Flash vs. Flex equals Shared Libraries

– taterboy | February 20th, 2010

Filed under: ActionScript 3, Flash, Flex, Tips

SWC are files full of gooey goodness. They are an archive file or class library contianing an swf and xml catelog. You may have used an SWC to integrate a Flex/Flash application with any of the most popular web applications like facebook or yahoo. If not, then what are you waiting for?

I’m not sure what S.W.C stands for, but I do know they are an awesome way to share and distribute code. Everything is in one file, super easy to update, and if a newer version is not compatible with old code, it’s easily revered by replacing the newer SWC with a preivous build.

How To:
For a great tutorial on how to get started building and distributing your own shared libraries from Flex, check this out. http://tv.adobe.com/watch/adc-presents/creating-swc-files/ This video, I think is pretty deep, the swc build stuff starts about 7:20 in, but watch everything and hopefully it will all make scense.

Here is some more light reading (the SWC basics):

Flash and Flex Love:
Building code libraries are cool and everything, but the reason I love SWC’s so much is the compatibility between Flash and Flex. It is like a holy union, they way graphic or media elements from Flash can be shared as classes for use in Flex. We use SWC’s for any project with a custom UI, basic skins and advanced visual effects.

The Battle Royal:
There is a growing question about the future of Flash and Flex, especially now that Flex is called Flash Builder (That’s just too confusing for me, so I’ll continue to call it Flex for now). Flex 4 has these new skin classes, Catalyst is getting a ton of buzz and the beta version of Flash CS5 looks to have a more Flex-like coding environment. So, which one will reign supreme? For me that question is hard to answer, I currently start most of our projects in Flash, all of the media elements are imported to build a library of visual/audio components. Any complex animations are created using the Flash Timeline. The decision about which program will be used for the rest of the project is based on how much coding is necessary. Flash CS4’s coding environment is no match for Flex’s, if there are more than a hundred lines of code needed, then Flex wins the day. It will be interesting how much this will change once I get my hands on a copy Flash CS5.

For more information on how to get started building Flex Components in Flash, check out this tutorial. http://tv.adobe.com/watch/adc-presents/turning-animations-into-flex-components

To get the Flex Component Kit for Flash http://www.adobe.com/go/flex_ck_en

For more info on Flex Containers from Flash watch this:

As A General Rule, No Code:
Using SWCs are a great way for Flex programmers to work with the creative team. Designers can build everything they need in Flash and hand it off as a shared library file(SWC) that drops in the “libs” folder of the Flex project. Flex components from Flash include all the graphics, animation, audio and code. The Flash guys can build complete working components in Flash then hand them off to the Flex team. As a general rule do not include code in your Flex components from Flash. By just providing the visual symbols, the Flex team can code everything and make updates to all non-visual elements as needed. In most cases the Flex team will maintain the app long after the design team has moved on to new projects. The more code that can be updated in Flex, the better, it sucks having to send the SWC back to the design team for code updates that could have easily been done by the Flex team. This seems to be the catalyst approach, allow the designer to build the UI, while keeping all of the code accessible to Flex.

The Big Question:
Besides code, what are the benefist of using Flex components from Flash instead of the, commonly preferred, image files? Packaging and consolidation has merit. Flash also saves out vector graphics which can be easily scaled unlike bitmap files. Scale 9 Grid is super easy to setup in the Flash IDE, just check a box and visually align the grid to the artwork. There are many other custom component and UI opportunities, like animation, that are only available when using SWC’s from Flash.

The Downside:
The creative / non-programmer person on the team may have terrible naming convention skills, using creatively vague names for all these new Flex Components, like naming some elements after Star Wars vehicles or some other nonsense. The designer will have to create a legend file describing all the components and their names. It is also helpful if an swf or image is provided with all the symbols layedout and properly labeled by class name. I would suggest prefixing all of the new component names with the name or abreviation of the project. That way after a few taps of the keyboard in Flex, you can see a nice list of all the class names from the SWC.

Please provide some comments on how you work with Flash and/or Flex. If you know or have a good guess on what SWC stands for, comment that as well.

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Adobe Developer spotlight: Todd Williams

– taterboy | February 7th, 2010

Filed under: Bio, General Info

Wow! Spotlighted by Adobe, this is really awesome! I couldn’t want to let the month go by without acknowledging how cool it is to have my pretty mug share the Adobe Devnet homepage with those of Kevin Lynch and Ben Forta. It is a great honor to have Adobe notice the work we are doing over here in Tampa. Thank You!

The Thank You Speech:
I would first like to thank…. (music starts playing) .. and It is an honor…. (Large suited men are closing in) … the world would be a much better place if … (being dragged off stage still clinging to the microphone, dragging the podium behind us) .. and in closing I would like to say….

My mom now has a print out of the Adobe Devnet homepage on her fridge, as well as bumper sticker on the back of her car saying “My son is Student of the month at Adobe.com/devnet”.

The Links:

P.S. New Tour de Flex samples, as well as a few development tips are currently in the works. Client work and crazy hours has aside, I Hope to be posting them soon.

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