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Adobe: You shouldn’t need to use an add-in to Flash Builder!

with 4 comments

Many of us on Twitter or following Jesse’s blog regularly should notice his dissatisfaction with Flash Builder in his most recent blog post. If you’re not aware of it, please click here.

I must say that most of us developers are objective about our views on the various Flex IDEs out there. Frankly, some of them are more religious than others. But that’s okay. Let’s just say we’re a bunch of people passionate about the technology we use everyday.

Of course you expect Adobe to respond. The Flash Builder PM chimed in. Everything he said sounded reasonable but I’m concerned about this point of view and I quote:

Firstly, and most importantly, we are making a commitment to invest in coding productivity features in every new release – we don’t believe that you should need to use an add-in to Flash Builder or an alternative tool in conjunction with Flash Builder to get a productive coding environment.

They don’t think you need to use an add-in or an alternative tool with Flash Builder for Flex development. I have to disagree with them here!

First and foremost, let’s be blunt about this – there is no Flash Builder without Eclipse! Eclipse’s highly extensible architecture allows developers around the world to add support for their popular development platforms (look at Java and C++). Adobe and Flex are direct beneficiaries of the Eclipse effort. Some people say Eclipse is crap, so Flash Builder is also crap. Well, I don’t agree and let’s just don’t go there.

However, the Flash Builder product team should realize that as a good citizen in the Eclipse development community, they should consider adding some openness to their IDE (and I already advocated that 2+ years ago in one of my posts about opening up the FB profiler). This makes common sense to me because if they can’t do certain things due to resource constraints, they should leave the door open and let 3rd-party developers do/improve that, e.g. add some extension points, make some API public, etc.

I’m fortunate that there is a stable and public API (the Flex Compiler API) that allows me to build an out-of-process Flex compiler (a.k.a. HFCD). I made sure everyone understood before I left Adobe that this compiler API must be backward compatible. So far so good, Flex/Flash Builder 2, 3 and 4 all use the same API to invoke the compiler. And very soon, FDT4 from Powerflasher will be out and their IDE will use the Flex Compiler API. That instantly makes HFCD compatible with FB3, FB4 and FDT4!

My point here is to make a direct rebuttal against the idea that Flash Builder customers should never need to use an add-in. HFCD is an add-in to Flash/Flex Builder and developers find it useful (check here)!

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Written by Clement Wong

September 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Clement,

    Just to clarify my original statement and put it into context – I specifically meant that there are a set of core IDE features that should be in Flash Builder, rather than a developer needing to rely upon plug-ins to get those. Opinion as to what is a core IDE feature will vary, but I would expect code completion, code generation, refactoring, etc to be what most people consider to be core functionality.

    Beyond that then I would fully expect developers to leverage the wealth of plug-ins available in the Eclipse eco-system to extend and augment Flash Builder so as to provide a productive development environment.

    We’re aware that we could do more to provide extension points in Flash Builder and will be working on that also.

    Hope that clarifies things.

    Thanks,

    Andrew Shorten,
    Senior Product Manager, Flash Builder

    Andrew Shorten

    September 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  2. Andrew didn’t mention it by name above, but I think what he’s referring to is SourceMate, an $85 Flash Builder plugin that provides additional code generation, refactoring and templates. A number of people recommended it in the comments in Jesse’s blog. I use the plugin myself at work and it’s great, but Andrew is right in that all the features found with SourceMate should be apart of Flash Builder to begin with.

    Matthew Fabb

    September 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  3. Dude… this thing is fucking amazing! Dropped my build time from over 3 minutes, down to about 15 seconds. Thank you sooo much!

    JTtheGeek

    October 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

  4. Well stated Clement, it is also very ironic considering flash is a plug-in itself. I am glad Andrew reviewed his statement.

    Andrew, thank you for the clarification, I am looking forward to the opportunity to build some of the features FlashBuilder is missing from FDT. Please let me know when the APIs are officially available.

    Bruno Fonzi

    February 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm


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