Bob Tierney speaks to the NYFlex group

Bob Tierney spoke to the NYFlex user group about Flex Data Services and Moxie. Bob, along with Kevin Hoyt is a Senior Product Managers for Flex and he came with some interesting and new information. As you know, plans for Flex 3, code named Moxie, are in full swing. Additionally, Flex Data Services is undergoing some significant changes, not the least of which is the name. Flex Data Services will be rebranded to LiveCycle DataServices. This shift will bring FDS into the fold and bring new functionality to the application.

LiveCycle DataServices version 2.5 is now in Release Candidate 2. The new product has the following new features:

  • Off-line message caching
  • Performance and scalability enhancements
  • Per client messaging quality of service (better API and control over messaging)
  • JSP Tags
  • PDF Generation from a Flex application
  • Portal Integration with WSRP (portlets) and deploy on JBoss, WebSphere, WebLogic
  • Runtime configuration (Dynamic destinations)
  • An SQL adaptor to ease the use of the Data Management Service.

These are welcome additions to an already powerful product. One of the pieces I struggle with in Flex is how to offer the user a download of a report or chart that looks like the client side version. With the PDF generation feature, this task gets easier.

Also, the inclusion of a standard SQL adaptor will help reduce the amount of custom code needed to connect a Flex application to a database. Thanks go to the LiveCycle DataServices team for creating a single wheel that doesn't need reinventing.

I asked Bob if Adobe would still offer a no-cost single CPU version of LiveCycle DataServices, he answered 'Yes'.

Next, Bob talks about Flash / Flex integration. We've heard before Flash CS3 content can be used in Flex. Created content can be dynamic, the timeline is supported as well as scripting. More importantly, Flash will be a First Class Citizen in Flex. Rooted in a base UIComponent class, this make interacting with custom Flash content much more powerful. There will be a release next week on Labs showing this new integration. The bits you need to get it all working are Flash CS3, Extension Manager CS3 and Hotfix 1 for either FlexBuilder or Flex SDK 2.0.1. See www.adobe.com/go/kb401493 for more information.

On the topic of Flex integration with Javascript, Flex 3 'Moxie' introduces a wizards based system for automating the creation of HTML wrappers and example Javascript code to leverage Flex components. Additionally, the wizard will generate a Javascript file with verbose definitions of classes exposed by the Flex applications. You can use these generated files in your IDE (such as JSEclipse) to provide the classes for intellisense, code hints, highlighting and an API reference.

More examples of wizardry: An expansion of the Coldfusion/Flex wizard functionality to include PHP and Java. For those unfamiliar, the ColdFusion/Flex wizard functionality provides a base level of application generation. Applications consist of Data Lists and Data Objects which must be retrieved from the database. As well, there are destinations, backend CFC classes, front-end ActionScript classes, remote object calls and a host of other wiring code needed to put data into a Flex application. By defining the Master-Detail pages in the wizard, customizing the forms and selecting the datasets from the database, the ColdFusion/Flex wizards will generate all of the base application code. This has been an exclusive feature of ColdFusion users since the release of Flex 2, but no longer can ColdFusion claim exclusivity.

Moxie will offer similar functionality for the PHP and Java languages. To put this in perspective, the wizards will not do everything. If it could, us Developers would have to move out of the Starbucks line and into the Welfare line and we wouldn't want that, would we, my cafeinated friends? Round Trip generation is not supported, there are some limits to query complexity and the application still needs client-side behaviors, logic, skinning and other important pieces. However, the wizards offer quality functionality to build the application skeleton and database connectivity for Flex applications and the generated code is 'best-practices' and well commented!.

Also, for users of BEA WebLogic and the suite of Bea Workshop tools, the FlexBuilder plugin will now work and be supported inside the workshop IDE tools. This, coupled with the Flex/Ajax bridge, should make the BEA J2EE/Flex development process frictionless.

Great things continue to come out of the Adobe product suite. I am pleased to see Adobe spending resources in improving the developer productivity. Integrating content from Flash CS3 into Flex should make, not only better workflow between designer and developer, but more interesting and creative applications as well. Providing refactoring support in FlexBuilder will save a lot of developer time when modifying and refactoring code. LiveCycle DataServices offers a powerful data management and PDF generation features that would be labor intensive to recreate. By removing a lot of the little annoyances in the Application LifeCycle, Adobe proves they are paying attention.

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