10 things I like about Flex Builder 4

Posted: 14/01/09

An image of 10 things I like about Flex Builder 4

After getting my hands on a copy of the Flex Builder 4 alpha during Heidi Williams and Ryan Stewart's session at MAX Milan; I dashed back to the UK to try out the new features they claimed to have put in there (half of which I'd been nagging along with other developers on the bug base!)

The good news is that it doesn't disappoint at all. In fact, I'm really pleased that they've taken so many of the community's comments on-board and made the next version of the IDE so much better. For example:

1) Template support.

I have been missing this ever since moving from the standard Eclipse IDE to Flex Builder, and noticing they had taken it away... now they've given it back! Me and my development team look forward to being able to use custom class templates during day-to-day code development.

2) Auto-generate getters & setters.

For a while I've been very jealous of my colleagues who work predominantly in Visual Studio, and have been able to declare properties, then right-click to auto create the accessor and mutator. Now ActionScript developers working in Flex Builder 4 will be able to do the same (phew, that was getting tiresome).

3) Move refactoring.

So we've been able to rename a class in our project, and Flex Builder handles all of the refactoring around the project for us, but not when you move it to another package. Boo! Thankfully, they've addressed this 'oversight' Flex Builder 4, allowing us fully automated refactoring of code when a class is moved around the class hierarchy.

4) Network monitoring.

Many of us use applications like Fiddler to inspect outbound and inbound network traffic from our Flex applications. Adobe have now built this technology into the Flex Builder IDE, eliminating the need to have a third-party app running. This was a feature of earlier versions of Flex Builder, but was taken away. Obviously this will improve my work flow, and should hopefully reduce the set-up time for new developers joining the team. Glad to see it back! (Doesnít seem to be available for ActionScript projects, yet)

5) ASDoc roll-over code hinting.

When you roll-over an object reference in your class, Flex Builder 4 will provide you with the ASDoc comments for that object; be it part of the Flex or Flash frameworks, or you own custom object. Great if you're new to the platform, or if your framework is fairly large.

6) Package view.

Rather than viewing your project in the standard Navigator view, you can choose to see you project as packages, which often makes more sense when you're coding, and is similar to how they're organised in the ASDoc HTML.

7) Run-to-line debug.

Flex Builder 4 adds the ability to be able to run your code to a specific line, with just a single right click.

8) Conditional break-points.

Create an expression that is evaluated at a break-point, if it returns true, break, otherwise continue... A great way of avoiding a break point in a busy part of an application until the value you need comes up!

9) Player version and HTML Wrapper are divorced!

The Flash Player targeting options are now completely separate from the HTML wrapper options, so you can now run your app from the IDE and target a specific player version, without needing to run in an HTML wrapper. Itís also great to see an option that allows you to target the minimum player version that supports the SDK version youíre using; great if you have no idea which minor version began implementing a feature!

10) Service Explorer.

Now you can introspect services using a GUI inside Flex Builder. Adobe will be supporting .NET WCF services with this feature, which would be another great tool to improve workflows inside .NET houses. Only available to Flex projects (not ActionScript projects), but perhaps Adobe will change this in a later build?

There should hopefully be a public beta later in spring 2009, with an expected full release in the autumn, so keep watching Adobe Labs for updates!

Flex Builder on Adobe Labs

Keywords for this post: flex, flex builder 4, actionscript 3, templates, asdoc, adobe, flash, web service, .NET