Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Flex Builder on Linux! Rejoice!

For a long time the Linux platform was completely ignored by Adobe. In the past, when rest of the world moved from Flash 7 to Flash 8, there was no Flash Player 8 for Linux at all. So, all the nice features that Flash 8 brought in (video, real time filters, etc.) were not available for Linux users. Ex. Youtube would not work on Linux. Linux users were definitely a frustrated lot! Imagine not being able to watch skateboarding dogs 'natively' on Linux :-)

Then Adobe declared that they are skipping Flash Player 8 for Linux and going for version 9 directly (it was called 8.5 for sometime). People were extremely unhappy and quite skeptical about this move.

Then in May of 2006, there was this post by Mike Melanson over at Adobe that changed everything. After months in development, Flash Player 9 for Linux was launched

Come October 2007, Adobe showed more love towards the Linux community by revealing their plans for Flex Builder running on Linux. Check out this cool video of the first sneak peek of Flex Builder on Linux (also taking a dig at vi and emacs while at it)

Well, enough of history for now. Lets get into the nitty gritty of Flex Builder on Linux. You can download the alpha version here. It is available only as a plug-in, which means that you need to have Eclipse already installed on your machine. Go ahead try it out. It is definitely better than your vi/emacs/gedit, etc :-)

The official story is that this release is supported only on SuSE, RedHat and Ubuntu flavors of Linux. I installed mine on Fedora and it works perfectly fine! I also copied over an existing project from my Windows machine over and opened it with it. I was pleasantly surprised that it opened without any issues. I could compile the project and debug it just fine.

A few details that you need to know:
1. It has a number of features from Flex Builder 3 (which is available as beta here, only for Windows though). But Adobe says that these two products are NOT the same and that they will have separate timelines.

2. It does not 'yet' support the cooler features in Flex Builder 2 such as Design View, States View, Refactoring(FB3), etc. Also, the part that I was most interested in - Adobe AIR support is not in yet. I hope they fit in somehow soon.

On a personal note, I have never had Linux as my development machine. I never had the right tools on Linux. Now that Flex Builder is available on Linux, I might give it a try for a few days. I am sure there are bugs and issues around, I hope to provide feedback as I keep working on it... Still, the features like refactoring, Adobe AIR support are very important to me. I think I will stick to my beloved Windows box for now :-)