Sneak peek at Flex beta 3

As you know, we are hard at work on Flex Builder beta 3, which contains hundreds of changes, some of which are under the hood (such as performance enhancements, bug fixes) and some of which are more visible. One of the most visible differences between beta 2 and the upcoming beta 3 lies in how we present information. This is important to us because getting people started quickly with Flex is the main reason Flex Builder exists. Let’s start with the welcome page. The old welcome page looked like this:

old welcome page

In doing usability testing, we found that:

  1. Most people skipped the welcome screen quickly and never found it again.
  2. The welcome screen was confusing. There was no sense of what was important
  3. Even when people explored the welcome screen, there was no way to easily understand the most important concepts

To counteract this, we cleaned up the welcome page, added a “How Flex Works” section that covers the basics, and did a little engineering to make it so that the welcome page shows up in its own editor window so you don’t have to close it in order to start your work. The new welcome screen looks like this:

new welcome page


We did a similar scrub on the help system. We found the following problems:

  1. Searching in help rarely put the most important information first.
  2. The content was organized in chunks that were too small. You would often find yourself reading a paragraph of information on an otherwise blank page, without any indication of what other information was available.
  3. The reference documentation was hard to visually scan, and much of the important information was only available on the class that defined a property or method, which might be a superclass of the class you were looking at.

Here is the old reference documentation for the TileList class:

old reference page

Note that all of the information that you actually want is on a page for one of the superclasses.

The new reference documentation looks like this:

new reference page

Property Inspector

Another change that is pretty easy to spot is the revamped property inspector. We’ve cleaned up the property inspector between beta 2 and beta 3 to look a little nicer, and to be organized more clearly. Compare the following:

old property inspector new property inspector

What else?

Well, we’re obviously working on tons of bug fixes and performance. One of the most exciting changes in Flex beta 3 is improved memory consumption. Clement Wong, who is responsible for the MXML compiler, has drastically reduced the amount of memory it consumes. There are also performance improvements in various parts of the editor. Beta 3 should in general feel snappier, and there are even more performance improvements that we are working on past beta 3.

We’re also responding to customer requests to refine and polish our feature set. For example, some customers were finding it hard to debug in certain situations, because the debugger was automatically invoking getters when displaying objects. We now have a preference to turn this off, and a menu item to invoke a getter manually. Anyway, there are lots of small improvements like this littered throughout the upcoming beta. I’ll save some of those for another post.

27 Responses to “Sneak peek at Flex beta 3”

  1. Monty

    Very nice, i can’t wait!

  2. darron

    The new help documentation is amazing. Being able to see all of the methods, effects, styles, etc. without having to go through a huge inheritance chain and getting lost along the way is a great productivity boost! Thanks!

  3. lharp

    Hello Sho,
    could you please add the issue with linked resources I have described in my post at http://lharp.net/post/fb2-linked-resources-issue/ to the list of bugfixes?

  4. dan

    I did the flex beta 3 usability study yesterday. I’m so embarrased that I skipped past the new help screen. Were you behind the glass? :)

  5. Sho

    Dan: I wasn’t behind the glass. No worries about skipping past the help screen. Our goal in these studies is to figure out how people actually use the product. People in the real world (TM) also skip past help screens. :-)

    lharp: I’ll look into that bug, but to be honest, I’m not 100% sure it’s supposed to work like that.

  6. nz

    Maybe the welcome screen should connect to the web to pull down the latest news/tutorials etc on Flex from Adobe – e.g. keep it fresh daily and a nice way to start the morning while drinking your coffee.

  7. dan

    sho: phew! Looking forward to the release.

  8. Eric

    Nice update, can’t wait for beta 3. I have a question though Sho, will Flex beta 3 support latest version of Eclipse 3.1.2?

  9. Sho

    Yes, the new version should support 3.1.2. The real question is whether the final version will support 3.2. We have announced that Flex Builder 2 will be available in the first half of 2006. Meanwhile, Eclipse tends to release major versions at the end of June. It makes the timing very awkward…

  10. Nick

    Good news!!! Looking forward to the new documentation.

  11. Greg Hamer

    Special request, for the .pdf version of the docs, could you see if a .pdx index could be provided for the doc set?

  12. Campbell

    I agree hanging out for the new documentation. I use so many diferent lanuages the documentation is my fav quick reference and its nice to have it sorted. Sounds like you guys are super busy but its really exciting to see the progress. Cam.

  13. ashif sayani

    Any chance for a Mac version this release? The changes look great though.

  14. Jeremy Rottman

    Awsome, I have been looking forward to alot of the bug fixes that are coming in F2B3. Someone of them are even project breaking stuff, like dblClick on dg’s. I sure hope it comes out this week. Would make my week that much eaiser.

  15. Peter Tilbrook

    Wow you guys have been busy! Can’t wait to try out the new beta!

  16. Carlos Rovira

    The changes makes the tool very professional and looks great. I like the changes in property inspector specialy. It’s great to see the technology growing better each time. Great Work! : )

  17. John Farrar

    OK… looks good. (So will there be a follow-up project on bringing CF to this level of support in Eclipse? It seems like there are “indicators” that Flex is seeking to work with CF. Yet, without a serious IDE for CF that is not as big a deal as it could be. It would be great for example if Eclipse provided an interactive debugger like VS2005, Zend, PHPEclipse, or even say… CFStudio with CF5! Again, I understand that there was a survey done that said debugging wasn’t needed because people weren’t using it. LOL… I am guessing the people who converted CF from C to Java used a debugger! What a scary thought to consider they didn’t!)

    Just an item we need back… and your team could certainly bring this to pass. Will a new version of CF go into alpha soon? or When will the beta start?

  18. Sam Robbins

    All I can say is wow!

  19. Will Morgan

    Excellent & thank you! I would really like to know if there are any plans to build a visual webservices “property inspector” as I think there was in Flex 1.5, and as there is in the Flash 8 IDE. The auto-gen of an was very cool to have in 1.5… Anyway, thanks again!

  20. sho

    Will: Great idea, but we are basically feature complete at this point. Any new ideas will have to go into subsequent versions.

    John F: I used to be responsible for ColdFusion Studio among other things, so I know first hand what you’re talking about. I have seen surveys like that, and my interpretation is usually that if people aren’t using a particular debugger, it’s usually because it isn’t meeting people’s needs, not because they don’t want a debugger.

    The ColdFusion team is contributing code to the CFEclipse project, so look for more advancement there. Also, the CF team is spending a lot of time making sure that CF users can be productive with Flex within Eclipse. Check out their work on the labs site.

  21. nz

    Agree with Will, Tools/Plugins to help make consuming Web Services easier would be great (e.g. like the ones in Visual Studios for generating proxy objects etc), reckon that would set Flex apart from alot of Ajax Frameworks.

  22. joshi pattabhi

    very nice
    Looking for the new documentation.

  23. kirk jones

    I was just at Java One speaking and there was NO Flex, just ajax ajax ajax. The feature set Flex provides, as well as even Flash before, is much more robust, standard and easier to work with than an UI Web framework presented.

    right on mm…adobe.

  24. chris

    any chance anyone could post a flex2 beta 3 download link?

    I missed beta3 (only got beta2) and was hoping to try that out before I try the TRIAL version.


  25. DClick Blog

    […] Para quem ainda tinha duvidas se teria ou não o Flex 2 Beta 3 aqui esta a confirmação. Recentemente no blog kuwamoto.org foi divulgado algumas das modificações que compõe a nova versão do Flex Builder 2. Alem de correções de diversos bugs o Builder Beta 3 possui alterações bem interessantes de interface e principalmente em sua documentação. Outra modificação que chama a atenção, segundo ao post, é com relação ao consumo de memória pois foram feitas diversas modificações tanto no compilador como no editor que reduzem drasticamente o consumo de memória tendo assim um ganho considerado de performance. […]

  26. farz

    i cant wait, looks awesome, id like an offline API/doc, maybe with an update feature ?

  27. Flex Builder 2 Beta 3 preview | FlexDaddy

    […] Kuwamoto, head of the Flex Builder team, has offered a sneek peak of Flex Builder 3 on his blog. Keep an eye out for Beta 3 soon, can’t be too far away now *wink […]

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