Adobe Flex: What on earth is it?

Over the course of the last few days, I've showed a number of people and customers our new FirM web-based interface. Its very nice, scalable, robust, and obviously allows you to do things in our product from a web-based client. And the nice thing is that it runs on ANY brower and platform that runs the Flash web-addin. How on earth did we do this?

Flex - an Introduction

Adobe Flex is an environment for building rich internet applications. It actually builds them on top of the 'Flash' plugin - so anythin that can run videos (for instance), can run Flex applications. Flex applications, at the end of the day, are just Flash movies. This gives us complete brower and platform independence. I can think of two other methods of building Rich Internet Applications:

  • Construct them out of HTML and Javascript, to give you that 'just in time' AJAX style interface. To do this, its best to consider a Javascript framework such as Dojo, MooTools, jQuery and so forth. Building one of these applications in Domino isnt actually easy (you'll have to wait for xPages in 8.5 for that), but its a well trodden path. This path is still perfectly valid, in my humble opinion, but was not the path for me. Browser differences (gee, thanks Microsoft!) means that even with these frameworks, there is a risk that you might have to do some work to make your application work in a new browser - such as Google chrome. This was a risk I didnt want.

  • Microsoft Silverlight. Its a way of using the MS framework to build a rich internet application. Well, forgive my cynicism, but why should I trust the very people responsible for screwing up brower compatibility in the first? And can I trust them not to break it again in the future? I prefer to know that my environment is open source. Is MS open source ? I dont actually know. And as you can tell - I dont really care much. This option is pretty much dead to me.

  • Flex builder - the environment for building Flex applications (in eclipse) costs money. £150 for the standard builder, and £450 for the one that does nice graphs. Both are available on a 90 day evaluation here, and you can build as many applications as you like. As alluded to earlier, Flex is actually open source. You could, if you wanted, use Notepad and a free compiler to build these apps. In the same way you can use discarded camel hair to knit your own underwear. Some people might want to do that. Me ? I value my time at a little more than £150, so I splashed the cash. Interestingly, you could - if you wanted - create your own build environment (and some people have).

    So what is Flex builder?

    How difficult is it to get started ?

    Flex and Domino integration