28 Replies Latest reply on Dec 15, 2008 10:33 AM by Ansury

    Why Use Flex?

    eholz1 Level 1
      Hello Flex Forum,

      I must admit some curisoity about Flex. Seems Adobe is really pushing it. Kind of reminds me of FoxPro and Access. There are so many differerent ways to do things web-wise these days, I am wondering why a developer might choose Flex over Flash (actionscript), or some of the other (like dojo) language or environment that does similar things. I am currently working on an e-learning project that need to be CD based, because the company I work for cannot support a server to allow users from outside the firewall (I work for an Aerospace company) to access "intranet" based training where Captivate, Flash, and even Flex based apps are designed to run best.

      I would be interested in any rationale for the use of Flex, its strong points and weak points, etc.

      Thanks,

      eholz1
        • 1. Re: Why Use Flex?
          JZBAO
          Flex is about RIA (Rich Internet Application). If you application is stand alone and does not need to access a remote database or other resources, you may use anything you feel comfortable.

          Flash is for media uses, not for business applications. DOJO is using AJAX, which is competitor of FLEX. If you know JavaScript very well, you may want to use it with Java. DOJO is not for stand-alone application.

          Java Fx and Silverlight are alternatives of Flex.

          • 2. Why Use Flex?
            Ansury Level 3
            I'd ask: why use slow, browser dependent, bug prone, outdated Ajax hacks or old-school generated HTML when you have Flex as an alternative. I'd rather give up and become a sleeping mall security guard than devolve to Ajax hackery.

            Flex weak points? I'd say printing and reporting is the #1 that I can think of ATM, but of course competing technologies don't do any better. They still rely on the same crummy tools and techniques that Flex apps often seem to call on. And for reporting/printing when your requirements are pretty simple, Flex can probably deal with it natively anyway, to boot.

            We're using a hybrid approach for reporting. Flex charting and interactivity (good luck doing this as well Ajax hackers) is great for small summary reporting, and simple table data can be printed from inside Flex. For larger/bulky and more complex reports we call on a servlet which uses a 3rd party reporting tool to generate PDFs.

            Flex integrates with a ton of other technologies pretty well. You can also install a Flex app using AIR, which basically makes it a standalone client application on your workstation. This could be the ultimate bandwidth saver (no swf OR html/js transmitted), if you don't mind the less convenient deployment method. AMF is much faster than the crappy protocols Ajax uses.

            BTW, running on an intranet is not going to be a problem, as long as Flash 9 or higher is deployed everywhere, or users are permitted to install it using an internal server download. It doesn't need to come from Adobe's server off the internet..

            BUT, Adobe better not get too confident here. MS and Silverlight are doing to be tough competition, and I'll switch if it steals the lead in maturity. JavaFX is junk, and too late to the game, it'll fail. ^_^ I guess Ajax could even become less crummy, but some of it's downsides will never be resolved.
            • 3. Re: Why Use Flex?
              Gregory Lafrance Level 6
              I believe Adobe will continue to develop the Flex/Flash platform as strategically as they have developed PDF, and as well as they have developed their other brands.

              Microsoft is good at some things, but I just don't think they are going to be able to beat Flex/AIR, like they have not been able to unseat PDF.

              So why use Flex? Because those who master it over the next 3 - 5 years can make tons of cash getting the really high paying jobs when Flex gains widespread popularity, and is even on all mobile devices and iPhone.
              • 4. Re: Why Use Flex?
                Level 7

                "eholz1" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                news:ghpe0p$scm$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                > Hello Flex Forum,
                >
                > I must admit some curisoity about Flex. Seems Adobe is really pushing it.
                > Kind of reminds me of FoxPro and Access. There are so many differerent
                > ways to
                > do things web-wise these days, I am wondering why a developer might choose
                > Flex
                > over Flash (actionscript), or some of the other (like dojo) language or
                > environment that does similar things. I am currently working on an
                > e-learning
                > project that need to be CD based, because the company I work for cannot
                > support
                > a server to allow users from outside the firewall (I work for an Aerospace
                > company) to access "intranet" based training where Captivate, Flash, and
                > even
                > Flex based apps are designed to run best.
                >
                > I would be interested in any rationale for the use of Flex, its strong
                > points
                > and weak points, etc.

                I did an analysis of Flex for eLearning here:
                http://learn.adobe.com/wiki/display/Flex/Moving+to+Flex+from+Authorware

                I also have a spread sheet that I thought I had given to the guy who put
                this stuff on the wiki that compares various tools for eLearning based on
                what you want it to do, but I'm not seeing a link to it. Contact me at amy
                at magnoliamultimedia dot com if you'd like a copy of the spread sheet.

                HTH;

                Amy


                • 5. Re: Why Use Flex?
                  Wooosa
                  GWT and ZK are the options for those Java programmers who want to develop RIA applications but don't want to learn JavaScript.
                  • 6. Re: Why Use Flex?
                    Ansury Level 3
                    Google or whoever can build whatever facades they want around it; it's still a web hack that people need to stop wasting their efforts trying to improve, so we can get on to bigger and better things on the Internet. Who wants to deal with crap Ajax performance, or worry about junk breaking every time a new browser type or version shows up? If you want to stop having the server do silly things that it shouldn't be doing, like keeping track every user's client state (it's sad that this is the norm!!), the best way to do it is true RIA tech like Flex (or Silverlight)... no contest. But I may be biased. ^_^
                    • 7. Re: Why Use Flex?
                      Gregory Lafrance Level 6
                      No you're not biased, you just thinking like you have one foot outside the development box (a very good thing).

                      One problem in the software development field is that too many engineering managers are made managers because they have "good people skills" (== they don't push their people to pay attention to the details), but they are still just engineers with a new title (okay, they do possess some additional capabilities, otherwise some else would be in their sandals).

                      When someone becomes a manager, and truely is interested and passionate in developing themselves as a professional manager, they realize that they need to become an octopus, one of their feet in engineering, one foot in sales, one foot in marketing, one foot in usability, one foot in customer support, one foot in QA, one foot in program management, and one foot as CEO.

                      Without this perspective, and without a passion for conveying the importance and the raw power of having this perspective to their developers, their team's efforts will always fall short of Nirvana.

                      But I digress...
                      • 8. Re: Why Use Flex?
                        Level 7

                        "Greg Lafrance" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                        news:ghrgdq$irn$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                        > No you're not biased, you just thinking like you have one foot outside the
                        > development box (a very good thing).

                        I disagree. His whole line of discussion had a very web connected bias,
                        despite the fact that the OP was very clear that he needed a solution that
                        would work in a _disconnected_ world, off of CD. I think that for his use,
                        the best technology available today is probably Director.


                        • 9. Re: Why Use Flex?
                          Gregory Lafrance Level 6
                          But can't you put a Flex or AIR app on a CD, and run in locale (non-networked) mode?

                          I don't know much at all about Director, but if the above is possible, if Flex / AIR the preferrable choice?
                          • 10. Re: Why Use Flex?
                            Ansury Level 3
                            I thought Director was retired, or "on it's way out", from what I've read about Adobe's plans.
                            Which makes Flex/AIR top dog... and I don't see how this is very 'web connected'.

                            Yes, you can install a Flex AIR app with a CD. Flex/AIR doesn't need a web connection at all. And it (both with AND without AIR) works *perfectly* in an Intranet environment - I know from experience. Flex has nothing to do with *the* Internet, strictly speaking.

                            Flex gives you the flexibility to run over an intranet/internet OR run inside an AIR VM. Ajax is crap, on the other hand. Hee-hee-hee... (yes, so I exaggerate this a little..)
                            • 11. Re: Why Use Flex?
                              Level 7

                              "Greg Lafrance" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                              news:ghrj6b$m8e$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                              > But can't you put a Flex or AIR app on a CD, and run in locale
                              > (non-networked) mode?

                              Sort of... but an installed AIR app will need to look for the files on the
                              CD every time it runs, because for some reason the AIR developers never
                              considered that someone might want to run an application that's not
                              installed off a CD. And running files off a CD in a browser can have
                              problems of its own, not least that ActiveX controls can be kind of wonky
                              when they're running locally.

                              > I don't know much at all about Director, but if the above is possible, if
                              > Flex / AIR the preferrable choice?

                              Director is able to get its fingers into the system much better than AIR, so
                              it can connect to serial ports, use Access and Firebird databases, etc.
                              Wheter that's preferable depends on the paranoia of the IT department and
                              the needs of the course. Also, I personally wouldn't trust Adobe not to EOD
                              Director the way they did Authorware. But at least Director has a recent
                              enough release that it should remain viable for at least the next 2-3 years
                              even if they do that.


                              • 12. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                Level 7

                                "Ansury" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                news:ghrm9t$q2g$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                >I thought Director was retired, or "on it's way out", from what I've read
                                >about
                                > Adobe's plans.

                                There tend to be a lot of these rumors floating around, but from what I hear
                                there may well be another version under development. Not that that means
                                anything. I might have seen an Authorware 8 Beta myself.

                                > Which makes Flex/AIR top dog... and I don't see how this is very 'web
                                > connected'.
                                >
                                > Yes, you can install a Flex AIR app with a CD. Flex/AIR doesn't need a
                                > web
                                > connection at all. And it (both with AND without AIR) works *perfectly*
                                > in an
                                > Intranet environment - I know from experience. Flex has nothing to do
                                > with
                                > *the* Internet, strictly speaking.
                                >
                                > Flex gives you the flexibility to run over an intranet/internet OR run
                                > inside
                                > an AIR VM. Ajax is crap, on the other hand. Hee-hee-hee... (yes, so I
                                > exaggerate this a little..)

                                If you're comparing it to Ajax, then clearly you have a web-centric bias,
                                because Ajax has nothing to do if there's not a server involved.


                                • 13. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                  Gregory Lafrance Level 6
                                  But I think you can have the installer place necessary files in an AIR app specific directory. Then you could not rely on the CD.

                                  If Adobe is retiring Director, I would think it should be avoided.
                                  • 14. Why Use Flex?
                                    Ansury Level 3
                                    Yup, you can. I've created/installed AIR apps with a single AIR install file that runs an installshield style wizard thingy (very nice), it even adds an entry to your Program Files menu and you can uninstall from the regular Windows 'installed applications' dialog.

                                    I do kinda wish Director wasn't being EOL'd, but maybe I'm wrong that it is. I probably just read it mentioned in a forum somewhere, who knows. But maybe this means they plan much bigger things for Air/Flex in the future. It makes sense to drop one if they're starting to compete against one another in the end.

                                    Also, in Flex/AIR's defense with lesser OS integration, Merapi is available now which gives you Java integration. Which in some ways is definitely better than Director, given the massive capabilities and power you get simply from using Java. Over time I'm sure Flex/AIR/Java will become a pretty powerful and easy to use tech combo, it's still relatively new right now.
                                    • 15. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                      Level 7

                                      "Greg Lafrance" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                      news:ghroa7$sk0$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                      > But I think you can have the installer place necessary files in an AIR app
                                      > specific directory. Then you could not rely on the CD.

                                      You've obviously never delivered an eLearning course that had to be on DVD
                                      because of the high res movies involved :-). When someone's delivering a
                                      course on CD or DVD, there's usually more reason for that than just being
                                      able to physically get it on the computer.

                                      Plus, you ignored the advantages that Director has in terms of complete
                                      system access that AIR may never have if no one can convince the developers
                                      to add that to make it a viable platform for this type of application.

                                      > If Adobe is retiring Director, I would think it should be avoided.

                                      There were rumors for 10 years before Authorware got the ax that they were
                                      discontinuing it. You work for Adobe...how much do you know about the
                                      validity of the rumors that Director will be retired?

                                      Today, Director is the best technology. Actually, even today _Authorware_
                                      is the best tool for this type of eLearning application But I wouldn't
                                      advise anyone who doesn't know it already to waste any resources learning
                                      it.


                                      • 16. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                        Level 7

                                        "Ansury" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                        news:ghrpbq$lb$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                        > Yup, you can. I've created/installed AIR apps with a single AIR install
                                        > file
                                        > that runs an installshield style wizard thing, it even adds an entry is
                                        > your
                                        > Program Files menu and you can uninstall from the regular Windows
                                        > 'installed
                                        > applications' dialog.

                                        Was this an eLearning app? How media intensive was it?

                                        > I do kinda wish Director wasn't being EOL'd, but maybe I'm wrong. I
                                        > probably
                                        > just read it in a forum somewhere, who knows. But maybe this means they
                                        > plan
                                        > much bigger things for Air/Flex in the future. It makes sense to drop one
                                        > if
                                        > they're starting to compete against one another.

                                        Those types of rumors have been goin on around Director for probably as long
                                        as they did Authorware.

                                        > Also, in Flex/AIR's defense with lesser OS integration, Merapi is
                                        > available
                                        > now which gives you Java integration. Which in some ways is definitely
                                        > better
                                        > than Director, given the massive capabilities and power you get simply
                                        > from
                                        > using Java. Over time I'm sure Flex/AIR/Java will become a pretty
                                        > powerful and
                                        > easy to use tech combo, it's still relatively new right now.

                                        This assumes that your users are going to be willing and able to install
                                        Java just to run your app. I've dealt with eLearning type users and the
                                        type of IT departments that tend to control their machines for the past 12
                                        years, and I say you're living in fantasy land if you think that this is
                                        likely.


                                        • 17. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                          Johnking08 Level 1
                                          I'm wondering why this Flex Forum site was not developed with Flex.
                                          • 18. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                            Level 7

                                            "Johnking08" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                            news:ghsn44$695$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                            > I'm wondering why this Flex Forum site was not developed with Flex.

                                            It's part of a system that's been in use for probably 10 years or more.


                                            • 19. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                              Ansury Level 3
                                              Amy, you seem to be crucifying me because I only answered the part of the original question I wanted to. :-)
                                              This part:
                                              "There are so many differerent ways to do things web-wise these days, I am wondering why a developer might choose Flex over Flash (actionscript), or some of the other (like dojo) language or environment that does similar things."

                                              I was originally answering the OP's query primarily from a Flex vs. Ajax perspective, because Dojo was mentioned.

                                              I just wasn't responding to the specific "e-learning" CD based part of the question. (Too many unknown requirements, but I interpreted as simply "entirely installed from CD".) For that specific app director may be a better choice, the only concern I'd be able to voice is the potential risk of it possibly being EOL'ed. But if the lifetime of such an app is temporary or short term, that's not really important.

                                              So I'm not tearing down Director (unless AIR is planned to replace it down the road), but I won't back down from a chance to bash Ahacks...er I mean Ajax.
                                              • 20. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                rtalton Level 4
                                                After reading all this, I think I'd better stop development of my e-learning application. I originally did it in Authorware, running in a browser on the local system using Java with AJAX technology connecting to a server in Lithuania which copies large movie files from a Russian-based BitTorrent server to the local file system for staging prior to burning them to a DVD. I thought Flex was just too complicated for doing this, but maybe I'm wrong.

                                                Well, I've got to get back to designing a client's new web site in MS Front Page. Just having a little trouble opening the Ami Pro 1.0 files with all the text given to me by the client. Hey that reminds me... can I connect my client's dBase for DOS 2.1 data files to Front Page via Flash's localConnection?
                                                • 21. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                  Level 7

                                                  "Ansury" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                                  news:ghu63u$4j4$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                                  > Amy, you seem to be crucifying me because I only answered the part of the
                                                  > original question I wanted to. :-)

                                                  Sorry you felt crucified... Would you like me to recommend a good
                                                  antibiotic for the nail holes? ;-)


                                                  • 22. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                    Ansury Level 3
                                                    What a bunch of wiseasses lol... ^_^
                                                    • 23. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                      eholz1 Level 1
                                                      Hello all,

                                                      Thanks for the good info. Now I do have a better understanding of
                                                      where it all fits, etc. The technology and program development
                                                      is pretty amazing.

                                                      eholz1
                                                      • 24. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                        Gregory Lafrance Level 6
                                                        If Adobe does not eventually make AIR able to access ports, devices, etc. in the future, and turn it into what I think could almost be a replacement for Windows (admittedly not a valid statement, but hey, its Friday), I'll be disappointed.

                                                        This is a real opportunity to have THE platform for the 21st century, or at least for the next 12 - 32 years.
                                                        • 25. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                          Ansury Level 3
                                                          Tell me about it, I hope AIR's capabilities are expanded massively in the future. I wonder if they could think up a way to have it more seamlessly integrate with Java or C++ code, that would open up alot of doors if they could find a way. No idea how it'd work I just thought of it, haha.
                                                          • 26. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                            Gregory Lafrance Level 6
                                                            That's how they can torpedo Microsoft, but they have to do it. It's an opportunity of a generation, they just have to do it.
                                                            • 27. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                              Level 7

                                                              "Ansury" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                                                              news:ghur37$ru$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                                                              > Tell me about it, I hope AIR's capabilities are expanded massively in the
                                                              > future. I wonder if they could think up a way to have it more seamlessly
                                                              > integrate with Java or C++ code, that would open up alot of doors if they
                                                              > could
                                                              > find a way. No idea how it'd work I just thought of it, haha.

                                                              They need to allow platform-specific hooks, like Authorware and Director
                                                              have had for like 20 years. The reason AIR doesn't have them is that they
                                                              wanted all code to work exactly the same from a Mac or Windows or,
                                                              presumably, Linux. But developers know that if they're hooking into an
                                                              extension that's messing around with the OS that that extension might have a
                                                              version for each platform. All they need to do is put in the hooks and let
                                                              developers do the rest, but they're very stubborn on this point.


                                                              • 28. Re: Why Use Flex?
                                                                Ansury Level 3
                                                                Yes!! I am getting pretty annoyed by this strange devotion (or rationalization to avoid admitting how much more work there is to be done?) that Adobe has to supposedly be 'cross platform'.

                                                                And um... hey Adobe.. look at Java. Java is cross platform and the code is supposed to run the same on different OSes. Java runs in a VM to make this possible. Well AIR already runs in a VM. IIRC there is even different versions of the VM for Mac and Windows. Where is the problem? There isn't a technical one, go give Sun Microsystems a call if there seems to be.

                                                                Omitting capabilities and features that are "different" across platforms != a multi platform environment, Adobe. That's like leaving out a car's engine because you aren't sure what kind of gas the driver will put in. I'm just sayin'...

                                                                Now, if the enhanced features we all want aren't in yet because they just haven't gotten to it yet, that's different. But competition is still at work, and if AIR takes off, you can be sure Microsoft will follow up with a Silverlight compatible version of AIR. And they will not stop at the feature set that AIR currently supports, for sure.