We had been waiting in eager anticipation through the first half of this year for it to finally arrive. All indications were that we would be well adjusted to our new work flow by the time summer rolled around for sure, enjoying all the new tooling and features of Flex 4, round tripping some super-duper new skins with our design team via Catalyst, and improving our productivity on the whole. But as winter gave way to spring, our excitement began to wane until I had all but forgotten about the coming of this new generation of Flex. When suddenly, with almost no warning whatsoever, it was upon us… the new Flash Builder 4 beta, code named ‘Gumbo’.
Adobe’s newest attempt at reconciling its past branding snafus, is to name their new flagship IDE ‘Flash Builder’ which for me just seemed like a bad mashup of its progenitors’ names. And this at a time when the development community had fully embraced the Flex application paradigm and branding, and to a great extent, so had the better informed end users of Flex applications. I personally thought that Flex Builder had a much more appealing ring to it as well, but hey, that’s just my personal opinion.
But how easy it is to be critical, and from what I can tell (despite the obligatory growing pains) this release is going to be a great big step forward for our team. Allow me to elaborate some..
We at curious minds have recently been working on some pretty snazzy AIR apps over the last few months, and in the process gotten very adept at skinning our components and integrating our designers’ work quickly and effectively. (There are a few of our blog posts relating to these topics that are quite informative if you are interested). According to Adobe, Catalyst is going to give us even more flexibility (not a pun) and better integration than before. Our designers are going to be able to create Flex apps directly in Catalyst, and our developers can import them and get down to business integrating the UIs with data and application logic. Finally, we’ll actually be able to work in the same environment, and on the same app simultaneously! I know that for certain developers (myself very much included), this is going to make life a great deal easier, allowing us to focus on the things that we are actually good at doing. This is probably the best feature of Catalyst as I see it. The fact that the work will now flow both directions between designers and developers, instead of the ‘uni-directional’ limitation that seems to pervade our current system.
Another feature that I’m completely gaga over in ‘Gumbo,’ is the integrated network traffic monitor. What a huge help this tool is going to be in the development/debugging process! With inline tree views of XML and AMF server response data, this HTTP monitor is going to cut a lot of the nasty trace style debugging right out. Also, being able to jump directly to the line in your code that originated the RPC request is a great feature of this tool.
All in all, I am really excited about diving into the new IDE. I’ll post up a full report once we get a little better situated with our new software, and as always, look for great tutorials on the new generation of Adobe design/development tools.