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Rich Internet Applications: Introduction to Adobe Flex and PHP
AJAX is popular for the creation of rich Internet applications, but there are good alternatives. This article will introduce you to Flex applications, rich Internet applications that run inside the Adobe Flash player.
The development of Rich Internet Applications is now underway. Some people are calling this "Web 2.0," but it is really the transition from a page based browsing experience to one that more closely resembles desktop applications. A variety of technologies can be used to deliver this experience; AJAX is currently one of the more popular sets of technologies, mainly because it can be easily adapted into existing web based applications.
However, for those who are looking for something more robust, there appears to be two early front runners: Flex based applications that run in the Flash player from Adobe, and XML based applications from Microsoft. In this article, I'll introduce you to Adobe's Flex product line, including Adobe Flex Builder and Adobe Flex Enterprise Services.
Intro to Adobe Flex
Flex applications are Rich Internet Applications that are built using tools from Adobe. These Flex applications run inside the Flash player, leveraging the existing installed base of the Flash player. (Note: Applications built using Flex Builder 2.0 require Flash player 8.5, currently available in beta format only).
Flex is made up largely of two parts. The first is an IDE built on the open source Eclipse platform. That tool is called Flex Builder 2.0, and is available for free download now (in beta format) from the Adobe labs website at http://labs.adobe.com. Final pricing has yet to be announced, but Adobe has committed to making Flex Builder 2.0 available for less than $1,000.
As well, an SDK will be made available for free to developers who want to build Flex applications. The SDK will include the Flex compiler, giving developers who code by hand (without the IDE) the ability to create Flex applications for free. For those of us who need a visual IDE, we will still need to purchase the Flex Builder 2.0 tool.
The other part of Adobe Flex is Adobe Flex Enterprise Services. This tool is mainly targeted at large enterprises, but will also be made available free to individual developers. The limitation on the free version of Flex Enterprise Services is that it will be limited in the number of concurrent connections it allows, and in the number of servers on which it can be installed.