This guide explains how to set up a Flash and Flex development environment with Eclipse, FDT, Flash Builder and a couple of other editors that you want for ActionScript coding and Flash development with style! This guide is based on Windows because that’s what I’m using but I’m sure you Mac and Linux guys can figure out the parts that differ on your OS! Let’s get started …
Categories: Dev, Random Picks ActionScript, Ant, AS3, Eclipse, Editor, FDT, Flash, Flex, IDE, MXML, No blue Legos here!, Steve Jobs sucks, Tutorial
I’ve been using Eclipse and FDT for several years now to develop Flash (and Flex) applications but I never really managed to set up Eclipse to exactly fit my needs. Either some desired tools were missing or I installed plug-ins that slowed down Eclipse with a truck load of stuff that I never need.
The guys at Powerflasher done a great job! Check out their new FDT 3 at fdt.powerflasher.com. Personally this has become once again my favorite coding tool (after an over one year break with FlexBuilder’s editor). FDT has many features that one would otherwise only find in superior tools like Eclipse’s own Java Development Tool … and these are top notch! FDT is now shipped in three different versions, Basic, Professional and soon an Enterprise version which will add a Debugger, MXML Parser and advanced Refactoring.
I’m especially looking forward to the MXML Parser since in it’s current state FDT only allows for pure ActionScript projects. The MXML Parser would make it possible to add Flex and Adobe AIR projects to the roll.
I’ve joined the closed beta of FDT 3.0 a couple of weeks ago and saw that there was steady progress in bug fixing with around 3-4 updates every week. Now the guys at Powerflasher started the Open Beta which everybody can join by visiting the FDT Forum.
FDT 3.0 is pure coding comfort indeed! After using it you’ll agree that the Flex ActionScript editor looks like a poor excuse compared to FDT! There are all the features for ActionScript 3.0 that also were in FDT 1 and a lot of new stuff. Luxurious syntax coloring and semantic syntax highlighting, code templates,my number one favorite feature Mark Occurences, code formatter, quick fixes, Flash IDE and Flex compiler support, limited refactoring and more.
Now all I wish for is that FDT works flawlessly together with Flex/AIR projects but that will probably come at a later date since getting a stable release is more important now. It kind of feels awkward if you have to go back to the Flex AS editor once you used FDT!
Here are some hints on how I organize my Eclipse workspace that you might find interesting if you want to keep all the stuff together in one workspace, not only the projects but also shared classes, API docs and default Ant build files.
I’m only using one workspace for all projects, no matter what technology they’re using. I’ve heard others are using one dedicated workspace for every technology and that’s fine too but I find it more practical to just use one for all. I’ve created three sub folders in the workspace named .classes, .default and .docs. Note the period at the beginning of the name. This keeps them listed before all other folders (unless you name your projects with a starting period).
The .classes folder contains subfolders for every technology (or language) I use, namely as2, as3, haxe and java. From there on the ongoing structure depends on the language. For as2 I have folders like additional, mm7, mm8, mtasc, zinc etc. For as3 I only have additional and and swc. The additional folder contains all kinds of third party packages, the swc folder only contains swc files etc. whereas for as2 the mtasc folder only contains the classes that ship with MTASC etc. Here’s a diagram of the structure …
It was about time! According to PowerFlasher a new (and free) update of FDT is due in October. But it will not support AS3/Flex, this will come in quartal 1/2007.
I still need to use AS2 very often for jobs so it’s good to see the Eclipse 3.2 incompatibility being fixed very soon. However I’m using Flex Builder (plug-in) more and more to get on with AS3 and Flex and it’s hard to miss all those great features from FDT there! Therefore it would be awesome if Adobe is providing an update for Flex Builder in between. Some very helpful features from FDT that I’d love to use for AS3 are templates (we all use them, they make coding a lot faster) and Mark Occurances (this might seem inferior but once you used it you know that it is the number one killer feature). Another thing that bothers me is that one needs automatic build active to have compile-time error reporting. It would be cool if the Flex Compiler would report errors on-the-fly like MTASC does it, so I can turn off automatic build and use Ant for building instead which I prefer.
Mike Morearty of Adobe wrote in his blog how to change the syntax colors in Flex Builder 2.0. This is useful stuff since I loathe the default blue and green colors of Flex’s syntax colors. Think about it! If you code the whole day long you have to look at your source all day long and you will look all the time at these colors! Sooner or later you start wearing blue shirts and green pants with pink socks!
To know this is even more important since Mike states in one of the comments that Flex 2.0 will not have any preferences to change these colors and that such a feature might be part of a later version. Another thing about the default syntax style that confuses me is that strings in quotes are in bold while keywords are not. I usually have it vice versa.
Short answer: no! Full answer here. However when I had Flex2 beta2 installed, I deleted the JRE that installed with Flex because I already had the JRE 5.0 installed and it caused no problems at all. I don’t really like the idea that every application installs it’s own JRE on my harddisk (Maya is such another app). Not that the ~50Mb are wasting too much space but its getting confusing if there are many JRE’s installed and Windows doesn’t make this fact easier with it’s obscure environment variables configuration.