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Chapter: Internet & World Wide Web HOW TO PROGRAM - Rich Internet Application Client Technologies - Adobe Flex 2 and Rich Internet Applications

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Adobe Flex 2 and Rich Internet Applications

In this chapter, we introduce Adobe Flex, another means of achieving that same goal.

Chapter 18

Adobe®  Flex™ 2 and  Rich Internet  Applications

 

 

Introduction

 

In Chapter 15, we introduced Ajax, which uses a combination of XHTML, JavaScript and XML to produce a web application with a desktop-like feel through client-side processing. In this chapter, we introduce Adobe Flex, another means of achieving that same goal. Flex uses Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash platform to deliver a rich graphical user interface backed by ActionScript 3, Adobe’s implementation of ECMAScript 4 (better known as JavaScript 2). The relationship between Flex and ActionScript is similar to that between Ajax libraries and JavaScript. The powerful graphical capabilities and cross-platform nature of Flash al-low web developers to deliver Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to a large user base. The term RIA was coined in 2001 by Macromedia, the creator of Flash and Flex; Adobe ac-quired Macromedia in 2005.

 

Flex provides user interface library elements that can easily be accessed and custom-ized. You can see these user interface elements in action using Adobe’s Flex 2 Component

 

Explorer  at   examples.adobe.com/flex2/inproduct/sdk/explorer/explorer.html.

 

The user interface library helps you present a consistent user experience in all applications, a quality that various Ajax and Flash applications lack. Additionally, Flash has the advantage of a large installed base—98.6% penetration for Flash 6 and up, and 84.0% penetra-tion for Flash 9 in the United States as of March 2007. This allows applications developed in Flex to be used on most Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Since the Flash engine is virtually equivalent across browsers and platforms, Flex developers can avoid the cross-platform conflicts of Ajax and even Java. This significantly reduces devel-opment time.

 

The Flex framework enables a wide variety of web applications, from simple image viewers to RSS feed readers to complex data analysis tools. This flexibility is partly derived from Flex’s separation of the user interface from the data. Visually appealing and consis-tent user interfaces are easily described using the MXML markup language, which is con-verted to Flash’s executable SWF (Shockwave Flash) format when the application is compiled.

Flex is appropriate for online stores, where Flex’s versatile user interface library allows for drag-and-drop, dynamic content, multimedia, visual feedback and more. Applications that require real-time streaming data benefit from Flex’s ability to accept data “pushed” from the server and instantly update content, without constantly polling the server as some Ajax applications do. Applications that require data visualization benefit from Flex’s Charting library which can create interactive and customized charts and graphs. Action-Script adds to the power of the Flex user interface library by allowing you to code powerful logic into your Flex applications.

 

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to implement these elements in real-world applica-tions. You’ll run the examples from your local computer as well as from deitel.com. A comprehensive list of Flex resources is available in our Flex Resource Center at  www.deitel.com/flex. Another helpful resource is Adobe’s Flex 2 Language Reference at  www.adobe.com/go/flex2_apiref.


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