New Adobe toys this week: Flash Builder 4, Flex 4 SDK, Flash Catalyst, BrowserLab

An exciting week for Flash Platform Developers as Adobe released a number of Beta versions on the Adobe Labs site. I have just started playing with a couple of them but its definitely worth the shout out.

Flash Builder 4:
Flash Builder 4 is the next version of the Eclipse based IDE formerly known as Flex Builder. The renaming is more than just a re-branding exercise, as FB4 seems to have added features that make it a lot easier to work with other frameworks besides Flex. This is really exciting for me personally as this means it will be a lot easier to work with OpenPyro in FB4. In fact Greg even created a simple project with AS3 only classes that could be exposed as MXML tags. The resultant file size is minute.

Besides that, the my favorite extension to the IDE has been the inclusion of FlexUnit, the unit testing framework for Flex. While FlexUnit itself has been available as a library for a while, inclusion into the IDE will make unit testing a lot easier and hopefully a lot more prevalent.

There is also a network monitor built right into the IDE. While I have used Firebug with success for Flash apps on the web, doing the same for AIR apps has been a challenge (though Charles has been really good, though a requires a bit of a context-switch when coding). The network monitor is going to make a lot of lives a lot easier.

Integration of ASDocs is another great feature, as well as code generation for integrating with serverside code.

[Update] There are also a bunch of improvements to the Debugger on FB4 which you can read more about here.

Flash Catalyst:
Flash Catalyst is a new tool that Adobe is releasing with the promise of truthfully translating designer interactions to stub code that a developer can add functionality to. Basically Catalyst can import any Photoshop, Fireworks or Illustration file, and then can allow the design to assign behaviors to the different parts. For example the designer can select four graphics and mark tham as the four parts of a Scrollbar. The interactions are written out as Flex4 tags that can be compiled into a swf with complete interactivity.

The video below shows how Catalyst can be used:

Flex 4:
The two releases of course directly depend on the Flex 4 SDK, Adobe’s Open Source framework for building Rich Internet Applications. The new release of the SDK introduces a new component architecture called Spark. The core difference between the Spark and the earlier Halo architecture is the favor of the composition as a design pattern over inheritance. What this translates into in everyday development is a leap in productivity as complex UI components can be created a lot easier than before and not requiring things to be subclassed as often. This also makes skinning a lot easier, since all the skin parts can be swapped pretty easily. Another new thing in Flex 4 is the introduction of a new graphics interchange format called FXG, an xml format for graphics that can be understood even by the CS4 products like Photoshop and Fireworks. Matt Chotin’s post on changes in Flex is a lot more comprehensive.

BrowserLab, a project formerly known as Meer Meer, is a new service being released by Adobe that targets HTML developers. BrowserLab allows developers to preview any URL as rendered by different browsers. The service is in limited beta, but I was able to get an account before it was capped, and I can tell you its pretty impressive. It would be interesting to see how Adobe can integrate this with Dreamweaver, although its supposed to remain open to mortals like myself who still prefer TextMate 😉

So a lot of toys on the labs site. Take em out for a spin and let me know what you think 🙂

Author: Arpit Mathur

Arpit Mathur is a Principal Engineer at Comcast Labs where he is currently working on a variety of topics including Machine Learning, Affective Computing, and Blockchain applications. Arpit has also worked extensively on Android and iOS applications, Virtual Reality apps as well as with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML and Ruby on Rails. He also spent a couple of years in the User Experience team as a Creative Technologist.

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