Macromedia announces Zorn

Well, I’ve been quiet for the last several weeks (things got busy), but the cat is out of the bag. The project I’m responsible for is code named Zorn, and it’s a Flex development environment based on Eclipse.

I’ve got tons to say about this, but I’m already late to a 3 hour meeting (ack!)

In the meantime, feel free to leave comments about anything you’re curious about. I’ll answer as best I can.

25 Responses to “Macromedia announces Zorn”

  1. Sönke Rohde

    Will Zorn only support Flex Development or will there also be a benifit for Flash Developers?

  2. Sho

    Good question. What would you be interested in?

  3. Doug Hughes

    I just wanted to say that I’d be interested in Zorn if it supports a process for compiling flash applications not related to Flex.

    In other words, to use Zorn I don’t want to be required to drop a small truck-load of money on Flex.

    However, if it’s a coder-friendly environment which allows me to create Flash swfs, etc, I’m very interested.

    That’s not to say that it shouldn’t also be the IDE for Flex, as it seems it’s intended to be.


  4. Jason

    Excellent! After much wondering about Flex Builder’s future we’re very glad to see Macromedia doing this.

    We really like eclipse and being able to develop Flex apps in is something we are really looking forward to.

    The question would be then when?? :-)

  5. Sho

    Thanks for the feedback about Flash applications not related to Flex. It’s consistent with other feedback I’ve heard in the past.

    As for the question about timing… You know I can’t talk about that!!! ;-)

  6. jerryhamby

    Will or can Zorn/Eclipse work with UML?

  7. Chris

    Will Zorn create swf files from mxml files?

  8. r0main

    I think yes, Zorn will be able to compile MXML to AS2, and probably then to deploy an SWF… else how will it replace FlexBuilder ?
    You already can have, as I do, an eclipse-lauched Ant task that compile your application:

    <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
    <project name=”buildMXML files” default=”all”>
    <property name=”flex.dist.lib” value=”C:/Program Files/Macromedia/Flex/lib” />
    <property name=”flex.compc.jar” value=”${flex.dist.lib}/compc.jar” />
    <property name=”flex.mxmlc.jar” value=”${flex.dist.lib}/mxmlc.jar” />
    <property name=”app.dir” value=”C:/Projects/baseProjectDir” />
    <property name=”src.dir” value=”${app.dir}/webAppDir” />
    <property name=”config.xml” value=”${src.dir}/WEB-INF/flex/flex-config.xml” />
    <property name=”dest.dir” value=”${app.dir}/swfs” />

    <target name=”init”>
    <!– create directories –>
    <mkdir dir=”${dest.dir}” />

    <!– macro to convert .mxml into .swf –>
    <macrodef name=”makeswf”>
    <attribute name=”module” />
    <!– might need to watch out for webroot here… –>
    <java jar=”${flex.mxmlc.jar}” dir=”${src.dir}” fork=”true” failonerror=”true” maxmemory=”256m”>
    <arg line=”-flexlib ‘${flex.dist.lib}’ -configuration ‘${config.xml}’ -webroot ‘${src.dir}’ -o ‘${dest.dir}/@{module}.swf’ ‘${src.dir}/@{module}.mxml'” />

    <!– individual module target to build one at a time –>
    <target name=”buildMain” depends=”init”>
    <makeswf module=”main” />
    <target name=”buildFundSelector” depends=”init”>
    <makeswf module=”FundSelector” />

    <target name=”all” depends=”buildMain”>

    Cheers, r0main

  9. eyezberg

    Who chose the codename? Zorn = Anger in German.. ??!

    Will Zorn be free or not?

    Considering the already huge size of Eclipse SDK (close to 90MB), plus Zorn add-ons, the final app’ is going to be a huge download..

  10. kirk

    Add my two cents for Flash-like functionality to compile SWFs directly.

    How much? (I know: you can’t answer!)

  11. IanT

    Same here – the ability to compile Flash on the command-line (and therefore within Eclipse) is a must…

  12. Sho

    When I started this blog, my intention was to be more open with information than Macromedia has traditionally been in the past. When it comes to specific questions about unreleased products (such as Zorn), I need to be a bit more careful. So I apologize in advance if these answers aren’t super informative.

    First, with regard to pricing, I’m afraid I won’t be in a position to answer any questions until much, much later. Sorry.

    There were a few questions about SWF compilation. To the extent that this is a question about price (i.e., “I don’t want to drop a truck-load of money…”) I can’t answer that question.

    As to r0main’s comment about Flex Builder, I want to point out that Flex Builder by itself is not capable of compiling or creating SWF files. That is the job of the Flex server.

    UML diagrams: That’s not a request I’ve heard commonly. Is UML support critical to your needs? How would it rank compared to other features you would imagine an IDE having?

    Thanks for the questions, and I’m sorry I’m not able to answer them more directly than I have. But rest assured that every request goes back to the team as we weigh various decisions about what to support and what not to support.

  13. Emmanuel

    Hi, it all good to know all this is happening for the java community but it looks like macromedia has decided to look away from the .net community. I just curious, i know flex for .net is in production as was said with the release of flex 1.5. My question is this, just as zorn is being created for all the java developer, will there be something of this sort for the .net developers like a plug in to VS.NET or a different IDE for .net developer. This might not be a question you were expecting but I was just curious since macromedia seems to be going java java java java.

  14. Sho

    Hi Emmanuel.

    I understand your position, but from our perspective, Eclipse a great open source technology that we are using to create a great IDE without rewriting everything from scratch.

    For Java folks, this has the nice side benefit that they would be able to use the same development environment for both Java and Flex work.

    For .Net folks, it means that you would need to switch between two IDEs (VS.Net for server side programming and Zorn for Flex programming) but that’s something that would have been true even if we had written everything from scratch as a standalone tool.

    At present, there are no plans to do a VS.Net plug-in, because it would entail us doing roughly twice the work that we are doing now. While the benefits for .Net programmers are obvious, the downside for Flex customers is that we would have far less time to devote to advanced functionality to make Flex programming easier and faster.

    I bet this answer may be frustrating, but my belief is that in the long run, we benefit .Net/Flex developers more by creating a single great tool for Flex rather than bifurcating our efforts.

  15. superabe

    Hi, just wanted to re-enforce the previous poster’s query about Flex for .Net. Would be good to know some more about Flex’s .net plans (especially if there is something in the pipeline akin to remote objects for .net datatypes)

    About desired features in Zorn (not having worked with Eclipse, but having spent plenty of time in Visual Studio).. a cleaner and simpler flex project deployment option, better integration with Source Safe, intellisense (even for custom MXML components & Actionscript classes), simple code editor options to jump to a reference function, or class , previous function etc….)and much more….(or just take a look at Visual Studio :) )

  16. Colin Leung

    MXML can save time building a good interface, but not a better application. UML can help to build a better application. if not support UML, we might need to waste time to coding AS2 classes..

  17. Emmanuel

    Thanks for your reply. I really understand the direction MM has taken in order to improve flex and it progamming functionality. I believe that when flex for .net ship (who knows when), third party software companies will be able to strenghing that sector. Eventhough the work might be twice as much as now, the reward might be more than twice the work. .NET is a plateform embraces alot of programming languages making it easier to couple application written in different languages. With a strong front end like flex (which is no doubt the best on front end) and a strong and flavorable back end (.NET). I think macromedia will be able to captibalize the web industry out there. This will also be good for MM since people will have to choice of flex or xamlon. If even 50% of .net developers choice flex in the .net arena, that 50% taken away from the microsoft cloud. That said, again, thank you very much.

    Suggestion from a customer:

    I hope that zorn will come will all the advantages of flex builder now like toggling between code section and design section.

    It would also be nice if MM could provide a movieclip component in flex with which you can drag onto the design section (which will have a time line property just like that in flash) and with editing tools like pen, colorpicker etc, design on the movieclip; all ub zorn or flex builder. This would give us the ability to product rich application all in flex without leaving it. I think i have said too much. ahhaahah . Thank you.

  18. jerry hamby

    First off let me state that I know very little about UML and Eclipse. With that said, here are my questions and statements.

    Most large companies use UML to model their projects, then the UML modeling program spits out the classes/code. Mostly these classes are Java or some other platform. This will change when they start producing Actionscript. I don’t think the UML modelers are doing the User Interface but I could be wrong.

    If Zorn is to work within a business environment then this “round tripping” with UML needs to be considered. If Zorn is just for the visual interface and not the application logic then I guess this is a moot point.

    Love to hear more from anyone on this topic.

  19. r0main

    Colin, are you expecting Zorn to be a kind of MDA tool or more looking at a Together-like tool ?

    Before that wonderful tool promised since 20 years (modelize + click + draw links = get an application without a line of code) I think AS2 or AS3 will first have to accept some basic OO concepts and words, like : “abstract”, “protected”, “final”… AND MOREOVER have the possiblity to become STRONGLY TYPED (like 7 years ago, in VB, you had the choice to enforce variable declaration etc… using “option explicit”)…
    Also on my wishlist, but I think that will be the case, because of a more data-oriented flex v2, a better DTO synchronization (when, like I do, you have 100s of java DTO that need to be maintained with 100s of AS2 DTO, that currently kills you (gotta be aware of any changes on java DTO and replicate those changes to your AS2 DTO))

    Believe me, passing from FlexBuilder to a more IDE-oriented environment makes life easier, even now ! With beta-level Eclipse plugins like ASDT… (yet I’m just frustrated that I can’t get MTASC working with MXMLC to compile .MXML files to AS2 before passing that AS2 to MTASC, so often MTASC tells me : “I don’t know that ‘view’ variable”)

    Cheers, r0main

  20. interfaSys

    I would love to be able to use Zorn instead of FAME to code Flash apps. ASDT is nice, but developpement seems to have slowed down a lot lately and it’s only onw of the component. We need a tool that does everything (autocompletion, code navigation, compilation, preview, etc.), just like the default plugin for Java.

    As for UML, there are already some great (and expensive) Eclipse plugins available. None support AS2, but a deal could be made with the companies creating them.

  21. David

    I’ve been super-excited about Zorn since Mike Chambers’ blog announcement. Thing is, his title mentioned the “Flash Platform,” and for some reason my brain skipped over the “Platform” part. So I was in Flash mode, joyously thinking, “Gosh, to have an official alternative to the Actions panel!”

    See, when it comes down to it, I’m a Flash guy. I like the idea of Flex, for sure, but I prefer the hands-on drawing tools and graphical wallowing that puts Flash developers into a unique niche.

    As my programming skills have evolved — and as I’ve become familiar with the likes of Visual Studio and JBuilder — the Flash Actions panel has become a thorn in my side. I have experimented with the existing Eclipse plug-in, PrimalScript, and others, but so far SEPY meets my needs best. Even so, I can’t get around the fact that I still need the Flash Debugger panel. Sure, MTASC can be used to check syntax before compiling, but A) its syntax is a different from Flash’s compiler and B) none of the 3rd party tools allows me to, for example, put a watch on an object.

    I was nearly euphoric to consider — without any substantiation, mind you; just my own wild imagination — that Zorn might relieve dozens of my headaches. But reading this blog, now, I’m in something of a quandary.

    It sounds as if Zorn is intended to be an MM-blessed scripting IDE for Flex, a tool for the (to me) still-somewhat-nebulous “Flash Platform” concept. Earlier in this thread, Doug mentioned, “I’d be interested in Zorn if it supports a process for compiling flash applications not related to Flex,” to which Sho replied, “Thanks for the feedback…. It’s consistent with other feedback I’ve heard in the past.”

    The reply seems carefully non-committal (maybe it had to be), but if you can, Sho, are you able to definitively confirm or deny: will Zorn be equally usable as a scripting IDE for Flash development?

  22. Sho

    Hi David.

    Zorn is a product that is still in development. As such, there is only so much we can and should say about what the product will do. There are certain things that we can say publicly now. As described in the press release, the primary goal of Zorn is to be a great tool for RIA development, with Flex as the programming model.

    We consider lots of ideas, the great majority of which come from our customers. I’ve heard requests like yours often, so rest assured that we understand how important having an IDE for Flash (not Flex) is to you. It’s one of our most frequent requests, and we try our best to take customer requests seriously.

    On the flip side, it’s a reality of our business that not every feature request can be met. We try to do the most important ones, but we obviously don’t have the ability to do everything that people want.

    How’s that for non-committal?

    In any case, I’ll be able to talk more about our product as we progress. Stay tuned for further updates!

  23. David

    Sho, fair enough. :) Even a definitive “sorry, can’t answer at the moment” is better than no answer at all. I understand the hush hush necessity and appreciate Macromedia’s support of blogs such as this one. I’ll definitely be watching this spot for updates. Thanks!

  24. Zdravko

    I for one do not understand any of this “hush hush necessity” because it is dangerous and self defeating.

    What we have here is a product pre-announcement but with next to nothing that describes what it might be.

    With that, we let our hopes and imaginations run wild. We even make some suggestions.

    No matter what it ends up and no matter how good it ends up (when it gets delivered) there will be a lot of BROKEN and UNSATISFIED hopes and imaginations.

    So, without discussing its major features and its major reason for existance, what good is there in pre-announcing it ?

  25. Brian

    What is the latest update on Zorn? Can we expect it soon? Will it be out before Flex 2.0?


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