At Alien Coding, today we finally upgraded our 4.6 to 4.7.
The new version of the once popular programming tool from Adobe installed easily and works decently.
As most Action Script programmers know, this version of Flash Builder has no “Design View”. This means that you can no more draw your UI by dropping and dragging UI elements on a “canvass”. Everything has to be done programmatically, via MXML code.
Apparently, this choice was mandated. Flash Builder has been donated to the Apache Foundation except for the Design view, which contains Flash Professional elements that remain proprietary. Adobe could not issue FB 4.7 with elements that the open-source version did not have.
As an explanation, however, it is somehow funny, because Flash Professional is suffering as well ever since Apple (and O’Reilly!) banned it from mobile; thus, depriving FlashBuilder of a feature because it’s proprietary of another agonizing technology does not seem very understandable.
I’ll try to explain what the issue with the Design View (at least for mobile) was.
When @AlienCoding we developed applications for Android and iOS, so that they be ready for all screens, we understood rather fast that, except for an early mock-up, the design view would not help us.
The elements were to be re-sized programmatically to account for the different screens. We designed on an 800×320 canvass, but we had to take into account that that screen could as well be 800×400 at run time. What was the UI to do? Adapt automatically. At that point, the canvass could not help anymore anymore, because the result of run-time re-sizing could only be seen in a simulator.
Yes, the canvas was good to make a first drawing of the interface, but you can still do it better with Illustrator or such programs.
This happens also in other IDEs to build applications where you don’t know what the screen size will be: who really counts on the Design Mode of Visual Studio for designing web applications?
It’s however a pity that, together with the Design View, they have taken away the nice property panel which allowed you to easily set all the different properties of a UI control.
Besides, there is one thing that – if not addressed – will kill Flash Builder. Other platforms (including Phonegap) address Windows 8 phones in addition to BlackBerry. In 4.7, even BlackBerry support has disappeared (some say they’re waiting for BB10… but what about the existing apps?).
This is particularly funny, because last week we were invited to an “AIR IS NOT DEAD Workshop” organized by Adobe Italy, which in the end did not take place (or it took place, and we did not receive any response from Adobe when we enrolled: you were supposed to know if you were in or if you were on a waiting list. We knew nothing).
The “AIR is not dead” workshop required you had a computer with 4.6 and a tablet. At the end of the day, you would participate to a lottery which could reward you with two RIM Playbooks. Now Adobe 4.7 does not support the playbook anymore. Is this why they cancelled the event, or did it but communicated nothing to the registered programmers? Whatever the reason, it easy on the border between very funny… and very sad.