Beginning Flex: Why you should learn Flex and Actionscript

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I wanted to like Flex for a long time...but it just wasn't happening. I saw people all around me that I respected jumping onto the bandwagon that was Flex. I tried to wrap my head around Actionscript 3, but coming from the purely procedural world of Actionscript 1, JavaScript, and ColdFusion I just couldn't grasp it. Finally, I took the chance to use Flex in an AIR project for Dealerskins, my current employer. My coworkers and I did a decent job, but we basically wrote Flex from a procedural point of view because that's what we knew. The app turned out pretty good, and is still in use on a daily basis.

In the year and a half since we wrote that I've been exposed to a lot more Flex knowledge. I've been lucky to be in contact with some fantastic Flex developers here in Nashville, and in other locations. I've grokked Actionscript 3 to a great degree since that time, ironically with the work I did for Shrinkadoo, and it's event driven development model.

Last month the same two coworkers and I embarked on a much more aggressive, intricate project and Flex was the tech that the three of us decided upon. With it's library of components, strict typing, and inclusion of charting in the Pro version, it seemed like a no brainer. We were sure we could turn the project around in time, and we have, but our reporting app has not been without challenges. There were many cases where I wanted to do something that would be trivial in jQuery (custom events) yet took me days of research and work to accomplish in Flex. Bear in mind that much of that is due to my inexperience with Flex, but still...

Steven Erat, via Twitter, put it succinctly one day "Flex: Making easy things hard". There's a lot of information about Flex online, LiveDocs, blogs, forums, but it seems to me like much of that information skips the basic, and lower intermediate levels and jumps straight into creating monster apps with frameworks, and all that jazz. I'm hoping, with my new Beginning Flex series, to help change that. I plan on releasing a series of articles aimed at beginners, with information that they need to get their jobs done. Straightforward, well written, with clear code samples.

While I wouldn't consider myself completely sold on Flex, it's a great platform with plenty of power and capabilities. If you're interested in rapid turnaround, tight code, and an IDE that is top-notch (Flex Builder), then you owe it to yourself to take Flex for a spin.

Ps. Thanks loads to all of the people who let me bother them on Twitter and instant message and probably got so sick of me asking simple questions about Flex. T. Scot Clausing, Simeon Bateman, Ben Stucki, Chad Udell, Stacey Mulcahy, and everyone I'm forgetting. Thank you!

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