to explore the development of Flex 4 applications with a Java back-end using the new “Data-Centric Development” features of Flash Builder 4. These features include service introspection, value object and service stub generation, etc. This Test Drive is still work in progress: it currently [...]

Flex 4 SDK and Flash Builder 4 final releases are here…

On behalf of everyone on the Flex and Flash Builder product teams, it is with great pride that we can announce that the final versions of Flex 4 SDK and Flash Builder 4 are available for download today!

We’ve been working hard on these releases to make the Flash Platform the best RIA development platform ever and one that you can confidently bet on when you are asked to create your next generation applications.

In the Flex 4 SDK, we’ve implemented a completely new component and skinning architecture (Spark) that supports a level of expressiveness in RIAs not seen previously. With the new Spark component and skinning architecture, component logic is “divorced” from component visuals such that customizing either the behavior or look and feel of the component is much more straightforward. Additionally in the Flex 4 SDK, we have improved the Flex compiler performance, enhanced numerous language and infrastructure features and provided first-class support for the new runtime capabilities in Flash Player 10.

In Flash Builder 4, the team has made it easier than ever to connect to back-end services with a complete set of data centric development features, enabled new design and development workflows with Flash Catalyst and Flash Professional, as well as enhancing the core code development features that are essential to developer productivity.

In this area alone, we’ve implemented new refactoring options, improved the debugger to support conditional breakpoints, watchpoints and expression evaluation, added code generation features and made it easier to test applications with the new network monitor and FlexUnit support. It’s worth remembering that most of these improvements are available to developers building applications that use either the Flex 3 or Flex 4 SDK, so Flash Builder 4 will help in your overall development even if you aren’t yet ready to use the new Spark components.

As you can see, there are lots of great new features and enhancements in Flex 4 and Flash Builder 4 – too many, in fact to list here. We recommend that you read the “What’s New in Flash Builder 4?”, “What’s New in Flex 4?”, and “Introduction to Spark” articles, as well as check out the rest of the new content published on the Adobe Developer Connection site to learn more. Additionally, you can watch David Wadhwani, Vice President and General Manager of the Flash Platform Business Unit describe the new set of products being added to the Flex product family.

If you’re just getting started with Flex then we hope that the new TestDrive content will get you up-to-speed on Flex and Flash Builder in just a couple of hours. If you have a little more time then you should review the Flex in a Week video training materials, which have been completely revised for Flex 4. There are plenty of other resources you can draw upon as you work with Flex and Flash Builder, including the new community-based in-product Help, Tour de Flex, the Flex Cookbooks and a completely re-vamped Flex.org site.

As excited as we are to ship these new products, we are already getting started on the next versions – if you have a feature idea that you’d like the product team to consider then we’d love to hear from you! You can now submit your feature ideas on the Adobe Labs Ideas website, as well as review existing ideas and vote on the ones you’d like to see us work on.

We couldn’t have delivered the new features in these products without the feedback received from everyone who participated in our public beta process or our pre-release programs. Thank you so much for helping us to create an amazing release! For those that did install a beta release of Flash Builder, be sure to uninstall the beta before installing the final release, otherwise you may find that your trial period has expired.

We think you will agree that these products will allow you to develop truly compelling user experiences that exceed your clients’ expectations. The entire team is excited to see what you build with Flex 4 and Flash Builder 4 over the coming months and we look forward to receiving your feedback on these releases in the Adobe Forums.

Andrew Shorten & Deepa Subramaniam,
Flash Builder and Flex SDK Product Managers

Flash Platform 2009 – Year in Review – Part 3

In part 1 of the year in review I talked about some of the great applications and content that have been created on top of the Flash Platform. In part 2 I talked about the partnerships and what that has enabled this year. Now I’m going to turn to the tools and technologies from Adobe. When I look back at my own personal history with Flex and the Flash Platform, coming with Flex 1.5 and Flash Player 7, it’s amazing to see the progress we made this year.

The biggest news came at MAX. We provided beta versions of Flash Builder 4, Flash Catalyst, and ColdFusion Builder. Three tools that cover a broad spectrum of RIA development. Flash Builder 4 built on top of our momentum with Flex Builder and introduced a new data-centric development methodology as well as some long-asked for productivity enhancements. Flash Catalyst is a completely new tool that lets designers bring in designs from Photoshop and Illustrator and turn them into working, interactive Flash content without writing any code. And of course ColdFusion Builder provided ColdFusion developers an Eclipse-baesd tool from Adobe that works seamlessly with Flash Builder and lets ColdFusion developers quickly work on ColdFusion and HTML projects. The three tools work together to let designers and developers collaborate around all parts of an RIA project. And the next generation of Flash Professional also got a sneak peak at MAX with the announcement that Flash CS5 will support creation of native iPhone applications.

We also started to lay out our vision for services at Adobe in 2009. Before and during MAX we provided betas and some new information about the Adobe Flash Platform Services. This includes things like LiveCycle Collaboration Services which lets you easily add real-time collaboration components to your Flex and Flash applications. We debuted a Distribution service that lets you track and distribute Flash content across a number of popular properties. There was also the Try/Buy service codenamed “Shibuya” which will help Flash developers directly make money from what they build on the Flash Platform.

Both of our runtimes, AIR and Flash Player, saw beta versions of the next generation. We provided beta access to Adobe AIR 2 which provides developers a lot more access to native functionality as well as adding next-generation HTML support and performance optimizations. Developers had access to a beta of Flash Player 10.1 later in the year which is the first version of Flash Player that is intended for smart phones. Developers got to see how this version of the player would run on the desktop with new memory optimization and support for multi-touch gestures. Flash Player 10.1 will be released for Mac, Windows, Linux, and smart phones like the Palm Pre and Google Android later this year.

Adobe was also busy in the server space. ColdFusion 9 was released this year and it included much deeper support for Flex and AIR applications as well as the ability to tightly integrate with Microsoft Office documents (including SharePoint) and some nice code enhancement for long-time ColdFusion developers.

And finally, this was a big year in openness for the Flash Platform. We’ve worked hard to keep the Flash Platform as open as possible by doing things like open sourcing the Tamarin virtual machine and providing the SWF and AMF specifications in addition to contributing to existing open source projects like the Eclipse foundation. This year we open sourced two new projects, the Open Source Media Framework and the Text Layout Framework. The Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) provided a standard way to create and extend the way video content plays on the Flash Platform. The Text Layout Framework (TLF) brought world-class text capability to the Flash Platform. It included support for right-to-left languages like Hebrew and Arabic and gave developers very detailed control over exactly how text was rendered by the Flash Player. Both technologies are available with all of Adobe’s open source initiatives on http://opensource.adobe.com.

Between the tools, new services, the runtimes, the servers, and our open source efforts, it’s been a big 2009 and we’ve set the stage for a bigger 2010. We can’t wait to see what our community does with these technologies. You are the ones that keep the Flash Platform moving and keep us cutting edge. Thanks for a great year!

Get a Discount on the First Book on Flex 4: Hello! Flex 4

armstrong3_cover150Peter Armstrong is a gung-ho kind of guy. He has the very first book on Flex 4, Hello! Flex 4 and it’s currently available on Amazon. I got a PDF copy of the book and it is a really fun way to get up to speed on Flex 4. A ton has changed including the component model, how we do states, a new graphic language called FXG, as well as other tweaks and optimizations. this book goes through them all and provides a great overview of how to use Flex 4 with existing projects and frameworks.

One of the cool things is that the book is available both in hardcover and in PDF format. In fact, if you order the PDF version before December 31st I have a discount code you can use to get it for $10. Just put in hf410 when you check out on Manning’s site and you’ll be able to download the PDF copy for $10. Well worth it for anyone who wants to see what’s coming in Flex 4.

Model Driven Development with Flex 4 and LCDS 3 Screencast

I recently presented a new “Model Driven Development with Flex 4″ session at a few conferences and Flash Camps, so I figured I would record a screencast of the demo app for people who did not attend. If you saw a previous version of this demo, this screencast is still worth watching because I’m using [...]