Thursday, March 22, 2007

Adobe Apollo and Flex

With all of the recent hoopla around Adobe's Apollo, I decided to give it a try. From what I've read, you should be able to develop a web application and Apollo will give it an "offline" mode. So you could just build a typical web application or even an AJAXy one. I figured for the full Adobe effect, maybe I should finally dip my toe into the Flash waters.

So I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Flex Builder, plus the Apollo SDK and extensions for Flex Builder. It turns out that Flex Builder is built on Eclipse. That made me optimistic. Not only do I think Eclipse is a very smart platform to build on top of, but I know Eclipse really well. One would think that my familiarity with Eclipse would help me to be productive with Flex Builder.

A direct consequence of the Eclipse heritage is that there are two installations options for Flex Builder. You can install it "standalone" or as an Eclipse plugin. I have a lot of Eclipse plugins, but I've had some bad experiences with "bigger" plugins in the past. For example, when I was at Vitria, I was using Xml Spy for debugging complex XQuery expressions. I had the professional version of it, and it gave you the option of installing an Xml Spy-Eclipse plugin. I thought "cool, I can do my XQuery debugging inside Eclipse!" That may have been true, but I'll never know because it really hosed my Eclipse installation. I had to wipe it out and rebuild it. Rebuilding an Eclipse installation that involves lots of plugins is a real pain.

So needless to say that when confronted with a commercial application wanting to install itself inside Eclipse, I always decline. So I went with the standalone installation of Flex Builder. It was pretty quick and clean. One thing I noticed was that installed a JRE. Thankfully it only installed it inside its installation directory and it did not mess with any environment variables. I've been burned by Oracle installing its own JRE and then putting it on the path or even redefining $JAVA_HOME...

Still you would think that the Adobe installer would be a little smarter. It would be easy to detect if Java is present on the path. If it is, then don't bother installing a JRE and just use the system's JRE. Also, digging around I quickly found that the JRE they included was the HotSpot 1.4.2. Talk about old! Hopefully they'll skip 1.5 and move straight to 1.6. They may not get much advantage out of 1.5, but the speed improvement on 1.6 (particularly for a long-running process like an IDE) is definitely worth while.

Enough complaining about the installation... Here's what it looks like fresh out of the box on Windows.

Pretty similar to Eclipse. It seems like the big difference is the squarish windows. Of course the options in the menus are a lot different. They are very simplified with just options for creating Flex projects and objects. They did leave in the Software Updates, so you can easily install Eclipse plugins. That is very nice. All in all I am looking forward to building something Flashy.

No comments: