Flex 4.5 – A ‘Hero’s Welcome

It’s been a while since Flex 4.5 public beta was released. I spent some time with the the new SDK and following blogs, getting the feel of it.  The 4.5 “Hero” SDK is expected to release later this year, along with a new version of flash player (10.2) .

In previous posts (Spark pains) I expressed my disappointment with Spark’s lack of functionality versus the Flex 3 mx components it came to replace. Like others, I shared the notion that Spark is half baked, and Adobe should have included a more complete solution in version 4.0 or 4.1, at least for the included components like button or image. Let’s see what is in for us in the upcoming Flex 4.5 (“Hero”).

Spark Button: The return of the Icon

Good news – the icon style is back to Spark button!  After spending a lot of time writing custom skins and specialized classes I was glad to see that the spark button now supports icon out of the box, just like the good old mx button. Too bad it came  late for my recent projects, all using spark buttons, cluttered with custom skins only to achieve the trivial task of putting an icon in a button.

By any reasonable standard, we should have had these  in Flex 4.0 release last year.

I can only reiterate the comment in a post in the Flex Examples blog: all that to get what we’ve had for years in Flex 3.  I really am glad these basic features are back, but was it really necessary to wait over a year to have it back (and require Flash 10.2 player)?

Really, Adobe – is that too much to expect?

Spark Bitmap Image

Another source of frustration for me was the spark BitmapImage. Made to replace mx image, it gave similar functionality… well, almost. No support for runtime loading and display of timeline swfs forced me and my team to fall-back to mx image for no other alternative.

Even worse, the overblown security model made image caching almost impossible to implement. Try constantly loading images from services like flikr and facebook and see what I mean. Policy files, trusted or untrusted domains, nothing seems to work properly. To actually make it possible to access bitmapData, everyone uses a PHP script to bypass the flash player security model – not very elegant.

A Hero to the rescue, Flex 4.5 brings the new and improved  BitmapImage with all of mx image features and built it image caching – Hallelujah!  they even threw in smart scaling and letterbox mode.  It’s too soon to comment on how effective it is since it is still in beta, but kudos to Adobe for doing the right thing.

What more can I say? Better late than never.