pmuellr is Patrick Mueller, Senior Node Engineer at NodeSource.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Flex Tooling

Adobe Flex Builder 2 - $500. Youch. That's way over the sweet spot at which I'll willing to plunk down some cash for a software tool.

What is Adobe Flex Builder 2 anyway, assuming you don't want to follow the link above? A set of Eclipse plugins that provide a development environment for folks developing with Adobe Flex. I can only imagine this includes things like syntax-coloring editors for ActionScript / MXML, code completion for the same, debugging, etc. For $500, that's what I'd expect. But I don't really know what it includes, because for $500, I have no intention of ever buying it, myself. Why even find out what's in it?

I can't really complain about this; just over 10 years ago we were selling VisualAge Smalltalk for $3000 a seat. The price has gone up since then. And since Adobe is giving away the Flex runtime, they have to sell something to keep the stockholders happy. I'm not stockholder, so it's ok if I'm not happy about it.

It would interesting to see Adobe break this out a bit more, to make the tools a bit more approachable to various cheap-skates like myself. They of course have student pricing, but that doesn't help me. What about some kind of subscription model, like MyEclipse?

I'm not going to wait for that to happen. A lot of the literature I've seen around Flex puts the Builder 2 eclipse plugins right in your face, as if that's the only option you have to develop with Flex. It's not. I'd love to bookmark a link to the 'free' (as in beer) SDK, but the obvious download path goes through un-bookmarkable links (in Flash? heh), as well as a required sign-in to your 'Adobe account'. So here is the 'english bookmark'.

  • Start here:
  • Click the tab "Downloads" under the title "Flex Developer Center"
  • Click the link "Download and try" link under "Free Flex 2.0.1 SDK (included with Flex Builder 2)"
  • Sign into your Adobe download account.
  • Half-way down the page is the "Free Flex 2 SDK and Japanese Language Pack"

And I should note that the tools are implemented in Java. The list of platforms supported, assuming you have Java installed, include: Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Mac OS X 10.4.x, Redhat Enterprise Linux 3 or 4, Suse 10, Solaris 9, 10.


After 'installing', you are left with a set of command line tools. Time to get busy!

So what I need to find out is how painful life will be without the amenties the Eclipse plugins presumably provide. I can deal without code completion and syntax highlighting. I might be able to fudge a bit on the syntax highlighting by using a plain old XML editor for the MXML bits, and maybe a JavaScript highlighter for the ActionScript bits. But I assume there is no story for debugging. That may be painful.

On the other hand, this is an opportunity to build some new tools. My favorite 'subject area' in programming. Programming itself.

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