As you may have seen Adobe released Flash Builder 4 today, the successor of Flex Builder 3. Why the name switch? The change was designed to create a clear distinction between the free open-source Flex framework and commercial solution. Flash Builder 4 comes in two flavours, a Standard version and a Premium Version. This release is great for companies like us that develop rich internet applications with a strong user experience component, as it introduces significant enhancements in the way developers work.
The most obvious change in Flash Builder 4 is in the designer-developer workflow. In previous versions, the workflow was one-way – the designer would create a layout and hand it off to the developer for implementation. Now, this process has been opened up and there’s a two-way exchange. Designers can still work with the tools they know and love but now they can work in parallel with the developers. Designers can directly make modifications to the design of an application and implement them easily in the mxml files without breaking the logic a developer is working on, as the components are now separate. This makes it easier for designers and developers to deliver well-integrated applications that are driven more by the user experience than by technical requirements.
Another great feature that makes improves development with Flash Builder 4 is the new wizard-based connection for communications with the server. Before this version, developers needed to manually configure server connections based on the code returned from the server. This new pre-coding makes connections to a variety of different web servers and web services much faster and easier.
Handling text within an application is also greatly improved, as Flash Builder 4 leverages all the text enhancement features that came with Flash Player 10. The text rendering engine performs better and faster, and there’s now native support for anti-aliasing, so fonts no longer need to be embedded into the application. It also supports right to left text, a feature that’s been requested for several years now.
Flash Builder 4 also integrates Flex Unit, which was previously a separate tool used for unit testing. This integration makes it easier for those following Test Driven Development (TDD) methodologies.
The bottom-line is that Flash Builder 4 makes it easier to build quality, design-driven applications and opens up a new level of cooperation between developers and designers.