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RIA & Ajax: Article

Longtime Adobe Developer Gives Insider's View of Flex & AJAX

The newest addition to the Flex Framework family is the Flex AJAX Bridge (FAB)

"One of the questions that comes up a lot when we’re talking about Flex with web developers is ‘How does this relate to AJAX?’" writes Ely Greenfield (pictured), a long time developer at Macromedia/now Adobe who works with a bunch of very smart engineers (his description!) to design and develop the Flex SDK.

In a blog entry entitled "Flex and Ajax: So Happy Together," Greenfield says that hearing this question always brings to mind the image of a 10 year old boy throwing a cat and a chicken into a cardboard box, eyes wide at the thought of the carnage expected to follow.

"Flex is a platform for building Rich Internet Applications, and Ajax is a suite of technologies people are using more and more to build RIAs – so we must be competitors, right? My answer is always the same: Flex and Ajax are old friends."
Both technologies, Greenfield writes, have their strengths, and both have their appropriate uses in the web development world.
"HTML and AJAX are great for text-heavy content — Flex and Flash are perfect for rich interaction and media."
"While AJAX has the benefit of being only an incremental delta from the traditional HTML world – you can build an HTML based site with just a little bit of AJAX — Flex, and the Flash platform, has a much easier development model," Greenfield continues. "I can build a rich complicated application in Flex in a fraction of the time I can with AJAX and DHTML (ok, admittedly I’m not the best case study since I’m one of the people who built Flex; but don’t take my word for it, try them both and decide for yourself)."

Greenfield's "Quietly Scheming" blog will win many friends with its matter-of-fact approach. Read this for example:

"Smart developers take the time to equip themselves with as many different tools as they can, and great web apps use the right technology for the task at hand. The best sites, in my opinion, use the right tool for each individual part of the project. It’s motherhood and apple pie (something we on the Flex team affectionately refer to as ‘MotherPie’) to say that a good developer should be technology agnostic."
Greenfield knows whereof he speaks. He reminds his blog readers of the existence of something devised at Adobe Labs called "FAB" - for Flex AJAX Bridge.

The Flex AJAX Bridge is, according to Greenfield, "a small, unobtrusive library of code that you can insert into a Flex application, a Flex component, a Flash movie, or even an empty SWF file to expose it to scripting via the browser. Once you’ve inserted the bridge, pretty much anything you can do from Actionscript, you can do from Javascript."

The pre-alpha version of the FABridge has been posted for download and use to Adobe labs at: http://labs.macromedia.com/wiki/index.php/Flex_Framework:FABridge.

"One thing worth pointing out," notes Greenfield, "is that the bridge has currently only been tested on IE 6 and Firefox 1 and 1.5 on windows. There’ve been reports it works fine on various macintosh browsers. That said, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work, aside from taking the time to work out the kinks."

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
newsight 03/08/06 09:50:34 AM EST

Wow, how cool is that? FAB is a code library that makes it possible to access Flex 2 objects with JavaScript directly from Ajax applications and vice versa, but that's not all: you can create controls or even whole applications with JS in Flex 2. Fantastic!

Kudos 03/08/06 09:30:08 AM EST

Useful to learn of this guy. Will he be speaking at SYS-CON's october RIA Conference? Sounds like the Voice of Reason incarnate, always a good characteristic for an enterprise developer!