How Fast is Development in Flex?

How Fast is Development in Flex?

Ask me what is the easiest way to build RIA apps and you do not have to wait for the answer: it’s Flex, of course. Ask me is it fast to develop in Flex and I will say “it depends”.

First, it depends where are you coming from. Literally. I’ve seen enough places where Struts/HTML is the only known UI technology. Meanwhile the business is running a huge VB app that changed hands 6 times before last developer left during the .com days.  Now everyone wants it on the Web, but expectations of the development complexity are distorted by the culture of straw houses.

“Nevermind that legacy Client/Server system took 10 man years to build. We have never done Struts/HTML app in more then 6 months and Flex is a “better HTML” so it should take 3 months in Flex, should it not?”

This rhetorical question brings me to the second point.

What is simple and straightforward in Flex, has been often out of the question, unthinkable in Web 1.0 applications. The paradox, that I call the “Home Depot Effect”, is that once the threshold of “possible” has changed, you want it all. It is easy to put the tiles, it is easy to do the lights, it is easy to build the patio, etc. Does it mean you are going to rebuild that old house in the same time you used to paint your Struts/HTML appartment?

Now you know what I meant by “it depends”.


3 thoughts on “How Fast is Development in Flex?

  1. Hi Victor, Yakov.

    I was last year an atendee to one of the Java SIG meetings at the Google’s offices, you guys exposed some of the cool things you were doing with flex. At the time I must say I wasn’t impressed, but now that I’ve been toying with the technology I’m very pleased with how intuitive it is to use and how fast I’m building test applications to see if its feasable for our next project.

    So I’m looking on doing Flex and ActiveX integration and I find this blog, and it turns out to be from you guys.

    I’m curious to know how you managed to have Flex talk to the ActiveX component that has excel in it, we were doing something similar with a flash projector, but its far more attractive to me doing this directly on the web browser, I guess my question is, do you do this interaction straight from the action script on flex, or you implemented some kind of javascript interface between both activexes, the flash player and the excel activex.


  2. Cubarton,

    It’s sad that you were not impressed by Flex during our presentation at New York’s Java SIG. As a matter of fact I blogged about the reasons why the Java crowd may not be immediately impressed by using Flex instead of Swing Java applets (see Java developers are expecting “turning water into wine” kinds of shows. As a matter of fact we did it in the second part of the presentation by showing our automated Flex/Java code generator DAOFlex and a reporting tool called FlexBI…
    Anyway, I’m glad that you are re-considering. As to communication with MS Excel, there are different ways of doing this, and the easiest one is through the clipboard. You need to look into ExternalEnterface. But your best bet is to purchase our upcoming book, which includes an 80-pages chapter on this subject. BTW, there will be a book signing event in NYC on March 19 (see

  3. I agree with you that Flex is the best advocate for Flex. I was instantly impressed, and equally by what Adobe apparently decided not to put in the product, to keep the offering intuitive – and rightfully so. This explains why today’s Flex is not a RAD solution, at least this is my story…

    Anyway, back to your question. In our book that went to print yesterday we have s special chapter on integrating with External Applications. In particular, here are two solutions.

    Solution 1.

    Two-Way Flex – OWC SpreadSheet Integration. The solution involves two ActiveX objects embedded in an HTML page with instant as well as on-demand data synchronization between them. One of these ActiveX objects is the Flash Player control, executing a Flex application. The second ActiveX is a spreadsheet from Microsoft Office Web Components (OWC). Flex app notifies the hosting container about the data changes using the method. As far as OWC ActiveX, we script it using methods of a Dispatch interface aka as an automation interface. Thankfully, Spreadsheet’s objects have a rich API with all the necessary
    methods to read/write data and change tracking events. Finally, we need some mediator that orchestrates communications between both parties. This task is carried out by a set of JavaScript functions/event handlers inside the HTML page..

    Solution 2

    LiveLink: Standalone Flex – Excel. We integrate a standalone Flex application with a standalone Excel document for one-way Flex-to-Flex communications (to be exact, we should say Flash-to-Flash communication). Ultimately, our communication scheme looks like “Flex Application-Flex Agent-Excel” where the FlexAgent, embedded inside the Excel spreadsheet talks to Excel via the External API. Meanwhile, the FlexApplication-Flex Agent communication link is based on the LocalConnection.

    You will find the complete discussion of implementations and code walk-through in Chapter 15 of our book.

    Kind Regards,

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