Adobe released Flex Builder 2 and the Flex 2 framework, including the source code for Flex and new Flex components to integrate its ColdFusion product, on Wednesday. Flex 2 is now more SOA-friendly by breaking away from its server dependency, which was part of the first version.
Placing Flex Builder 2 on the Eclipse framework was done to attract more Java developers, yet the CRN Test Center doesn't see any advantages when developing user interfaces. When Macromedia started working on version 2--prior to being acquired by Adobe--it decided not to offer a customized IDE and instead to concentrate on the Flex framework. In principle, that decision made sense, since Flex is meant for corporate developers and not graphic artists.
But by going solely with Eclipse, Flex won't attract many .Net and Linux/C++ developers who think that Eclipse is gimmicky and aren't interested in working with Java IDEs at any level.
Although the Eclipse plug-in extensions provide a flexible foundation, Flex Builder 2 should have targeted multiple IDEs from the start. The group that develops Flash is highly skilled and easily could have abstracted the server from server-side managed platforms. Macromedia's solution was to provide a single SDK so that non-Eclipse developers could develop wrappers around its graphics and runtime features for their environments. But the library only targets Java developers, since Flex Builder 2 and its third-party core services work only with Java. Source code is now included.
For developers seeking an alternative to ActionScript to build Flex components or work with native Java interfaces, rather than the Flex SDK, the Test Center recommends an open-source project from Flagstone Software, which provides a native Java framework to run and generate Flash files.
All hope for non-Java developers isn't lost, however. Flex 2 comes with command-line tools that provide the same functionality built in Flex Builder 2. Still, debugging from the command line is time consuming and can turn off developers.
Besides its Java fixation, the Flex 2 framework provides the most agile and versatile Web UI development on the market. Flex 2 brings more components, more data grids, CSS-based skinning and the new ActionScript 3. Many enhancements were made to handle HTML and XML, and now developers can add a rich text editor.
With less than 10 lines of code, developers can add the new WebService component into a Flex application and connect to a Web service without binding to any server-side code. No other technology on the market, including DHTML and Ajax, provide such an elegant and robust Web client solution.
Moreover, MXML--the language on which the Flex 2 framework runs--takes such a minimalist approach to developing Web UIs that it beats Ruby and all other Java Web frameworks hands down. So it's worth your while to try rich Internet application programming with Flex 2. You'll think twice before using Java or any server-side scripting language to write Web UIs.