Flex, what have you done to me?

Flex made Big changes

I woke up in Flash Professional today and realized that developing with Flex so much the past few years has finally changed the way I code Flash Platform apps. For better or worse, working with the RIA framework known as Flex has changed my approach, practice and sense of virtual space as I develop applications.

I’d say that over my 10+ year career coding Flash Platform apps, experiences, intros and animations, I’ve still spent more aggregate time in the Flash IDE environment. On stage, presenting at conferences, I have proclaimed that I am a Flash Platform switch hitter, comfortable in building apps from both sides of the Flash Platform plate. Yet the phase of my career where I’ve really grown as a developer, mostly when I was migrating from AS to AS2, and subsequently from AS2 to AS3, has been spent working with Flex.

As recently as 4 years ago (I know, that’s like 14 in technology years), I was approaching applications much differently. I’d start with layout, color, interaction, transitions, sound and all the other “cool” and “flashy” elements that made rich internet applications rich — before they were actually rich. Code came last, if at all. And there was a time where many of the projects I worked on had minimal code because working with timelines and stage-created symbols came so naturally to me.

Now, I’m completely reversed. Flipped around. A new kind of developer. My approach starts with framework, structure and logic. I think about what classes I’ll need, what approach I’ll take (MVC? Frameworks?), and what 3rd party libraries or components I need to include. And when the app is finally coded, I look at the skeleton of an interface my UI control/component-dependent approach has given me and pray there’s a good designer waiting (or even a simple, snap-in theme waiting for me on scalenine.com).

So now, back in Flash Pro for a bit, I am totally ignoring the stage. I’m avoiding doing much in the software all together, other than dragging some staple UI controls from the components panel to my Library. I jump into FlashDevelop or FlashBuilder (which I still call FlexBuilder) and write ActionScript there. When I’m ready to see my work, I say a prayer and compile, confident it will work well, but hoping it will look decent enough.

Back in the day, I would have known quite well what my app would look like before I coded it. That’s far from reality now. So is this the way I really want to be building apps? Has it made me a more seasoned and valuable developer? Probably, but it really depends on the project at hand. Has this improved performance, size, efficiency, scalability of my apps? Again, it really depends on the project at hand.

So, in conclusion, this doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme. As technology, the industry and demands have evolved, so have I. And don’t get me wrong. If you’re still perfectly comfortable and successful working in Flash Pro, that’s just as good. Developers like me need you now more than ever.

chuckstar

6 Comments

Kevin Newman

I have noticed a similar trend in my own programming. But it didn’t come from moving in Flex, which I have not had an opportunity to do just yet, but from tinkering with a multitude of other kinds of tech (php, SQL, asp.net and C#, javascript and library creation/maintenance, etc.). Actionscript 3.0 timelines and all their bugs helped push me into more traditional OOP as well. I have also noticed that doing it the “more traditional OOP” way can often take more time, and can often be less flexible, than just doing some stuff on the timeline, and getting all willy nilly with the code in that space (though OOP/design patterns does often scale better). So I have recently been doubling back to try and get a bit of a balance between the two approaches. I did develop a taste for FlashDevelop along the way, as the Flash Pro editor is putrid.

Matthew Wallace

I am right there with you Chuck. Flex made me a better developer. When I switch to develop in the Flash IDE I find myself using it to just build assets for Actionscript projects inside of Flex Builder (now Flash Builder).

I do have the Flex framework to thank as well for how I code and build applications and also plain old flash sites.

Great Post!

Keith Peters

You gotta put the Flash back in Flash!

diamondTearz

I’ve been stuck in the Flash IDE since April. Boy do I miss Flex. At least ya’ll have some AS3 code to comfort you. I’m knee deep in timeline code wishing something somewhere would dispatch an event or that I could Control-Space and get a hint or two!

Phillip Kerman

It makes sense– I feel the same way but I can’t give the credit to Flex as I haven’t really barely touched Flex. FWIW, when I’m “in Flash” I’m just assembling media… and, to me, it’s a nicer way to manage vector art (vs. making .swfs of everything). No offense to Flex.

Durairaj

Its well written. Even many of my collegues in the past present and may be in the future were asking, are u a good designer (Graphics designer). Its hate to tell that people even dont know that there were a programming language in flash( I Wonder how many these guys were in software industry for ages 🙂 ). But Flex has shut many of the mouths who were blaming on the same. Its a Great move by Adobe initiated by macromedia.

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