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Just my 2 cents...
FlashBuilder provides you with an SDK to make using the Flex framework easier. The base class of all Flex apps is "Application.as", which, in my opinion, pretty much sums up what Flex is intended for, building scalable apps. Flex includes prebuilt components and classes that handle typical use scenarios, and is essentially a library of AS3 classes. I would say that Flex is definetely more standardized and robust than any current pure AS3 framework, and essential if you are collaborating with other developers on a mid-size to large project. Otherwise if you are comfortable rolling your own AS3 classes and dont have a need to use a standardized framework, stick with FlashPro.
Why did you ask this question when you answered it yourself
Flex is better for RIAs
Yes you can build anything I can build using Flex, but it will take you longer. Not to mention. I can do unit-testing out of the box with my stuff. The reason you don't feel you need to learn Flashbuilder is because you don't make RIA's. Plain and simple. In your post you said you don't need drag and drop, you don't need preconfigured components, you use static server files instead of web services, you don't need refactoring. In short you are right, you don't need Flexbuilder in the least bit.
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Flex is more about building applications, though people use it for all sorts.
Download the trial, follow Flex in a week and if it doesn't click with you, stick with Flash.
Thanks everyone for your time and good answers! I appreciate it. I have Flash Builder 4 and signed up for the Lynda.com Essential Training series. I do see now how it is great for building RIAs. Correct, I do not currently build RIAs (I do online interactive training for biotech), but want to start! Not so stoked on efficiency of building branded/customized stuff though. Custom skinning sounds very time consuming to me. But, standardized stuff is cool too, if done right. Seems so odd to not have graphical and animation tools at my fingertips too, feels very disjointed/specialized to me and would take some getting used to. I am also a bit bummed about how ginormous the swfs seems to be. The Flash guys I know are all so freakish about file sizes and elegant code etc.
BUT! I love how simple MXML makes generating actionscript, and that you can still Actionscript all day long if ya want. And WOW.. the debugger is pretty sweet, I must admit. Tracking variables and expressions etc... that's pretty damn cool. I can see how MXML speeds things up big time for web services work etc mentioned above. Great for enormous corporate projects I would assume. I get it!
Here's my conclusion. Love it, like it, or hate it... doesn't really matter much. If I want to break into working on RIA stuff, looks like Adobe and the community at large have pretty much squeezed Flash Pro right out of the conversation for whateve reason. Can't even find RIA and Flash Pro in the same article these days. I'll need to know Flash Builder if I am to share projects and work with these (you) guys . No doubt about it. I am sooo sick of developing eLearning lol. My developer (if you can call it that) side is screaming out for more attention! Now... guess I'll open another discussion called "how the heck do i get work in RIAs?" lol
Thanks again you guys!
I'm an eLearning developer as well. I use a variety of development including Flash Pro,
HTML-based, LMS-based (Moodle). I like Flash Builder when workinig with a
large number of graphics, videos and text/graphic pages. It helps me organize the work better.
Probably because I'm not naturally well-organized. I like some of the built-in classes as well and it is very easy to extent the existing classes into subclasses for customization.
But because I do not build traditional RIAs (like you, mind are eLearning), I find myself trying to force Flex to do things that Flash is better at.
Thanks for your comments Doug! Yeah, I couldn't fathom using it for building training modules. I use a custom-built/designed flash shell that loads external swfs (the pages of the modules) and it all sets it up (the module menu and associated voiceover files etc) using an XML file. Super clean and quick to update etc. Most of the stuff I get is just thrown at me via awful PowerPoints and horrific PDFs, and then I reorder/rewrite it and start crankn it out for the shell, adding iStock imagery and supplied videos etc..., build in some interactive reinforcement/memory tools, mini-quizzes to tell them its okay to proceed... thats it basically. My process works best in Flash Pro for sure. But I WANT to build RIAs. Sounds like the community has entirely embraced Flex for that. I am also learning ColdFusion for the heck of it. I get a little miffed at the whole "Flash is for games" crapola though, usually stated by some flex dude, but... whadda ya gunna do. Different opinions, and I don't know Flex very well, so.... Strict programmers are typically far less aesthetically motivated in my experience though, so, this may be the disconnect I am feeling with Flex. I'll learn it for sure though. Its definately a big deal. Maybe I'll love it (for RIAs)
Anyhow, I ramble as always. Thanks for your insights!
Thanks for the insight Unbuntu! Though you read my post incorrectly (I did not say Flex is better for RIAs, I said I read that all the time), you made a good clear point regarding the fact that I do not access web services all the time. I do communicate between my swfs and ASP.net and Learning Management Systems (LMS) and so forth, sending variables, form data, scores etc... but nothing beyond that. But, I am asking if I need to learn Flex to build RIAs here (not for my current career), or if Flash Pro is just as good. Apparently it is Flex either way, because everyone uses it for RIAs now, and Adobe is definately pushing it imo. I'll assume it is a better tool for that specific realm, and I'll learn it. MXML is definatley a nice shortcut to some complicated coding, and the standardized look/feel of flex swfs could offer some nice solutions if done right. The prebuilt component library is pretty huge (though those things weigh so much it's killing me), and the Eclipse development environment is growing on me. Really really cool (debugger is crazy!) I use it in my ColdFusion courses too... really neat.
I do a very similar thing: Take PDFs, then make Captive movies and subsequently enhanced them with iStock images (avatars), self-created PhotoShop or Fireworks graphics. I use Flex to show business-process animations and provide a menu for learners to select and view the videos.
Thanks for sharing your work process.
You're welcome. And don't be afraid to explore some of the other offerings in the Flex world such as micro-architectures, video and sound and custom components. There are some really nice custom components out there, but I can't grasp the graphics world for the life of me.