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Mike Riley

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Flex 4 Cookbook Book Review

June 02, 2010

Adobe has been getting beat up lately as a consequence of Apple's feud with Flash. As such, the future of Flash-based applications may be murky at the moment, though this may change as Flash-powered Android phones and tablets become more pervasive. For those dedicated Flash and Flex developers who are committed to the platform regardless of what Apple says, the Flex 4 Cookbook may be just the thing to elevate Flex apps from mediocre apps to polished programs. Do the recipes in this book deliver the goods? Read on to find out.Like other O'Reilly Cookbooks, the Flex 4 Cookbook is not for beginners. It is not a tutorial. Rather, it is a collection of time saving tips, cool programmatic acrobatics and development best practices. Even the authors clearly state in the Preface that the book "is for developers who want to understand the Flex Framework more thoroughly," and to "consult Programming Flex 3 by Joey Lott and Chafic Kazoun (O'Reilly) or Hello! Flex by Peter Armstrong (Manning) to gain an understanding of the core concepts of Flex development before reading any further here." No bones about it, Flex 4 Cookbook is for serious Flex developers with plenty of hard-earned experience to boot.

Beyond the disclaimers, the book starts off with a chapter on basic and fairly intuitive tips and then quickly ramps up to more involved examples. Chapters span subjects from containers, layouts, graphics, components, skinning, text manipulation, lists, data, video, collections and form validation. Even more sophisticated recommendations toward the latter part of the book cover subjects spanning from server-side and browser communication, modules and runtime shared libraries, interacting with the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) and data operations contained within, OS integration with AIR (ex: window effects, clipboard access, keyboard shortcuts, Mac OSX Dock and Windows Taskbar alerts, external drive access and more), creating charts and a chapter on unit testing with FlexUnit. The last two chapters cover compiling, debugging and deploying Flex applications and finally concluding with several Internationalization tips.

The recipe format is presented in the standard O'Reilly Cookbook style of Problem, Solution and Discussion (where a majority of code listings are reproduced). The name of the recipe's contributor accompanies each tip, with some contributors showing up more frequently than others. As such, the formula forces each recipe to stand on its own rather than tell a cohesive application construction story. To reiterate, this is a book for seasoned professionals written by seasoned professionals, so it makes sense for the book to follow such a terse and somewhat random sampling of entries. Even so, the concept works as is proof of O'Reilly's ever-growing library of Cookbook titles. Due to the advanced level of recipes targeted toward an already relatively small segment of web application developers, Flex 4 Cookbook may not get the visibility and recognition it properly deserves. That would be a shame considering the number of really valuable and interesting tips contained within it. For Flex developers, this Cookbook is a no-brainer must-have. For those interested in taking Flex for a test-run, seek out a tutorial book on the subject instead.

Title: Flex 4 Cookbook Authors: Joshua Noble, Todd Anderson, Garth Braithwaite, Marco Casario, Rich Tretola, et al. Publisher: O'Reilly Media ISBN: 978-0-596-80561-6 Pages: 768 Price: $49.99 US

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