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IMO Flex if you want to run in the browser, Air if you want to run on the desktop and Flash if you want to learn a whole new way of thinking about things. I came from a C++, java background and Flex is by far the easiest way to dig in (Especially if you are already familiar with eclipse IDE)
Is Flex a programmatic way to build the UI? What if a Flash developer will be working on the UI? Would it make more sense for them to use the default Flash builder than to get into Eclipse where I'm writing the Java?
Flex provides you with a framework which has a rich set of components. Also with flex you can develop your application using mxml (which is declarative), so you can develop your application much faster (by using the available components) then if you were to write all the components in action script.
You can add your programmatic logic using action script to the mxml files. The flex framework is extensible, so if required you can also add your own components.
Also with flex you can leverage feature like data binding which can help you speed up your development time.
Flex SDK Team
Ok, but if I ask this in another Adobe forum, will they tell me that if I have a graphic designer on my team they should be using one of the other Flash-building tools instead of Flex? After all, I the Java developer am not the graphic designer, so I don't care as much what the Adobe UI technology is. Would it be easier or make more sense for the graphic designer to use something other than Flex? If so, what's the best way to connect it to my Java code? Thanks for your responses...
Flex builder is more developer oriented. Designers like to use the flash authoring tool. FWIW you can import the assets from flash into flex and use them.
If you want to build an application which can connect to your java backend, flex can make it really easy for you. Flex has support to connect to your back end services using httpservice, rpc, webservices etc.