Open Source Actionscript & Flash

So I am still working on various projects, but I made a little incursion into the world of open source flash development. So as to not forget what I encountered, I'll review a bit of it for future reference.

IDE

I had gotten it in my head that, absent Flex Builder or Flash, development pretty much meant hobbling something together in Eclipse with the SDk and pasting it all together with Ant scripts. However, I took a look-see at FlashDevelop; installing the latest version, 3.0.0RC1, and creating a couple of small projects. The first project was a Flex 3 Project and the second was an Empty project (starting with just a blank slate onto which to write actionscript master pieces). It was a really pleasant experience. For some reason, however, my favorite coding font, ProggyCleanTTSZBP, just didn't look so good (and, as fonts are a new feature, according to their notes, it isn't so strange, but one has to close and re-open files to see the updated font selections). That is horribly superficial thing as Courier New does the trick until I have some time to play with it some more.

My first impressions are incredibly favorable towards it. The interface is what one would expect in a contemporary IDE and there seems like an awful lot to spelunk and otherwise explore. Mapping to the Flex SDK was really easy, and I suspect that this will support Gumbo reasonably well (I haven't looked into how they are managing code hinting and what is involved in updating that yet).

The only odd thing I noticed with my incredibly simple projects as that, in Flex, relative layout didn't work for me. That is, "top", "left", right", "bottom" didn't have any impact. That bears some investigation, but wouldn't necessarily be a show stopper anyway. There isn't a design mode, so if that is a must, Flex Builder is probably the only way to go. Of course, for better or for worse, this app is built on top of .Net 2.0, so you aren't in the world of Eclipse or potentially Mac or Linux (not sure how well virtualization technologies like Fusion and Wine play with .Net).

So, to make a short story long, if you have a few moments and want to play with a nifty, free Actionscript development environment for windows then you ought to give it a whirl.

RESOURCES

Actually, I put the cart before the horse, because any discussion of open source Flash ought to begin with OSFlash.org (though maybe Open Source Actionscript is more appropriate in most cases?). This is probably the most comprehensive resource for sharing flash technology, as well leveraging the work of others. And, if you are on a budget and not a warez-kiddie, then it might very well be your alpha and omega.

Their list of open source flash related projects is pretty extensive so I won't repeat it here. What is interesting is the broad range of tools, servers, frameworks and the like that are actively produced by the community. Coming from the world of Coldfusion, it can feel almost overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, CF has a lot of guys and gals stepping up for the community, but pretty much the majority of CF developers are using CFEclipse or Dreamweaver, typically on CF, Bluedragon or Railo, using one of a handful of frameworks or none at all and other various supporting frameworks where there is only a couple of efforts from which to choose. Again, not a complaint as I am no where near as knowledgable with the innards of those efforts as I would like to be, but now I see this whole other world that is much large in scope.

SUPPORTING TOOLS

Not everything is Adobe CS. I don't consider myself to be graphically talented, however I do find myself supporting some who are really good at such things. That support is usually scripting workflows are assiting with other ancillary requirements. I say that as a disclaimer as I have not used the following tools, but they look promising.

Blender is an open source 3d app that looks incredibly well done. It also appears to be very actively supported with a large dedicated user base. And the output is as compelling and/or realistic as one expects from the way more expensive commercial versions.

Paint.Net is windows only image and photo editing tool, and is likely not going to wow anybody. However, it is free, though not open source, and looks to be somewhat comparable to earlier versions of Paint Shop Pro (back when it belonged to Jasc). [Note: Linux people are likely using Gimp and I'm sure that MacOS has something builtin to do the trick - Windows has MS Paint. It's like MS lost a bet and they are obliged to keep distributing this piece of crap unburdened by improvements with every revision of Windows.]

MORE

Anyway, there are a ton of projects out there that are just waiting to be discovered, utilized, and if you are able, improved by your efforts. I do want to make one more comment about open source vs commercial as I hit a few places with comments that I just really couldn't quite grok.

I think saving money is great, and that, along those lines, it is really tremendous to find such a wealth of resources provided by such an able and excited community of developers and artists. However, it never quite escapes my attention that this community is ultimately centered on the phenemona that is the Adobe Flash Platform. Companies like Futurewave, Macromedia and now Adobe took risks to produce products whose ultimate fate was unknown. They employ tons of really capable men and women who continue to produce and carry the Platform to new reaches. It is amazing that they have shared as much as they have by completely open sourcing the Flex Framework as well as supporting so many endeavors both commerical and open source. I just can't understand the animosity harbored by some towards the organization, seemingly only because they endeavor to be compensated for their efforts. They are, IMHO, not obliged to give anything back that is not in their calculated self-interest. You need not love them or become their fan boy, but I just don't understand the undertones of resentment I read. But, hey it was late, so maybe I read too much into it.

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