Macromedia Flex is a server-side product or utility that enables developers to deliver a rich Internet application to the client using XML-based code.
Flex has a standards-based architecture that complements current enterprise developer tools, methodologies, and design patterns.
Traditional Flash development still doesn't fit easily into the J2EE development cycle very well and client development must be done within the Flash development environment—calling on Java objects and EJBs require additional work and software (Flash Remoting) on the server, and learning Flash development requires time.
Macromedia Flash client has wider infiltration than either .NET or Java, but most of its usage is for multimedia applets. This indeed is what Flash was designed for. Macromedia's goal with Flex is to make the Flash client suitable for Enterprise clients as well. Flash is fully network-aware, has rich user interface capabilities, and supports scripting with ActionScript, so isn't it better to use it as a fully-fledged application platform?
Developing rich client applications should be seamless for the J2EE developer, this being a simple yet robust language and a good IDE. MXML language (tag-based language) is the best option that can be supported with ActionScript's object-oriented scripting, while we are using Flex. Developers have a choice of development environments.
Development in Flex 2.0 breaks down into the following four modules:
Flex Framework 2: Provides the essential building blocks for creating compelling rich Internet applications on the Macromedia Flash Platform. It includes the Flex class library, MXML and ActionScript, compiler and debugger.
Flex Builder 2: It's a completely new Eclipse-based IDE for developing rich internet applications. This includes a visual form designer, although it is a relatively simple affair
Flex Enterprise Services 2: This enables remoting of Java objects via AMF
Flex Charting Components 2: This anticipate a common reason for using a Flash client, which is to visualize business data.
The timing of Flex 2.0 is good. There is much dispute centered on the client, and how to move beyond the capabilities of the browser without sacrificing benefits like zero deployment, and technologies like AJAX, Java, and Microsoft's .NET and forthcoming XAML are scrambling for position. A Flash is a competent platform, which deserves consideration. Flex removes one of the key objections, which is the weakness of the Flash IDE for application development.
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There remain flaws like offline working as Flash has limited support using on local shared objects—a technology called local shared objects, but currently Flex is not ideal for occasionally connected clients, an area where .NET is particularly strong.
On mobile devices, Flash is improving but is still much less widely organized than Java. This still leaves a substantial subset of applications where Flash is more than sufficient. Flex 2.0 is likely to broaden its adoption considerably.
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