Adobe’s Flex development framework has the potential for creating highly visual web or desktop applications with a Flash graphics user interface. But while you could create interfaces with the standard Flex components using all the defaults, that would barely scratch the surface of the graphical possibilities. In ‘Creating Visual Experience With Flex 3.0’, Andy McIntosh and Juan Sanchez explain how to add some pizzazz to your applications with styles, skins, filters, blends, effects and transitions.
The book starts off with a quick run-through of some Flex fundamentals such as the various types of auto-layout options to position controls inside containers. It then moves on to explain how to a change the appearance of controls using both ‘inline’ styles and external style sheets. For even more radical visual effects, it explains how to ‘skin’ an application either by using images created in a program such as Fireworks or Photoshop or by applying graphic effects programmatically using the ActionScript language.
Other topics covered include fonts and text, cursors, icons and tooltip hints. There is also a chapter devoted to integrating Flex and Flash by creating Flex components in the Flash IDE. This chapter is, however, far too brief to be of much practical use (less than 5 full pages). However, there are some useful tutorials on creating Flash components in a separate ‘Exercises’ section in the second half of the book. I almost overlooked the exercises initially, supposing (wrongly) that these were just self-tests. In fact, some of the exercises are, in my view, more useful than the chapters in the ‘main’ part of the book.
The main limitation of this book (from the point of view of a programmer) is that it is very ‘code light’. If you are happy with dragging and dropping controls inside Adobe’s Flex Builder IDE and making modest changes in ActionScript or MXML code, the book will give you a good overview of techniques for enhancing your Flex visual interfaces. But it rarely delves very deep into the programmatic possibilities of manipulating controls, styles, effects and animations using Flex. For And it does not go into the complexities of important, but quite technical, topics such as ‘deferred component creation’ and event bubbling.
In spite of the relative sparsity of program code, ‘Creating Visual Experience With Flex 3.0’ is a useful guide to the visual capabilities of Flex and it should help to bridge the gap between the worlds of the graphic designer and the developer.