2009.01.30

Adobe’s Flash plugin can be found on the computers of 99% of people using the Internet. Or, 99.1%, according to Adobe. Flash is being used for all kinds of things today, from media players to annoying advertising banners and fun games.

For long, the only way to develop Flash content was using the official Flash IDE from Macromedia (before Macromedia were bought by Adobe). In recent years however, much thanks to another product from Adobe, Flex, more options have arised. Flex is a product for building Rich Internet Applications or RIA‘s – that’s a fancy word for ”applications that work just like regular applications installed on your computer, except they are run from the web or depend heavily on the Internet”. You can see why they need the acronym. Anyway, applications built with Flex are basically just advanced Flash applications, and the great part is that Flex comes with a standalone Flash compiler. Thus, you can use any editor you please and then just use the Flex compiler when you’re done.

Here at Bazooka, most of our Flash developers have since long used FlashDevelop. It offers an alternative editor for ActionScript with many features superior to those of Adobe’s own Flash IDE. Code completion and code generation are among the most important features, two things the Flash IDE is fantastically poor at.

Another editor that just recently got support for Flex (and Flash, by association) is the fabulous Java editor from JetBrains, IntelliJ IDEA. If you, like me, do 99% percent of your development work in IDEA and just hate having to switch to something else for that 1% when you do Flash work, there’s now a solution. Starting with version 7 of the editor, and improved in version 8, IDEA has support for Flex development. The support is still in it’s early stages and the documentation is somewhat lacking, but once you figure it out you’ll never go back to the Flash IDE. The folks over at JetBrains have set up a tutorial that will get you started with Flex on IDEA. I won’t reproduce it here, but will note that I had to make some additions to the configuration to get everything working.

Most notably, to be able to use the very nice debuggning function for Flex found in IDEA 8, i had to add the compiler option

<arg line="-compiler.debug" />

in my build.xml. Also, the project i was working on was reading XML files, and to get that to work during development (with files being read from disk rather than from the network), i had to add

<arg line="-use-network=false" />

After that, everything was working perfectly!

Now, as i said, the support for Flex is still in the early stages so not everything is as smooth as Java development in IDEA, but hopefully these issues will soon be fixed. Either way, IDEA is already a viable option for Flash and Flex development, so I suggest you try it out!