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What's new in Flash Builder 4 beta

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Data-centric development with Flash Builder 4 beta comprises three main stages:

  • defining a data/service model
  • binding service operations to Flex components
  • implementing advanced data features like paging and data-management

Data/service modeling and binding made easy

The data/service model is an approach to representing all of your server or service operations and the data that they return in the Flash Builder 4 beta environment. You begin by letting Flash Builder introspect your existing logic—ColdFusion components, PHP classes, Java, or web services. Flash Builder then represents those services in a tree view on the new data/services panel: you can have many different services based on different back-end technologies, all represented within one model. And binding the result of any of your server-side operations to a Flex component (like a datagrid or list) is as easy as dragging and dropping the operation's name onto the component. You can easily use services to generate forms for master/detail functionality, and create charts, too.

Advanced data management features

Of course, data-centric applications are about more than just binding operations to components. Flash Builder lets you enable client side data management for your services, allowing on-demand fetching of data for easy and efficient scrolling through large collections of data; change tracking, allowing users to undo actions, and automating the common CRUD (create, read, update, & delete) functions that usually need to be hand-coded. The results are applications that deliver users a richer experience than is possible with ordinary HTML front ends.

Making developers more productive

Whether you've gotten your application started through the workflow by using Adobe Flash Catalyst beta or by building on services using the data-centric features, at the end of the day, much of application development is about writing and testing code. Adobe Flash Builder 4 beta delivers a long list of new and improved features to make your data-to-day coding and testing more productive:

  • Refactoring, debugging, and the profiler from Flex Builder 3 have been improved with some of the most requested enhancements.
  • The debugger adds conditional breakpoints, watchpoints, run-to-line, and an expression evaluator.
  • Profiler now includes an improved "Object References" report.
  • Move refactoring has been added.

For new IDE productivity features, try:

  • getter/setter generation
  • event code generation
  • the new Package Explorer
  • support for ASDoc tooltips

Builder also supports creating custom file templates for MXML, ActionScript, and CSS.

Taking testing to the next level

Beyond coding productivity, Adobe Flash Builder 4 beta adds two important new features for testing applications: a network monitor and Flex Unit support.

The network monitor allows you to see the network traffic between the Flash client and your backend server from within Flash Builder itself. This enables you to more easily debug data access portions of the Flex application, and to diagnose any performance issues that might exist between the client and server.

Unit testing is another important part of the application development process, and Builder makes it easy with integrated Flex Unit support. This will allow test setup, test file creation, test running and test result analysis in Builder.

Command-line building and deployment

When you're ready to build and deploy your application, Flash Builder now includes support for command line builds. This will make it easier to fit Flex into corporate automated build systems.

Making the most of the beta

If you're new to Flex, you'll find a wealth of information to help you get started available from the new Start page that you will see when you first launch the application. We've provided tutorials, feature videos, and sample code to help you become productive right away.

From design to data to coding and testing, we think you'll find Adobe Flash Builder 4 beta an incredible tool for RIA development. We're very pleased to bring you this early look at the product, but there's still some final work to be done. So be sure to give us your feedback on the Labs forums and watch for the launch of the final product later this year.

Until then, enjoy the beta!

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Tim Buntel.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 9:37am

Sorry, I lost ALL interest in Flex once you guys aborted porting your dev tools to Linux (my daily OS both at work ant at home).

Too bad, I liked what I saw back when I was still on Windows. 

Vinay Soni replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 10:22am

Lost interest after I started with GWT.

Shane Johnson replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 3:13pm

I have to agree. I can't believe Adobe abandoned Linux. I too use it for both work and personal use. I imagine requiring developers to run Windows or purchase a Mac is not going to help in the long run. Although I do use Maven to build my Flex/AIR applicatoins, I enjoyed editing the source in FB with code completion and what not.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 4:41pm in response to: Shane Johnson

I can't believe Adobe abandoned Linux

 I agree wholeheartedly.  I do any java work currently on linux, which is a very appealing environment.  There's no way I want to install windows just to program for flash :-(  here comes a virtual machine, i guess...


Tranquiliser Gt replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 6:47pm

I was planning to use Flex for a heavy coding (not MXML simple layout based) application. Which makes me hesitate is the fact the version 4 is still lack of refactoring tools. From this point of view, I don't see Adobe really cares about developers.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Tue, 2009/06/16 - 8:22pm

Same here. After using Linux for years for Java development, with all the command line power and tons of other good things, Windows looks like a system on crudges.

Adobe not being on board with Linux makes their product irrelevant. Typical mistakes by their marketing people. They forget that a large percentage of Developer Jedi Knights are on Linux - *FFAAHHAARR* more than they think. RIM also made this arrogant mistake, and it costed them more dearly than they realized. And what's with these Windows developer shops anyway. They actually can't see past Visual Studio? Good grief..

tom chiverton replied on Thu, 2009/06/18 - 10:14am

And to add weight to your thoughts, the *most voted for* bug in the Adobe bug tracker, by a factor of 3 is for just that - Flex Builder on Linux.
That's more important to developers than, for instance, a code formatter or HTML templates.

But don't be disheatened, make sure everyone who cares has voted on http://bugs.adobe.com/jira/browse/FB-19053

There's no comment yet from Adobe on what is going on with this product, but it can't be long before they announce it's going to be updated and maintained, can it ?

Vinay Soni replied on Thu, 2009/06/18 - 1:08pm

But what is it that Flex provides that GWT can't do without a propritery runtime and a low end Java like environment?

For very simple cases it is ok, but the moment you have complicated UIs, the code becomes complicated. 

On the other hand GWT model (Comoonent/Container pattern) is very clean and the Ajaxification is very high end, all without any extras within the browser.


Cliff Meyers replied on Wed, 2009/06/24 - 5:10pm

A few reasons to consider Flex over GWT:

- Rich charting / graphing library that runs client side

- Easy to build interesting data visualizations (network maps, org charts, new 3-D support in Flash Player 10)

- Rich design / skinning support: developers don't care about sexy apps but many users do.

Flex is not perfect but it's a very productive toolkit for building RIAs.  If your apps are just a bunch of forms and data grids then GWT will suit you fine.

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