Flash Builder 4.5 and the new Flex SDK

If you haven’t heard, Creative Suite 5.5 was just announced.  With it came another exciting announcement: Flash Builder 4.5.  Not only is the Eclipse-based development tool pumped full of new features, but it will ship with an updated SDK.  Below is a look at some of the exciting new features both in Flash Builder and in the new 4.5 SDK.  The features list includes links to additional resources.  We’ll be posting some video too so you have no excuse for not being in the know.

The Mobile Revolution

One of the most exciting features in Flash Builder 4.5 is the mobile tooling built directly into the IDE to support developing, testing and deploying mobile AIR applications built using Adobe Flex 4.5 SDK or ActionScript.

You can define either a Flex or an ActionScript mobile project in Flash Builder, from which you can package an application that targets one or more mobile platforms.  Currently Flex projects only support Google Android devices. ActionScript projects support Google Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS devices (a free plug-in to Flash Builder, available from RIM, is required to target BlackBerry Tablet OS).  In a update coming this summer to Flash Builder and the Flex SDK,  support for Flex-based Apple iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS mobile applications will be added.

Adobe Flex 4.5 SDK  introduces support for mobile application development through mobile optimized components and a new application container.  For projects using Adobe Flex 4.5 SDK, the coding environment in Flash Builder automatically suggests mobile optimized components through content assist, while design view provides full support for mobile application layout and visual preview for different device screen sizes and orientations. This lets you leverage your exiting Flex-development skills while rapidly producing cross-platform mobile applications.

Find more details on mobile development in Flash Builder 4.5 here.

New Spark Components

FINALLY we have a Spark DataGrid and a Spark Form.  Can I get a “woot woot”? The Flex 4.5 release adds popular Spark components that did not make it into the Flex 4 release. The new Spark components added in Flex 4.5 aims to alleviate the most common scenarios which caused mixing of MX and Spark components. The list of new Spark components includes: Spark DataGrid, Form, Image, Module, Busy Indicator, SkinnablePopUpContainer, Date/Time, Number and Currency Formatters as well as Number and Currency Validators.

For more detailed information on the these new components, click here.

Code Templates

Code templates are not a flashy new features, but they are seriously cool.  Flash Builder comes with over 100 built-in templates that are ready-to-use, such as for defining a package, class, for loop, while loop, switch block, etc. You can define your own set of custom templates, as well as import/export templates so that everyone on the development team has a consistent set of templates for use on projects.

Improved designer/developer workflow

We’re getting closer and closer to a seamless workflow between designers and developers.  Flash Builder 4.5 has tighter integration with Flash Catalyst CS5.5.  There are a number of different approaches to using Flash Builder and Flash Catalyst together—for more information on designer-lead and developer-lead workflows, creating custom skinnable components and the restrictions that are in place for Flash Catalyst projects please see Jacob Surber’s article on the Adobe Developer Connection site.

Last but certainly not least…

  • You can define a “Spark only” project that does not have any of the MX components available for use.
  • You can define an “ActionScript AIR” project.
  • ActionScript and MXML files can be associated with Flash Builder, so as to support launch of these filetypes from the file system.
  • Design view provides improved visual feedback when dragging and dropping components.
  • You can choose to disable design view if it is not currently required for use on your project, so as to improve performance and reduce memory usage.
  • For standalone preview and debugging (when not using a HTML wrapper) you can now define the Flash Player executable that you wish to use.
  • You can use code templates to customize the code generated by Flash Builder
  • You can specify trigger keys to invoke content assist and add keys used to accept auto-complete suggestions
  • Files/file types can be excluded from the build output folder
  • Developers can choose to use updated FlexUnit SWCs with Unit Testing features
  • The profiler now reports retained heap, displays object properties and presents a tree view of object references

Don’t stop here.  Check out the Flex Developer Connection for more details on everything mentioned here.

2 Responses to Flash Builder 4.5 and the new Flex SDK

  1. You wouldn’t happen to know if iOS support in the Actionscript projects panel is available in a current 4.5 build? I’ve noticed that some of the video and screen shots show an iOS option. Is this just a teaser before the May release? Thanks.

    • iOS support for ActionScript projects will be available in Flash Builder 4.5 (shipping mid-May). Until then, you can still make iOS applications with the current version, however you have to use the command line to package the application. Here’s a post of from a developer who wrote an ANT task to build Android, iOS, and BlackBerry Tablet applications all from Flash Builder: http://goo.gl/rSdwn. After the mid-May release, you’ll be able to use Flash Builder 4.5 to package your IPA files.