InfoWorld review: Flash Builder 4 lights up rich Internet app development

Fresh out of beta, Flash Builder 4 delivers time-saving tools that speed data delivery for Flex apps, streamlines testing and workflow for Flash and AIR

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Although lacking direct database connectivity of its own, Builder made it a cinch to introspect my data sources (whether WSDL or class files) and wire up UI components to the resulting data sets. Simple drag/drop of methods onto data grids, lists, and the like were all that was required to light up my UI components.

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Quick access to data services, drag/drop Spark components, and minimal coding make Adobe Flash Builder 4 a must-have tool for data-driven Flex applications.

There are some good data-grid controls in the package, as well as a new Spark data-repeater rendering component that offers customized display in list boxes. Moreover, easy mapping of data management routines on the client side helped me facilitate batch operations over database updates. A handful of new layout, navigation, and general charting components proved just as easy to connect.

Adobe has enhanced Builder's ActionScript coding efficiency with auto-generated skeleton code for event handlers and get/set routines. I was able to create forms for data calls and master-detail lists with similarly automated ease.

The new package explorer has a sturdy top-down tree view of all project assets in one location, including project core, ActionScript, MXML, CSS, and images. Despite a couple of minor usability nits, such as the required manual refreshes needed to realign display elements after some code updates, I was generally impressed.

I would like to see better code/tag selection (akin to the block tag selection bar offered in DreamWeaver). Code hinting should be extended to include introspected types as well.

Light up your apps
The onboard debug tools within Builder are quite helpful. They offer all the anticipated trace elements, as well as conditional breakpoints and complex expression evaluation for faster isolation of trouble points. They're so good, in fact, that I'd love to see Builder better tied to Flash Pro down the road, as it provides a much better interface for ActionScript coding. (I find the Flash interface far too cumbersome.)

The performance profiler revealed good drill-down into object references, presenting hardware and memory usage insight. The unit-testing support lets you build cases into the test suite, then run directly from within Builder or automated.

The network monitor proved to be one of the most useful tools I found, particularly over service calls; it allowed me to trap and trace my request/response calls. The ability to drill into headers and data packets directly from within the IDE made quick work of troubleshooting.

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