With Adobe announcing the abandonment of all mobile Flash Player efforts, developers who formerly specialized in this platform are branching out a bit more and taking up both new and old technologies in exploration of other opportunities. This article is not meant to be comprehensive rundown in any way. I’m simply working through a number of thoughts in regard to certain avenues which I’ve considered approaching.
One of the excellent problems Flash has, is that it is good for such a variety of things. With such a tool (especially if you know it well enough) at your disposal, this makes it difficult to look beyond to other technologies. With that said, most Flash developers do already have a grasp on a variety of other tech simply because Flash is so great at working alongside other platforms. This is good for developers who are expanding their investigations into these technologies; considering what may be, at the least, a passive familiarity with a number of other avenues.
As an author and video trainer heavily invested in the Flash Platform, I fortunately don’t feel the bite as badly as some others in this industry. Since the announcements of November the 9th 2011, I’ve actually signed a number of new contracts focused upon Flash content (though I’m under contract for non-Flash subjects as well, now). With that said, I’m also a consultant and full time software engineer… so I do need to stay ahead of where things are moving so that I can advise others and make intelligent choices for any active projects.
This seems to be where most developers are moving. It makes sense in a way since this is often where these developers working in Flash actually began their careers. This is certainly true for myself. In fact, I was championing standards based web design and table-less layouts before it was popular to do so… back in Mozilla Phoenix times… so I am no stranger to this stuff.
PhoneGap (Apache Cordova) provides developers with the ability to write a mobile app using web standards and then bundle everything up for distribution to a wide number of mobile platforms… a much greater number than AIR. This is a pretty big draw, and the PhoneGap Build service allows cloud-based bundling of an app to any of the supported platforms. Very convenient all around.
I’ve had terrible luck with all of my PhoneGap experiments so far. I keep telling myself this is because I’m unfamiliar with the technology. Not sure if this is the case or not. Everything just “looks/feels” so much crappier in HTML than it does in Flash. I attempted to port a mobile app I created as an experiment back when mobile Flex became possible for Android and just gave up. I’m hoping that it’s just a reflection of my inexperience in this area since I know people have had great success with it.
If I remember correctly, HaXe emerged from the ScreenWeaver project… someone please correct me if I’m wrong. I used ScreenWeaver quite a bit (back before Adobe AIR was a possibility) for specialized projection software systems. It basically created enhanced projectors for Flash content similar to what applications such as MDM Zinc are now doing. HaXe has been on my radar for years – though I’ve never gotten around to actually using it.
“Alternative” ActionScript/Flex IDEs
I like Flash Builder a lot and am quite comfortable in it. I now have a number of reservations around this IDE though (thanks, Adobe!)… I mean, what if they decide they just don’t want to make dev tools at all anymore? On that note; I’m actually floored that they’re trashing design view from Flash Builder. Having always found design view to be very useful in layng out components and configuring item renderers. This affects my workflow and makes Flash Builder less useful to me. For a “creative” and design-focused company, I cannot imagine the internal justification for this.
Anyhow… I’ve installed both FDT5 (free version) and FlashDevelop on my laptop. Even if one of these does not become my primary dev environment for Flash-based work, at least I may be comfortable enough in something else for when Adobe finally does pull a coup de grâce on Flash Builder. as I mentioned above – I’m not leaving Flash and need a dependable environment to work in. Not so sure if Flash Builder will be that environment in the future.
http://fdt.powerflasher.com/ / http://www.flashdevelop.org/
I fully expected by now to have done some real work in these alternate technologies… but have been far too busy with Flash, Flex, and AIR work to really get involved and commit to anything new. Like all things, it just takes time I suppose.
I remain a huge champion of the Flash Platform and will continue as such in 2012 while looking into other things. I believe one of the best ways of getting some footing with any new tech is to survey what others in the community are up to. transitioning.to is a great example of this sort of effort, but simply speaking to others that are going through these pains as well will go a long way to understanding what might be the smart choices to make. I expect to see a lot of conference talks in the coming year focused on these very topics.
Aside from changes in programming, I’m hoping to swing back into the design side of things a bit more as well. I’ve been in strict development mode for far too long and recent events are a good excuse to strengthen my skills in other areas. Back in graduate school, I began my studies strictly as a designer thinking Photoshop and Illustrator would be the applications that defined my career. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Lingo, ActionScript, and ASP (of all things…) that I shifted to a career in software development. Moving back into design a bit would be good for me.
I believe it is also important to step out of the sphere of creating software for balance and release. In the coming months, I plan to resume recording through my aural project “An Early Morning Letter, Displaced” with a new collection of work. This will be difficult with the rigorous authoring schedule I have committed to for the first few months of the year, but it’s a necessary creative outlet and one that I am very excited about. I encourage anyone so involved in programming, engineering, or anything similar to do something raw and free on the side. I often joke about leaving this field of work to become a gardener or a baker… maybe I’m not joking so much about that any longer.