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I hear you it can be a bit confusing. So lets break it down a bit. There are several flex products and each has a couple versions. So the first one is the Flex 2 SDK. This is freely available and includes all the framework files and a command line compiler. This allows you to use notepad or any other text editor to write your mxml and as code and compile it. This is completly free on non-restrictice of what you do with the swf you create.
However tools are a big part of any development language so the next product is Flex Builder 2. Flex Builder (FB) is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that has all sorts of tools for writing your code including a visual wysiwyg editor for your flex application. Its has a built in debugger and lots of features. Flex Builder 2 costs $499.
Both the flex sdk and flex builder allow you to create flex 2 swf applications which you can deploy to as many servers as you like, they get uploaded just like a swf made in the Flash 8 IDE.. Or heck sell them at your discretion (the swf not the sdk or flexbuilder ). With both of these you can communicate with a backend server using RPC (remote procedure call) invocations. These can be done over http using the httpService, soap using webService, and AMF using RemoteObject to talk to ColdFusion.
Then next peice of the software puzzle is the Charting Components. By themselves I think they are around 300 dollars. but You can also buy them bundled with flex builder and get both products for (I think) around 50 less than buying them seperate.
The last peice is the Flex Data Services. This is a J2EE server and allows for exceptional functionality including messaging, colloaboration, and data syncronization. There is a free version of this application taht is limited to 1 cpu servers and 100 connections. This product is called FDS Express. Then there is the full version of this server that costs in the range ow $20,000.
So as you see there are a couple routes you can take to use Flex for free, but to get the "Enterprise" features and tooling you will need to shell out a little dow. Depending on what you are looking for, it could be alot of dow :)
Hope that helps,
Thanks for taking the time! That reply cleared up a lot about Flex for me. I would be looking to use Flex with MySQL andd PHP, perhaps within CakePHP (or even better, Code Igniter) framework. Probably balk at the Data Services (no! Not J2EE!!) but sounds like I might not need it. Again, thanks for taking the time out for a n00b!
Oops, just found out FlexBuilder, even though it is built on Eclipse, is for Windows only. .. and I am on Mac OSX. Oh well... that was a quick evaluation! Saw a posting on a thread here asking about an OSX version... Adobe said they were working on it, but last post was dated almost a year ago. Must of got lost in the Macromedia merger. So long and good luck to all!
Adobe is still working on the Mac OS X version. Keep your eye out as it may be out soon.
I think that FDS Express allows 1 CPU and unlimited connections. As such it is classified as a full production type environment.
Yeah, I am on a mac as well. I use the zornPlus plugin for eclipse (yellowbadger.com) and then I use ant to compile the flex scripts. I have blogged about this a lot on my site. You can read about it here http://simb.net/ Check under the flex 2 category.
There is a mac version due out later. It is currently under development and they hope to have a beta out this fall. On my blog I also recently linked to screenshots of the new mac flex builder in the wild. So you can check those out as well.
Thanks for all the info on the Mac version. Good to see it may be coming out soon. Meanwhile I will proceed with my PHP and Code Igniter and keep an eye out for the Mac release. Besides, using an MVC framework, it should be easy to swap out the "View", right? ;-)