8 Replies Latest reply on Dec 8, 2010 9:38 PM by Ansury

    Flex 4/Spark UI Design

    Ansury Level 3

      How exactly do "most" Flex developers do this nowadays?  I'm coming from Flex 3 with a lot of experience in Flex Builder 3, where "Design View" and doing basic visual customizations were a no-brainer.  Does anyone even use Design View anymore?  (Please don't tell me we're all hitting "run" to see what the UI looks like.)  Do I need to buy Catalyst or Fireworks or something to make the Spark skinning process manageable?  I'm having a terrible time getting design view to show anything remotely close to what I'd consider an accurate preview.

       

      Basically it seems like porting a real (not a silly "example" demo component on some blog) Flex 2 or 3 app to 4 + Spark is practically impossible without basically starting from scratch on the UI.

       

       

      Also, Spark has been out for a while now.  I find it odd that I have a hard time finding even a single 'free' or example Spark skin (other than the ones included in FB which nobody can read the fonts on)--are there any free or example Spark skins out there at all?

        • 1. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
          Ansury Level 3

          This place has become a desolate virtual wasteland ever since the Jive-ing of the forums... how disappointing.

          • 2. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
            EhlersD Level 1

            "Jive-ing of the forums"

             

            I'm fairly new around here (at least following regularly).  What did I miss?

             

            Darren

            • 3. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
              Ansury Level 3

              Heh heh.. it was probably about 1-2 years ago by now, Adobe "upgraded" the forum software here to this "Jive Clearspace" thing. (At the time many considered it a downgrade, loss of alternative forum access methods, login session issues, terrible speed, search, etc.)  I don't know about others, but myself and a good number of people still continue to have technical issues in various browsers (particularly this buggy "rich" text editor box).  That and a number of other things drove a lot of experienced expertise away from here, and although some of the issues have been resolved since then (such as the ridiculous search difficulties), the damage was done and a lot of names who used to be around just aren't here anymore.

               

              Between this and what seems to be a nice big (IMO) fail on Adobe's part regarding the Flex 4 SDK (Spark put out there before it was ready for prime time), I'm worried for the future.  Flex and the Flash platform in general are fairly popular but IMO they should be much more dominant, and they might be if this focus on heavy UI-customization (Spark--many business customers couldn't care less about weird shaped buttons etc) was dropped to focus on stability and real value-adding features like better printing support.  Okay, I'm done ranting for today.  I'm still a "Flex guy" for now (alternatives being worse generally) but I'm really starting to feel the heat from certain competition lately.

              • 4. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
                Ansury Level 3

                Part of the problem is how Flex is marketed/demoed/portrayed as well.  All the little special effect "3D photo albums" and other goofy little things that nobody really cares about is not helping the platform's popularity.  If anything it's hurting it, making developers think "So Flex lets you add fancy effects, 3D stuff, and useless visual eye candy, and in exchange we have to worry about the Flash player being installed? No thanks..."  But the reality is that the Flash platform's "virtualized development environment" (bringing consistency and stability to the web) is really one of the best things Flex has to offer, and that's only one area where it beats JavaScript-based hacks completely.  But come on Adobe - clean this development environment up!  I'm dieing for a more productive way to do web dev!

                 

                Yeah I said I was done, but I'm bored at work off the clock waiting for a ride home, sorry.   This should be a new thread, if only anyone was interested in such broad topics.

                • 5. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
                  miquael Level 1

                  I'm interested!  I've been using the "Flash IDE" since around 1998, and have been with Flash and ActionScript thru the long-haul. 

                   

                  I've just recently been getting into Flex / Flash Builder (primarily because my primary client requires it as a general framework, which I generally just plug my ActionScript into).  But I'm not super impressed (yet) with the FB IDE. I hope I'll change my mind as I get to know it better ...

                  • 6. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
                    tntomek Level 1

                    I honeslty don't think the folks higher up at Adobe care enough; Flex team just seems so understaffed. Just watched the Silverlight 5 keynote ... and ... well, what Adobe managed to do in I dont know how many years, Microsoft has done in 3. It can't be a technical thing, there are smart people everywhere, and the amount of momentun MS has thrown at SL (despite the false recent rumors about them moving to html 5 - thats just for certain scenarios) ... well the momentum far exceeds what Flex is up to, not to mention 3rd party community, SL 3rd party is HUGE. Kind of sad really, I really do like working with Flex, but the days might be counted especially for the 10 x as many MS shops outs there.

                    • 7. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
                      Ansury Level 3

                      Well the IDE used to be a little more solid when we had FB3 (i.e. no Spark components and an almost perfectly working Design View mode).  On the upside we have proper refactoring now.  I'm hoping FB 5 will be a clean up of some of the back peddling done in 4 in terms of stability and developer productivity.

                       

                      I don't know if I'd say Adobe doesn't care, I think they're a much smaller company and they aren't making much income off the technology yet so it's hard to justify big expenses.

                       

                      IMO they should just open source Livecycle (maybe Flex Builder too), and start selling support contracts to big companies.  To do this they'd have to stop messing around with this flashy-UI and useless "effects/transitions", and start building a more robust business world oriented platform.  The OSS business model seems to be working for Red Hat (not to mention Oracle) and I suspect Google has it in long term planning with all the OSS stuff they do.  You lose the revenue of product sales, but you also get free developer support from the OSS community, and overall it's a good deal for everyone.

                       

                      Another cool and possibly wildly successful possibility would be to officially support a Java syntax Flash compiler (like J2AS, although no idea how mature that is) within FB.  There's 1 million+ potential developers added to your dev base right there.  Some Java guys are pissy about learning another language and just complain that ActionScript is different, so they go for RIA-imitation tools like GWT just so they can stay in Java.

                       

                      Silverlight has come far, but there's still a few things Flex has over SL - Flash platform installs for example (and of course Java devs lean towards Flex over SL big time).  Contrast to the fragmented HTML5 world - the complete standard isn't even estimated to be completed until well after 2020 (never mind getting everything working correctly in all these new browsers and hand held devices) - talk about low ambitions!

                       

                      Honestly, I'd be plenty happy (for now) if I could just make some decent progress with this freaking design mode issue and start being productive again.

                      • 8. Re: Flex 4/Spark UI Design
                        Ansury Level 3

                        miquael wrote:

                         

                        I've just recently been getting into Flex / Flash Builder (primarily because my primary client requires it as a general framework,

                         

                        This is a good sign though.  There's definitely jobs out there listing Flex specifically, and I think it's still a growing field, but that growth needs to speed up to stay ahead of the curve.  I understand frustrations with the dev environment, which I have too, but to be fair the expectations are set pretty high too.  Refactoring is no trivial feature, especially with MXML + AS, but it's there.  I look at it this way: it could be worse--we could be dependent on JavaScript, DOM,  browser based CSS, DHTML, AJAX, one of 50 different possible 'frameworks', testing and retesting code in multiple browsers, JSP, stone-age server side view/presentation layer frameworks, etc. etc.!

                         

                        I only complain sometimes because of the wasted potential I see!