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Introduction To Flash Catalyst And Flex Builder 4 (MAX Session Summary)

· Web Dev Zone
Flash Catalyst is what everyone formerly knew as Thermo and Flex Builder 4 is the "Gumbo" release. Traditionally, Adobe always invested in developer productivity tools for Flex but they are now spreading out to design-oriented tools with Flash Catalyst, Flash Pro CS4 ad FXG. They are also extending to data by adding tooling that is data aware. Underneath everything there is a whole new set of next generation components within the Flex framework.

FXG is a rich graphics interchange format to allow for roundtripping between design and development tools. FXG support recently shipped in Creative Suite 4. FXG format is based upon MXML and follows the structures and rules of MXML. It is currently supported in Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks CS4.

[img_assist|nid=6030|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=440|height=280]Items integrated into Flex 4 architectural support in Thermo include: graphics and text are now firt class citizens; revised component architecture where components make few assumptions about appearance; and added declarative states and behaviors.

The idea behind Catalyst was to empower designers to develop the whole experience rather than just skins, while also allowing designers and developers to work in parallel.  An early preview build was provided to all attendees. They are apparently still at least a year away from an actual final release.

Ryan Stewart did a demo of the current Catalyst build. He started by importing a Photoshop PSD into Catalyst. Behind the scnese it automatically generated "well formed" code. Then he added some states, transitions and effects all easily within the design view utilizing drag and drop. He then customized the animation by modifying the tranitions and animations in a timeline. Finally he made a text element interactive and added on onClick interaction to a button with simple right click actions to enable the animation to run in response to user interaction. The audience seemed very impressed with the demo. Lastly he saved an FXP file and then imported it into Flex Builder (though the design view rendering in the build failed on this portion of the demo).

Next Heidi got up to discuss the more data-centric features added to Gumbo. First though, she has Ryan return quickly to show how you can easily drag and drop Flash comonents into Flex design view, which then enables roundtrip editing in Flash Pro CS4. All the necessary components to integrate the Flash element are automatically imported.

Heidi then returned and begins to mention something about a surprise related to data services and Flex Builder that is going to be discussed at tomorrow's keynote, but she divulges no details. She discusses how they added features such as introspection to server side opertions, VO generation and drag and drop to invoke a service and bind a result. They have also added a network monitor for debugging service related issues. They have also improved compiler speeds and reduced memory consumption within the application. In addition, they have added things like support for FlexUnit and easy integration of PixelBender effects.

Heidi demos ten of the new features. First she shows the package explorer which improves the information provided while inspecting code packages and allows you to view the items within the lib path as well. Next up she displays the ability to add templates for different kinds of files. She moves on to show how now when you hover over classes you get ASDoc documentation displayed within a tooltip. Following that she demos how Flex Builder can now automatically generate getters and setters for any variable within a class and auto-generate event handlers. In the debugger you can now run to a particular line after hitting a breakpoint as well as have certain breakpoints occur only conditionally (which is useful when debugging items in a loop, for instance). Finally, she shows the network monitor and how you can use it to watch service calls and display the data retrieved by the call.

That's the end of the demo and the session, which seems to have universally impressed everyone in the audience.
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Published at DZone with permission of Brian Rinaldi, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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