Adobe Flash

Flash or Flex?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 | Business | No Comments

Both Adobe Flash and Adobe Flex build SWFs.  They are the same right?

I’ve asked myself the Flash or Flex question recently and wanted to post my thoughts.

It’s a good idea to think about platforms when building web applications ahead of time.  Factors I traditionally use, but will not reference here, are the current employee skillsets, ability of the team to learn, and cost to update software.  I know — it’s good to get updated software in a company, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for a company to spend $1,000 for 5 users, to maintain a project that only costs $5,000 to build.  If the company is already equipped with Flash but not Flex — it may make sense to choose Flash even though the project doesn’t lend itself.

That being said, here’s the breakdown of Flash and Flex

FlashFlash CS4 

Flash has always been the tool used by develops wanting to create vector animations on the web.  Recently Microsoft has introduced Silverlight, we will be ignoring that option for this scenario as I don’t believe I have the expertise to judge Silverlight. 

Strengths

  • Comes with standard Adobe Creative Suite Bundles
  • Timeline based animations
  • Hand animated assets
  • Standard Animation
  • Self Created Vector Assets
  • Highly customized interfaces
  • Animation / Design leaning IDE
  • Visual
  • Familiar environment, as it is the standard way to deploy SWFs

Weaknesses:

  • Not meant for AS3 development
  • Becomes a basic text editor in most Object Oriented development exercises
  • Timeline approach means maintenance is more expensive long term

Summary:

Basically Flash is the ideal environment for development if you are doing things such as banners, animations, logos, or any other visual type of project.  It leans itself towards graphic design and animation.  

Flash is found in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium

 

FlexAdobe Flex 3

Flex is the newcomer to the vector animation IDE’s from Adobe.  Flex is primarily targeted at developers working in the Flash environment.  Flex 3 Builder is a modified Eclipse IDE.  The Flex platform was built to enable developers to adapt better to Flash, and be able to create Flash O-O applications.  

Strengths:

  • Developer friendly IDE
  • Built in components for standard GUI elements
  • Meant for highly interactive applications
  • Performance tools
  • Debugging
  • Maintaining code
  • Can leverage SWFs
  • Can leverage AS3 code

Weaknesses:

  • No Timeline
  • Not for designers
  • May seem “cryptic” to traditional Flash developers
  • Not visual
  • Requires learning new MXML code
  • Complex working environment

Summary:

Flex is meant for application development.  The IDE lets developers work in a familiar environment, separate from the graphical tools designers are traditionally used to.  Flex will give developers the tools they need to rapidly prototype application interfaces, with standardized tools and interface elements.  

Flex is available as either Adobe Flex Builder 3.0 or Adobe Flex Builder Pro 3.0

  

So which one should I choose?

Ultimately both Flash and Flex compile into the Flash SWF format.  That means they are both capable of the same functionality and same graphical quality.  The major difference is in the individual building the SWF, as well as the goal of the SWF.   If your goal is for a design oriented SWF, then go with Flash.  If you want an application, or a complex interactive interface then Flex will most likely be your tool of choise.

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Favorite Software for Web Development

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 | Business | 1 Comment

Sometimes when you start out doing something on computers, it seems so hard until you get the tools that everyone else uses.

In this post I’m asking everyone else for feedback, what do you like to use?  Go ahead and comment it in there, I’ll add it to the article as I see em.

Below are some of my favorite pieces of software for web development, some will be very obvious (Flash, Photoshop, etc.) … some maybe not so much:

TextPad
I love textpad for basic text changes from everything PHP, to HTML, to writing notes.   It’s great to have multiple documents, line numbers, quick global / file / local search and replaces etc.  I use this when I’m working with source files, XML definition files, CSS files, to CFM or other formats.  I love it.  

HomeSite
Those of you who know homesite, will know it’s pretty much gone nowadays.   The heyday was many years ago.  The direct FTP editing was amazingly useful.  It has some features that I still go back to now and then.  Mostly search and replace functionality, FTP based editing (right on ther server … mostly), document formatting (code sweeper), and other utilitarian functions.  

CuteFTP Pro
Working on the web, we all are in constant use of FTP (more so than we should be).  Cute FTP has always been a staple of my software toolbox.  It’s so easy to launch connections to all the FTP servers you use throughout the day, keep them open for jumping between projects.  The number of protocols it supports is flexible (FTP, FTP w/ SSL, SFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, etc.), and it always seem to be able to connect.  The speeds and setting are highly configurable.  It’s nice having 50 simultaneous downloads going at a time.

Tortoise SVN
Whoever isn’t using SVN, should be using SVN (or CVS or whatever other version control system you can think of).  Tortoise SVN is an essential windows interface enhancement to integrate SVN into the file browser.  For those of you who use CVS, there’s a Tortoise CVS as well.  It is easy to look at version histories, compare files based on modification dates, and to pull down new updates.  

Subversion
Source control is underutilized in my experience.   So many sites aren’t run with source control.  Think of the advantages: automatic source control, automatic offsite backup (if you use an external host — which I would love to recommend svnrepository.com, a very cheap hosted SVN repository).  Read about it, get used to it, it will save a project.

Eclipse
You were waiting for me to say it weren’t you?   An open source IDE.  Technically it started as a Java IDE (most Java developers should be intimately familiar with this).  Thanks to add-ons developed by the community, it supports, quite adeptly, PHP and other web development technologies.  It has built in SVN support, supports deployment scripts… its amazing.  Try it, explore the community around it.  Check out the Subclipse add-on, as well as the Web Developer Tools, and Eclipse XML Editors and Tools.

Adobe Flash (Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium)
Pretty much a no brainer, you need Adobe Flash to develop flash.  It’s a great tool, worth every penny.

Adobe Photoshop (Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium)
Another obvious one.  Photoshop is a requirements for all web development.  No, you shouldn’t be doing web design work as a developer.  However, there is always the need to look at colors, size things, cut up images, process original artwork, the list goes on forever.  I really recommend the Adobe Creative Suite, we use almost all of the software anyway.  

Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)
You will always need this (or another decent word processor).  Yes, you can get by without it.  However the sheer amount of things Word can handle: Estimates, Proposals, Letterheads, Envelopes, Labels, the list goes on and on.. you will wish you had it someday.

Microsoft Excel (Microsoft Office)
Another one that you don’t always think about, but excel makes writing estimates so much easier.  You can update your entire estimate based upon a new discount, manage hours, track changes.  I’ve used Google’s online spreadsheets before – they are great.  But they aren’t fully able to replace excel yet. 

Microsoft PowerPoint (Microsoft Office)
Those proposals are much better with an accompanying presentation. Tell your clients what you do, what they need, in a way that can impact people in a conference room.  Everyone yawns when it comes to yet ANOTHER powerpoint presentation, but you look unprofessional without one in most cases. 

MySQL
Normally this is on a hosted platform, but you need a database to do the cooler web development projects.  MySQL is cheap, but if you want you can substitute in Microsoft SQL Server, or even Oracle.  In my experience if you know why you want MS or Oracle, you can pay for them.  If you don’t know why you want either of those, just go with MySQL.  

PHP MY Admin
Administration software is just as important as the backend engine, at least for development.  It lets you manage a database online, easily, and export simply.  If you haven’t used it, try it. 

SQL Server Management Studio
Another tool for development on SQL servers.  Same as PHP My Admin, arguably much more helpful, but it is a client app.  If you’re working with Oracle, or prefer these desktop applications to the PHPMyAdmin web interface — check out Aqua Data Studio

There are really dozens more tools I consider very useful.  Not exluding:

– Versions of all browsers
– VPN Connectivity software
– Remote Desktop
– VNC Client
– pcAnywhere (not so much anymore)
– Outlook / Email Client

Last but not least, is Google.  It is the best tool you will have when working in web development.

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