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December 27, 2007

Flex Introduction

Flex encompasses both a standards-based programming model that will be familiar to professional developers and a set of products designed to enable efficient delivery of high-performance RIAs. RIAs combine the responsiveness and richness of desktop software with the broad reach of web applications to deliver a more effective user experience. Flex applications take advantage of Adobe® Flash® Player 9, enabling developers to seamlessly extend the capabilities of the browser and deliver richer, more responsive client-side applications as well as a more robust integration with server-side functionality and service-oriented architectures.

Benefits of using Flex

  • Enhanced user experience
    Flex lets you build applications that provide an engaging user experience. An engaging user experience ensures that customers are drawn into your application, that they understand how to use it, and that they can more quickly complete a task or find the information they are seeking.
  • A complete environment
    Flex is a powerful application development solution for creating and delivering RIAs within the enterprise and across the web. It provides a modern, standards-based language and programming model that supports common design patterns and includes a highly productive IDE.
  • Common deployment environment
    Flex applications execute on Flash Player 9, which is platform independent, so customers do not need to install custom client software. Also, Flash Player runs consistently in all browsers and platforms, so you do not have to worry about inconsistent behavior in different client environments.
  • Enterprise-class features
    You can use Flex Data Services to transparently synchronize data and support real-time data push. Messaging capabilities enable more robust applications that continue to function after network connectivity is lost and allow multiple people in different locations to browse or chat in the same application. These features, plus the ability to integrate audio and video, open the door to new ways of interacting with customers, partners, and employees.
  • Eliminate page loads
    Applications running in Flash Player behave like desktop applications, instead of a series of linked pages. Flash Player manages the client interface as a single, uninterrupted flow and does not require a page load from the server when the client moves from one section of the application to another.
  • Standards-based architecture
    Flex, ActionScript, and MXML are designed to existing standards. MXML is XML compliant, implements styles based on the Cascading Style Sheets, level 1(CSS1) specification, and implements an event model based on a subset of the W3C DOM Level 3 Events specification. ActionScript is an ECMAScript-based language that provides support for object-oriented development. The Flex server executes on standard J2EE platforms or servlet containers.
  • Cross-browser compatibility
    Web applications should run the same on all browsers and platforms. By standardizing on Flash Player as the client environment, you are guaranteed a consistent user experience on all platforms and browsers. For more information, see Deploying Flex applications on Flash Player.

Flex application characteristics

  • Client data collecting
    Collecting user input is one of the most common uses for web applications. Flex supports forms, and all common form elements, to let you create rich and dynamic user experiences. Flex forms include hooks to the Flex data modeling and data validation mechanism, and the ability to identify required input fields. For more information, see Using Layout Containers in the Flex 2 Developer's Guide.
  • Configuration
    One of the most common applications using Flex lets users perform product selection and configuration. The user works through a process to configure the features of a product, views or inspects the configuration, and then proceed through the steps required to complete a purchase.
  • Client-side processing of user input, including filtering and data validation
    Flex data management, which includes data models, data validators, data binding, and data services, lets you separate data representation from the way that a user views it. Typically, this design pattern is called Model-View-Controller (MVC). Flex also provides a powerful way to validate data and pass data between user-interface controls and external data sources with little or no server interaction.
  • Direct user feedback
    Complex tasks must provide feedback to users when the user makes input errors or enters invalid information. Flex formatters and validators help ensure the quality of input data.
  • Multistep processes
    Many applications present the user with a process that includes a sequence of steps or decisions that require user input. For example, completing a registration form or checkout form often requires multiple steps to complete.
  • Support for large data sets
    Enterprise data applications often handle large data sets that must be transmitted to the client from the server, or transmitted to the server from the client. These large data sets can overwhelm the bandwidth of your network, and lead to sluggish application performance. Flex Data Management Services, a feature of Flex Data Services, lets you break large data sets into smaller units so that no single client can monopolize the network.
  • Real-time data push
    Applications often share data among multiple clients. For example, an inventory management system must keep all clients synchronized on product availability. One way to implement this type of system is to have the clients poll the server at regular intervals to check for updates. However, this design uses unnecessary network bandwidth and processing cycles when no updates are available. Instead, Flex Data Services lets clients subscribe to data objects on the server. When the server updates a data object, it then pushes those updates out to all subscribing clients.
  • Occasionally connected clients
    Remote clients may not be able to maintain a connection to the server at all times. These clients are called occasionally connected clients. Flex Data Services let client applications perform offline data manipulation, and then automatically send updates to the server when the connection is restored.

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