Flex 4 is shaping up

It’s official: Flex 4, codenamed Gumbo, is now beginning active development.
Adobe has published their first plan of what should be included in Flex 4 that is scheduled to release next year. 
According to Adobe,  these are the four major themes that will affect Flex 4:

“Design in Mind: provide a framework meant for continuous collaboration between designer and developer. Probably involves an additional component model that integrates with the existing Halo components.

Accelerated Development: take application development from concept to reality quickly. Features could include application templates, architectural framework integration, binding improvements.

Horizontal Platform Improvements: features that benefit all application and user types. Features could include compiler performance, language enhancements, BiDi components, enhanced text.

Broadening Horizons: expand the range of applications and use-cases that can leverage Flex. Features could include finding a way to make the framework lighter, supporting more deployment runtimes, runtime MXML.”

Obviously, there’s a hope that upcoming Thermo release will bring together developers and designers. I’m cautiously optimistic here.  It’s great that a  designer’s tool will automatically generate MXML.  A developer will pick it up and re-factor .  But will the tool be smart enough to reverse-engineer the re-factored code and present it back in a visual form to the designer for further work? That is a million dollars question.

Accelerated development is definitely the right way to go. Code generators, templates is a must and even Flex 3 with its wizards was a step in the right direction.
I’d allocate the highest priority to the compiler improvement and IDE.   Flex Builder IDE works fine on small-size projects, but in the real world environment it’s not fun to work with. And I’m not even asking for a decent refactoring or some code editor improvements.  I want it to be faster. I do not want it to hang.  I do not want it to painfully rebuild the workspace for 30+ seconds.

Making the framework lighter is also a big ticket item.  A swf that uses Flex framework should be smaller in the “merge in” mode. One item that I do not see addressed in these plans is printing.  Flex printing is rudimentary and has to be addressed.

I wonder if Adobe has set an easy to use way for Flex developers to submit their suggestions to be included in Flex 4 that are reviewed and answered by Flex team? 

Since Flex is an open source product, we should have a say too. Looking forward to get a hold of Flex 4 Beta 3 when ready.

Yakov Fain